Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Is Indiana Jones too Late?

I must admit, I've yet to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For some of you, this may appear shocking. Of course I'm a Indiana Jones fan - can't beat that last name. I love the genre, and I think the first film was quite spectacular, while the others were very entertaining. Nonetheless, I can watch all of them over and again.

What I find interesting about the series of films is that the second was a prequel to the first, and the third was a mandatory quest for the Holy Grail with Indy aging all the way, and the love interests getting younger. Still, some folks like all of them, while others favor only the one or two. Occasionally, I hear the word "campy" tossed about. And so time passes, while fans wait for the rumored (rumored for many years) 4th film. Now that it has arrived, the best reason people are offering me as a cause to see it that it has my last name, and it is in the genre in which I sometimes write. A few people have offered "the music" ias another reason - all rather weak appeals. In fact, the merits of the film are seldom mentioned, and seem to vary more than the previous "questionable" films.

Indiana Jones has become a cultural myth for many people, and that first memory grows over time rather than fades. This makes it all the more difficult for a new film to succeed - it must compete against a long history of fond memories, and the initial excitement. Oh, and Indy is starting to look his age.

I also learned, to my surprise, which it shouldn't have been, that the film occurs in the 1950s - a Cold War era pulp. Not only did this disappoint many people in Russia who feel the former Soviet Union is portrayed unfairly (I won't venture into that area), but it also disappointed many people who wanted Indiana Jones to confront the Nazis a final time. Naturally, I see the reason why the film was moved into the '50s. It would be difficult to explain the protagonist's aging (did I mention the aging again?). But maybe this was always the scheme - to venture into the 1950s, and have a sidekick named Mutt (Mut?) to play off the family dog's name. Having not seen the film, I can't offer much of an opinion there.

All of this leaves me wondering if the film added to the cultural myth, or if it will be ignored in the long run, raising the status of those other two films that many people disliked. Likewise, does this say something about the audience? Has culture and circumstances changed too much for a hero such as Indiana Jones?

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I hope we're not too old as a culture for Indiana Jones. I love the pulp genre. It's what I enjoy writing myself.

So far, though, I don't know why there hasn't been something like an Arkansas Gramlich series. I would definitely go for that one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Why haven't they had a series about Arkansas Gramlich? I could get into that one.

I hope that we've not outgrown Indiana Jones style stories. It's the kind of stuff I like to write myself. And certainly to read.

Brook said...

I saw the movie and I thought it was ok. And I do enjoy the old 'barn stormer' genre stories. (I'll have to look up this Arkansas Gramlich.) I would say the movie is worth watching, but there was something missing, and it took me a couple of days to figure it out.

The movie had the action, it had the special effects, it had the slightly larger than life characters. Unfortunately what it also had was too much control.

In the older movies Indy was always just barely in control or struggling to regain control. He was able to make it through, but it was a dance on the razor's edge.

In this version they made the decision to portray Indy as an older, more experienced man. I can support the decision, but in the process I think they went just a little too far. Indy seemed just a little too smooth, a little too experienced, a little too safe. The movie just seemed to lack a certain 'fire' that the other movies had. Of course this is just my opinion, but it makes me wonder: Do these kind of stories need that certain sense of danger to be truly enjoyable?

John Goodrich said...

The times have changed, both in our time and in the Indiverse. A man cannot enter a river twice because it is never the same river, and he is not the same man.

When you see it, and you should definitely see it because it will be considered part of the Indy mythology, we can discuss what was supposed to be done correctly, and what should have changed. I've made a couple notes on it on my own blog, which doesn't contain too many spoilers. Ken Hite hit the nail on the head when he called his review Indiana Jones And The Satisfactory Franchise Installment.

Jeff Edwards said...

I haven't seen the new movie either. In fact, I haven't seen any of the big films this year.

I am probably one of the few people who liked "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" because of how dark the storyline turned at certain points. (I also liked "The Empire Strikes Back" best in the Star Wars series.)

This gets me thinking about other pulp heroes. Why did Indiana Jones, a "neo" pulp hero, succeed, while "authentic" pulp heroes have not? Remember when Hollywood tried to cash in on the Indy craze by reviving Allan Quartermain? In fact, IMDB shows there is a new Quartermain film, "Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls." (Hmm...skulls? Where did they get that idea?)

-Jeff

Stewart Sternberg said...

Some people ask the same question about James Bond.

These characters, these icons, serve a purpose. When they are handled properly (look at the reboots of Batman and of Bond) they are gold, they satisfy at a deep level, resonating within. Even if Indy was called something else, and was played by another actor, the archetype remains.

Here's to Indy.

Sue L said...

I love Indy, his story and his mythology. And I absolutely loved this final installment, although it saddened me in a broad way because it did feel 'complete'. (although I was beyond delighted over the last little tidbit with the hat)

I loved that he was older - and of course an older man is smoother and more in control. I felt he was perfectly portrayed along those lines.

I agree that I hope we never outgrown those kinds of stories and I have to say, I laughed until I cried at Wal-mart yesterday. I saw an Indiana Jones Mr Potatohead. There are so many things that are just 'wrong' about it, I couldn't quit giggling, but how much more 'right' could it be? I find myself trying to thing of anyone I know who has kids the right age so I have an excuse to go back and buy a few more.

I can't think of a better role model in today's [insert insane ranting of a mother of teenage boys] world.