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.

Star Wars

People often confuse my enthusiasm for Star Wars and over Sci-Fi films and television shows for an obsession for all things Sci-Fi. Not true. I have a hard time with a lot of Sci-Fi, but when one combines Sci-Fi and a sense of humor, I can eat that shit for breakfast every single day. Much of Sci-Fi is very doom and gloom and many franchises have older casts, who I have trouble getting really excited about, but Star Wars’ mostly young cast, mixed with the just the right amount of humor equals a cinematic ride that I never get tired of.

I got into Star Wars later than some. The first time my mom tried to get me and my brother to watch it, we didn’t even get to the Cantina scene. I didn’t know who Han Solo was until I was 12 years old and now he is one of my favorite characters of all time. I think I can pinpoint the moment I “became a woman” to when Han Solo usurped  R2-D2 as my favorite character. It’s not just that it’s Harrison Ford at his hottest with a super sexy wardrobe (that vest! the little jacket he wears in Cloud City!), but the fact that he’s a rebel struggling with the fact that he’s found a cause and a group of people he can care about. Practically everyone in Hollywood tried out for the role of Han Solo including Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Bill Murray! But Lucas finally went with Ford, despite originally being dead set against using an actor he had worked with before. I think what makes Ford an ideal Han Solo is the fact that he really wasn’t taking anything too seriously. This gives Solo a cocky but sweet vibe that is completely lovable. He purposely didn’t rehearse his line for the  scene where he must stall over the intercom in the detention block  so it would seem spontaneous. It’s such a fun, cute moment and it makes you realize how important it is to have the right cast.

One of the most disappointing experiences in my life was having to sit through the prequels. I think it was especially hard for me as a writer because I had spent years writing the prequels in my head and I liked mine better! I think the main issue is that Lucas didn’t really understand what made the first films magical in the first place. My husband recently hypothesized that the cast had more to do with the success of  film than Lucas as a storyteller. He may have a point. The prequels were cast so differently, seeing that Lucas could handpick big names and didn’t seem concerned with how the individual actors worked together. Not knocking the cast of the prequels as actors, but casting is such an art form that is really under appreciated and if two actors lack chemistry and are then giving clunky dialogue, the audience isn’t going to care.

I recently made a Star Trek lover friend watch A New Hope for the first time and my favorite moment was when Princess Leia takes charge of her own rescue, grabbing a gun, shooting at the guards and leading the boys down the garbage shoot. My friend smiled and said “Ok, I see what you did there”. Leia is a great female character in a very male dominated world. She’s sarcastic and tough yet feminine. She’s beautiful and petite at 5’1, yet when she speaks, all the men around her better listen. She also was forced to wear some of the most extreme fashion in film history. Those buns! That bikini. Angelica Houston and Bernadette Peters were also up for the role , but it is clear that much of what made the character so fun was Fisher’s personality and sense of humor. So many females in Sci-Fi are either too much of a victim or to masculine, but Leia is the type of gal who will make fun of you, as you’re rescuing her.

Fun Fact:

Lucas based Han Solo on Francis Ford Coppola.