Indiana Jones

While vacationing in Maui, old film school chums George Lucas and Steven Spielberg discussed what projects they wanted to work on next after their respective smashes Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg confessed he wanted to make a James Bond film but Lucas told him he had an even better film in mind. His love of serials of the 30s and 40s lead to the creation of archeologist Indiana Jones. Spielberg loved the idea. They originally cast Tom Selleck as their lead but he had to back out to star in the television series Magnum P.I. They went back to Spielberg’s first choice, Harrison Ford. However, Lucas was at first reluctant to cast Ford, not wanting him to become his “Bobby De Niro” after working with him on two other films all ready, but he proved to be the perfect fit for Nazi fighting, whip cracking adventurer.
Indiana Jones stands out among movie heroes because he is not superhuman. His strengths are his extensive knowledge of ancient civilizations and his bravery and dedication when seeking out great archeological discoveries. However, he is far from perfect. He’s gruff, has trouble maintaining relationships with family members and romantic partners, he’s not always the best judge of character, he’s terrified of snakes and he frequently gets serious injured. Our introduction to the character is him losing. An important artifact ends up in the hands of a rival but Indy remains a hero because he’s quick with the one-liner and has Harrison Ford’s charming grin. Hell, the Nazis even obtain ark of the covenant and are defeated by an act of God, not Indy. However, it is Indy’s knowledge of the ark’s power that saves him and Marion and allows for the ark to stay out of the wrong hands for good. Nowadays flawed heroes are a dime a dozen, but every House or Iron Man owes a lot to Indy.
Keeping with the James Bond influence, Indy is given a new leading lady to romance for every adventure (at least for the original trilogy). However, they screwed up by partnering Indy with his soul mate in the first film. Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) is tough, brave, and shares Indy’s passion for archeology through her father, Indy’s mentor. Temple of Doom is a prequel so Marion’s absence can be excused but it is a little uncomfortable to watch enter a physical relationship with Elsa. While it’s quickly revealed Elsa is a Nazi spy and their relationship never gets very deep, you still know he belongs with Marion. The one saving grace of Crystal Skull is seeing Indy and Marion reunited and finally making it work. Ford and Allen really have amazing chemistry and it’s always fun to watch them bicker.
For the second film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Spielberg wanted a darker feel, as he and Lucas were ending relationships. However, the change in tone isn’t the best fit for Indy and especially when he saddled with cartoonish sidekicks like Short Round and romantic interest Willie (Kate Capshaw). Willie is spoiled and helpless, the opposite of Marion but Indy and Willie fall for each other because they are the male and female leads in a blockbuster film. While it has some famous scenes (like the scene where a man’s heart is ripped out of his chest), the film is mostly inconsequential and can probably be skipped if one is short on time. Even Spielberg wasn’t too fond of Temple of Doom, saying the film’s saving grace was that it introduced him to future wife Capshaw.
For Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy is back at what he does best, keeping biblical artifacts from the Nazis. Ford is teamed with Sean Connery who plays Indy’s estranged father, a fellow archeologist. The two are a great together as they butt head as only father and son can.
Lucas originally intended to have five films in the series. When he originally convinced Spielberg to direct, he told his old friend he had three adventures plotted for Indiana Jones. However, Lucas is a lying liar who lies a lot (see the prequels that he claimed to have written decades in advance) he only had the first one complete. After Last Crusade, Lucas struggled to come up with a new story. After nineteen years and countless rewrites , they unleashed Indiana Jones and the Crystal Kingdom.
Aliens!!! Shia LaBeouf monkey boy!!! Surviving a nuke by hiding in a fridge!!! Asking if I was disappointed is like asking if Indy hates snakes. While I was anticipating it being hard to watch a slowed down, aging Ford trying to keep up with a kid like LaBeouf, I didn’t expect the writers to stray so much from Indy’s core. My husband and I have debated whether aliens were that much more unbelievable than, say, the Holy Grail and I think they are. Regardless of religious belief, most of us can agree that Jesus and Moses lived and certain events happened and can be studied for historical content. Whether objects they possessed have supernatural powers are up to debate, but these object most likely existed and would be certainly sought after by archeologists. To have a Mayan(?) temple really be an alien spaceship and then have the spaceship take off… grrr Lucas, Spielberg!!! This continues the duo’s trend of desecrating their their former masterpieces. We can’t let them play together any more. I’m clearly not the only one who feels this was, as South Park released an episode where they accused the two directors of raping Indiana Jones.
There are whispers of future adventures for Indy and crew, or simply allowing LaBeouf take over the series. I hope they can obtain the self-control to leave well enough alone. If you’ve never seen Indiana Jones, schedule a double feature of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade. If you have time, squeeze Temple of Doom in there too. And if you must watch Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, make sure there’s liquor handy.

