For those of you who are bigger "Lost" fans than Indy fans, here are some hot pictures of Sawyer and me hanging out.
May 24, 2008
"...Yes. Yes. I agree that Raiders kind of stands on its own. Actually, when I read that review (after you sent it to me), that idea stood out to me, too. Don't know if I agree that the final three are a trilogy of their own... I think they're like Monet's haystacks (to be obnoxious about it)* -- they're all about the same guy, but his world shifts a little bit between each adventure. I think it's like the films that follow Raiders make a path that leads steadily away from Raiders, but pretty linearly. Each blazes a new bit of a singular trail that leads to new territory:
The Raiders world is whimsical, but basically realistic, with some elements of the supernatural potentially explainable by our own experience or by means made available to us in the film. This with the possible exception of the actual effects of opening the Ark (what would "God's wrath" have done if the Nazis had shut their eyes tight?). And, Indy feels punches (and for that matter, bullets) soundly.
In Temple, whimsy and coincidence has a marginally larger role to play than it did in Raiders (How did Short Round know to bring the car to THAT window?... or to a window at all, actually... A kid in a car happening to find Indy falling out of a window in the middle of Shanghai is a bigger and more explicit stroke of luck than we've seen before-- Indy had to try twice to get the right size uniform off a guard in Raiders). And, many of the supernatural things we observe have no explicit explanation in our world or in the world of the film. We are asked to believe that a man can live without a heart and that voodoo works just because it's related to some kind of Black Magic going on and cultivated at the palace. Incidentally, Indy does get beat up, but he sustains blows in the final fight that I think may have toppled the Raiders Jones.
Certainly, the world in Last Crusade is a little sillier and a little less dangerous than the world in Raiders. Actually, its visceral impact is probably the least of the three first films, but its heart and charisma are strongest. Where Raiders legitimately sustains real, subtle interactions among captivating characters, its focus is not on the characters, but instead on maintaining the serial style that inspired the movies. Last Crusade departs from the serial style (notice how many fewer Venetian blinds exist in the film) a little, and perpetuates (if not elaborates) on the extreme level of whimsy and coincidence that Temple initiated (a la the return of his hat on the cliff); but, its great strength--and the thing that makes it wonderful despite its lacking the rich style of Raiders (unlike Temple, which doesn't successfully survive the abandoning of Raiders' stylistic or realistic integrity)-- is its admitting the fact, and placing its focus on character relationships instead.
Last Crusade is the first time that the relationships in an Indy film are its focus. And, the film benefits a great deal from it. Indy's relationship with Willie (Willy?) is a joke. And so is she. On purpose. Detrimental as it is. Indy's relationship with Marion was never a joke, but it was also incidental to the plot. In the Last Crusade, the Holy Grail turns out to be Indy's reconciliation with his father. The whole search has been to find his way back home. The lack of style, the special and unbelievable luck he has, his continued super-human strength in fights aren't ever a problem in Crusade, because they aren't the point of the film. He isn't looking for a cup, really (naturally). The style and conventions established with Raiders are largely (and largely successfully) abandoned.
And, now Skull…
I think that what we have are four movies out of what should have been six--we skipped over two in the nineties. Twenty years after Crusade, following the trajectory begun with Temple and continued with Last Crusade, we should be at Skull or beyond (we have simply missed the intermediate steps). In Skull, we're clearly no longer even within the farthest borders of 30's serial territory. But, I don't believe we're too far away from the world of Last Crusade. With Last Crusade we established what might have been the beginning of a major shift in the series... To a new style that doesn't quote 30's serials, but that is purely and uniquely of Indiana Jones.
When we saw Raiders, we all already knew Peter Lorre, and knew the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, or at least we knew that low brass music equals bad news in cinema. We knew the style, if not the particular films, that the first film evoked.
The territory blazed post-Raiders makes a new place for Indiana Jones. Originally, the films referenced earlier work. Now, the earlier work is much lesser known than Indy himself. Post-Crusade, Indiana Jones is as much a part of cinematic culture (if not more) than were the shows that inspired his creation.
Going into Crystal Skull, we all know Indiana Jones. And we know Marion. And, post-Temple and post-Crusade, we know to expect the unexpected in Indy films.
A viewer of Crystal Skull has to do a lot of work on his own to make the thing work. But, the previous films give him the tools he needs. Re-watching the new film in my head, I can excise the ants and the vine-swinging, because I know that Indiana Jones doesn’t need that kind of sensationalism; I can imagine the dialogue between Indy and Marion that we don’t get to see because I’ve seen it shipboard in Raiders; I can imagine the moment where Mutt and Indy come to terms with each other because I’ve seen it in Last Crusade. In other words, the elements are all there, but they exist in a kind of shorthand because familiarity with the character(s) is taken for granted… And, truthfully, though there can never be too much of what’s wonderful about the Indiana Jones characters, we have been given enough by the first three films.
My biggest problem with the new film is that, since it is the latest in a tradition begun post-Raiders, and since that tradition is a departure from the larger 30’s serial tradition out of which Indy grew in the first place, the new generation (the under-20 generation) might not know the Indiana Jones language well enough to appreciate this film as anything but superficial, reasonably well-put together action. For these kids, the short-hand references in the film to the earlier films might seem to be all there is. The things referenced might be lost on them entirely…
Good heavens, Alison. Look what I’ve done.
That’s all there is to that.
*my mentioning Monet’s haystacks as an analogy for the Indiana Jones tetralogy** grants you the right to never take me seriously ever again.
**same goes for the word “tetralogy”***
***and for taking the time to write a three-tiered footnote in a Facebook message