I first saw the Indiana Jones movies as a high school student. Seeing Harrison Ford in the Indy movies was a refreshing change from his Han Solo character of the then Star Wars trilogy. Of course the formula was similar. As the www.ihatestarwars.com once had it in 1999 (when the prequels came out,one by one), Indiana Jones is nothing but Han Solo battling Nazis. (BTW, the ihatestarwars site has been off the web)
Indiana Jones was a "tenured professor of archaeology". The prof had a PhD and can have all that adventures in exotic digs. That would attract UP Diliman campus brats (our parents were academics with PhDs) to consider having a career in academe. But in reality academe is a tad more boring. UP has an archaeological studies programme and I haven't known its director Victor Paz wearing a fedora!
Of course the original three movies 20 years ago were more fun. We were "cold war kids who were hard to kill" as Billy Joel sang about and the "Lost Ark" was the iconic movie. The "Temple of Doom" was a bit boring for me at least and my favourite is the "Last Crusade" since it has Sean Connery playing Henry Sr. Connery was an excellent counterfoil to Ford.
But that was 20 years ago. I just saw the latest Indy Jones installment "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" today. In the movie, a visibly aged Ford plays his character. But the aged Dr Jones has lost the funny lines that made the first three movies memorable. These lines are "That belongs to a museum", "I hate fast women", "Don't call me Junior", "Nazis. I hate these guys" "No ticket!" etc... Of course that sword wielding Arab was one iconic scene and that foam boulder.
And of course stereotypical Nazis are the perfect villains!
Twenty years has changed society. The "sword and Arab scene" is offensive to Muslims. "Fast women" would offend the feminists. With that the fun aspect of Indy films has become an cultural archeaological artifact.
Now this latest installment is so New Age-y and mixing Erich von Däniken in this latest Hollywood dish generates a lot of incredulity sans fun. Of course Indy movies are incredulous. Now add a garnish of Gnosticism then the dish becomes a bit hard to digest. You have Russians, a Stalinist femme fatale, a Cold War era nuclear test with a flying refrigerator, crystal skulls, Mesoamerican pyramids, Nazca lines and ta dahhh, UFOs and aliens! With aliens around,why didn't they cast Sigourney Weaver?
Now I really don't see the reason why Hollywood has to continue dishing out Gnosticism in movies. We had that headache inducing "Golden Compass" and the non sequitur logic of "Da Vinci Code" in recent years. I think this Gnostic theme is old hat and is becoming boring.
But the latest Indy installment is worth noting since the series has finally dumped the Judaeo-Christian theme of the earlier films. This should alarm Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders. Judaeo-Christian themes are now as remote to people as Classical literature. The earlier films were set when the Nazis were just assuming power. The Nazis of course wanted to extirpate Judaeo-Christian culture from the West. So the Ark and the Grail were relevant to the plot.
But Stalinism promoting New Age- Gnosticism? I think that is stretching it to the max! Stalinism just promotes Stalin and would be Stalins nothing more.
In the latest installment Indy Jones as a scientist gets thrown into the bin. Remember those lines from "Last Crusade"? Archeaology deals with fact. Not truth." That summarizes what science is all about. But in the latest installment, Indy falls for Gnostic crap via a crystal skull.
Nonetheless, the movie's action scenes are superb. But the movie pales in comparison since characters such as Marcus Brody (played by Denholm Elliot), Henry Sr (Sean Connery), Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) are no longer there. So with the villains like Robert Lacey (died of a heart attack in the 80s) Continuity was made with the past by Brody's statue and photo and Henry Sr's picture.
Denholm Elliot passed away in 1992 from AIDS. Sean Connery is still alive and kicking but refused the offer to reprise his role for "Crystal Skull". John Rhys-Davies is still with us. Their characters added fun to the movies. But in replacement we have Shia LeBoeuf playing Indy's long lost son. This would have added a human interest in the plot but LeBoeuf's character wasn't fully developed. He was stereotyped as a James Dean-ish character.
Indy Jones was the quintessential bachelor character. But a bachelor's worst nightmare happened in the Amazon jungle. (warning: spoiler ahead!) Indy bumps into his ex!
But bumping into an ex is not really an appealing prospect that generates comedy. So much for realizing that James Dean is your son. (Now I know from experience that there is a shock when you learn that somebody is your son!) John Hurt's character was not developed. Too bad. Hurt is an excellent actor. Ray Winstone was perfectly cast as the sleazy McHale. Winstone's talents were not fully used here.
Stalinist femme fatale Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is of course the villain. Rapier sharp with paranormal powers, she wanted to know all (How gnostic!). Of course one can't resist to expect Rosa Klebb's spiked shoes in her weaponry! The Cold War setting invites one to expect 007 to come out from somewhere. (Didn't I just write that Connery refused to appear in the movie?)
Ooooops, spoiler ahead.The ending sees Indy getting the inevitable treatment in Church. The supernatural is implied when the Church doors open by itself (I was expecting the ghostly Sean Connery to walk in. This isn't a new Lucas trick. Remember Obi-Wan Kenobi ,Yoda and Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars installments?)
The fedora was blown towards Shia LeBoeuf but Ford picks it up again. Thus implying another Indy Jones installment. But how interesting and fun is a married Indiana Jones? Well we know what marriage does to a man!