Indiana Jones

I’ve always mentally grouped Raiders of the Lost Ark with another early-80’s film: Buckaroo Banzai. Both films represented a new approach to action and SF films, and they were both influential. They all had precursors, of course, but they still stand out in my memory. Raiders was less ironic and self-aware than the othe, of course–in fact, Spielberg and Lucas are almost never ironic, and almost never work on any level other than the obvious one. (The people who complained about Spielberg’s film Munich before they even saw it didn’t understand this, and indeed the controversy died down quickly when the movie actually appeared.)

Raiders was also the only one to have a sequel, which was only possible because it wasn’t ironic. Buckaroo Banzai ended with what appeared to be an ad for a sequel, but it was just a joke, part of the underlying meta reference of the whole movie. That is, Raiders was a recreation of an old movie serial, but Buckaroo Banzai was both a recreation and a commentary.

Unfortunately, there is a reason we stopped watching movie serials; they don’t change. Making Raiders the first time makes a lot of sense: it’s a look back at an old form, updated for today (or 1981, anyhow). Making a sequel today only makes sense if something changes. But in the Raiders’ sequels, nothing changes. Indiana Jones picks up a family and he gets older, but he himself stays the same throughout. What’s the point? It’s fun, but it’s also repetitive. Compare to Star Wars, for example: whatever you may think of the sequels, it is undeniable that each one was different, and that the characters changed.

So it seemed to me that Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was more or less an exercise. There should have been more of a reason to create a new sequel twenty years later. I keep hoping it would move in some new direction, but it never did.

Another aspect I disliked about the new movie is that in Raiders, Indiana Jones was always at least on the edge of plausibility. No real human being could escape from that pit, win the fight by an airplane, jump on a horse, and get dragged by a truck, all in the space of 20 minutes. But each single event was almost plausible, and the story pulled you through them all seamlessly. In the Crystal Skull there are a couple of scenes which I found to be simply impossible, breaking the suspension of disbelief.

Obviously my thoughts are not going to affect anyone’s movie-going decisions. That said, my advice on the summer movies so far is to see Iron Man.

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