Did you guys notice the total musical throwback to John Williams in last night's episode of Lost? Check it:
February 27 episode of Lost, "The Lighthouse:"
The Map Room scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark:
Following the failure of Crystal Skull, I maintained that the best Indy movies, Raiders and The Last Crusade, had an important thing in common: they were both rooted in stuff we knew, ie, Judeo-Christian mythology. The Ark and the Grail were treasures that moviegoers were familiar with, the Sankara stones (Temple of Doom) and the crystal skulls (...Crystal Skull) were not. I thought the problem was that we as an audience could inherently understand the value of the cup of Christ, but didn't care about a rock in some small Indian town in the same way. The supernatural rules of those things were known and presumed: everyone knows you couldn't touch the Ark the Covenant, but no one knows what happened when you put a quartz skull in the bottom of a spaceship, à la Crystal Skull. Temple of Doom was less successful by this theory, too, but was redeemed by the fact that it was a prequel, by having a young 1980s Indy, and by the subsequent success of Last Crusade.
But my theory doesn't hold up when you consider the totally satisfying action-adventure concept of "Lost." It may work to explain the Indy quadrilogy (tetralogy?), but the triumph of "Lost" explodes my idea that an adventure needs to be rooted in familiar (or even real) mythology to to be successful. Instead, the explanation for Skull's failure might be closer to something my friend Dave Quay wrote to me. He said, regarding Indy, that "what we have are four movies out of what should have been six -- we skipped over two in the 90s." Because Temple and Last Crusade are increasingly sensational and less realistic than Raiders, he explained, it made sense the films would move in the direction of Skull -- they just moved too fast. The 20 year passage of time (in the movies and in real life) couldn't adequately fill in the blanks between the last two films.
So maybe "Lost" benefits for the simple reason that a series has more leeway to be unexplainable. It can leave more loose ends and take more logical leaps than a film can (how many of those loose ends will be tied by the end of the series remains to be seen...shortly). "Lost," like Raiders, started out waaaay more realistically than it has ended. (Did anyone else think it was going to just be a scripted "Survivor" when you saw the first previews?) It has only been over many, many episodes that Dharma and Faraday and shifting universes have become a part of the "Lost" world. One-upping its crazy cliffhangers with even crazier ones has become what we love about "Lost," but it wouldn't have worked if it had been less gradual. So, maybe Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is what "Lost" would have been if the characters had time-traveled in the first season: canceled.