The People Vs George Lucas

Like anyone who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, I have opinions about George Lucas. Few public figures have such a complicated relationship with their fans. When I heard about this documentary, I knew I would have to check it out but didn’t get around to it until I saw it was streaming on Netflix. It’s definitely a conversation starter. While there are some arguments in this film, that I don’t agree with, it shows you how each fan has their own unique experience with Star Wars and the man who created it. And it touches on the idea that for great hate to exist there must also be great love.

One thing that becomes very clear in this documentary, your feelings about Lucas are very tied to when you first became familiar with his work. Basically, the version of Star Wars you grew up with is our Star Wars, and any changes are met with resistance, to say the least. Those who watched the original versions find the Special Edition to be a betrayal. Those in my generation were pulled in by the allure of seeing the Special Edition on the big screen but find the prequels to be an abomination. Kids who grew up with the prequels don’t understand all the hate regarding the films, and sometimes find the older films boring, preferring “their Star Wars”. It’s interesting because Star Wars rival sage, Star Trek doesn’t have any of this generational angst, despite series creator Gene Roddenberry having no involvement with some of the shows.

Those interviewed for the documentary tend to be in the first group of Star Wars fans, the group that grew up with the original, original films and find the “enhancements” of the special edition to be a travesty. They try to make the argument that Lucas should know better than to tamper with classic films after he fought Ted Turner colorizing older films, but this is hollow to me since Lucas created the art he’s “fixing”, while Ted Turner simply owned the rights. Lucas’ stance has been that it is his baby and he can do what he wants with it. However, one fan does make a great point but saying “fixing” the films and saying they were never quite what he wanted, is a slap in the face to the crew who worked so hard to make it what it was. The fan points out that the team did win an Oscar for best special effects and did groundbreaking work. And while I understand the anger of the “Han Shot First!” people, claiming that this “raped” their childhood is a bit of a stretch.

The film then focuses on the second act of betrayal by Lucas towards the fans, the prequels. The frustration seems to go deeper than disappointment that the new movies were not as good as the originals, but there really was a promise broken by Lucas. Fans had been told that Lucas had the first three planned out all along, but it seems clear when watching the movies, he was making it up as he went along. The pacing alone, with lots of wasted time early on, then plot crammed in towards the end to make sure it all made it in, shows you these were not part of his original vision. These were created by a very different man, with a very different outlook on the world. I’ve noticed with some artists, after they’ve made it and have been comfortable in their success, they start to appear unsure about what fans like about them, so they put out inferior work that is clearly them going “This is what you like, right?” I could do a whole post about this phenomenon, but the prequel had the feeling of Lucas trying to give fans what they wanted but not knowing what that was. This includes bringing back familiar characters that make no sense in this world (Why would a slave build his own protocol droid and why doesn’t Obi-Wan remember them when they clearly had prolong exposure to one another?),the gang themselves are very formulaic, etc. He wanted to please his fan, and when he didn’t he seemed to have a “screw you, then!” attitude about it, with fan pointing out a shot of Jar Jar Binks looking into the camera, as if he’s saying, “I’m still here, Bitches!”

There’s very little new information here, so don’t go in hoping to learn something about Lucas or his work. It’s really a bunch of angry fans bitching, which can be satisfying if you share some of their opinions. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is unfamiliar with Lucas’ work, but it you’ve ever uttered the phrase “Fucking George Lucas”, definitely check this out, preferably with a fellow fan.