If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones…
A year ago, I kicked off my movie going with a trip “Back to the Future” at the Egyptian Theater. The triple feature idea apparently is now a tradition because the American Cinematique at the Egyptian offered a different New Years program this time. A chronological presentation of the three essential “Indiana Jones” films, with no mention of the fourth movie to spoil the evening.
The three images above are very familiar to me since all of them are hanging on the hallway wall right outside my home office right now. From the very beginning, Indiana Jones has been a character that I have embraced. The films are a combination of James Bond and Errol Flynn, set in the 1930s and playing against the backdrop of the times. Critics have sometimes suggested that the movies are racist, sexist, and xenophobic but Dr. Jones is a forward thinking character in the times the films are set and his actions are always influenced by the core of his decency, not just by greed.
I have written about each of these movies in various contexts so this will be a short reminder with some links for you to get a more detailed reaction. I know you have all seen the films and a review is hardly necessary, these are mostly my impressions of the movies from the recent times I have encountered them.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Conceived by George Lucas and Phillip Kaufman, and brought to life by Steven Spielberg, this is the most exciting action film ever. More happens in the first ten minutes of this movie than in the whole run time of most movies. Raiders is a throwback to the serials of the thirties and forties but done on a scale and budget befitting a major Hollywood production.
If you click on the poster to the left, you will find a link to an IMAX screening of Raiders from about three years ago. There are certain movies that If I get a chance to see them on the big screen, I will always make the effort. This movie works on a giant movie screen because the vistas engulf you and the action scenes playout so much more clearly. In fact it was just a year and a half ago that I last saw the film in an AMC program at my local theater.
I love the way Spielberg delays showing Harrison Ford’s face at the start of each of these movies. There is a creative use of shadow and light in this introduction that makes Dr. Jones a little more ominous but definitely very interesting at the start of the film. It comes right at the end of an action beat and it is a perfect first reveal of our hero. Another Spielberg touch at the start of the film is the inclusion of the Paramount logo into the titles of the movie. He is going all out to make this an immersive experience.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
The first sequel is actually a prequel, taking place a year before the events in “Raiders”. So maybe I am wrong in saying the screening was chronological, it was only the release dates that are chronologically followed not Dr. Jones’ adventures. If the 2008 Indiana Jones film did not exist, this would be the chapter that is most criticized. My friend Eric is particularly dismissive of it in his recent review of “Raiders“. To each his own of course. I provide a spirited defense of “Temple of Doom” on my “30 Years On” blog project about the film year of 1984.
Again, we get a slow reveal of Dr. Jones as we see him from the waist down walking in a White dinner jacket down some stairs and across a nightclub floor. I enjoyed the screwball visual comedy of the action piece at the opening of the movie, but the tone of Willie Scott never gets to the Rosalind Russell/Katherine Hepburn heights it strives for. The character always remains shrill and she may well be the least loved character in all of the films despite the fact that the actress is clearly the best loved of all of Spielberg’s leading ladies.
The mine car chase is the highlight of the movie for me, it combines miniatures, puppets, mattes, green screen, live sets so well to make a memorable action sequence.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The pairing of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery was brilliant in my view. Connery played the character that was one of the inspirations for the whole Indiana Jones series. Lucas and Spielberg both wanted a 007 like character and in this movie they get to have 007 himself as Indy’s Dad. We also get more Marcus Brody played by the late Denholm Elliot, Indiana’s colleague at the University and here he provides the comic relief without becoming too cloying like Short Round in the second film. We also get to reconnect with the gregarious Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) from the first film as well.
If you click on the poster here, you will be taken to a video blog post I did for
a Father’s day outing a couple of years ago. Sean Connery was featured in two film, “Goldfinger” and this gem. Someday I will have to do an extensive post on “Last Crusade”. I will say that it is the one film in the series that my wife saw before me. The day it opened, i dropped her off at the Chinese Theater and i went down to Fullerton to give a final exam. She bought tickets for the 10:00 am show and the 1:00 pm show. I came back and met her for that afternoon screening and she just about burst trying to keep from saying anything abouth the film that she was seeing for the second time in a row.
The reveal shot in this film includes a double reveal. River Phoenix as young Indy, gets the face out of the shadows reveal that is similar to the original “Raiders” and then we get a jump cut transition with Indy’s hat to twenty-five years later, another Spielberg touch that makes this movie work so well.
It was a long seven hours but worth every moment. Except for spilling half my popcorn on the poor guy in front of me, and having to pay twice as much to park as I usually do when I go to the Egyptian, it was an exceptional evening.