I love Indiana Jones even though he is by far the worst archeologist in history. The man’s entire life is devoted to putting things into museums in order to save them and yet without a doubt if you are an artifact and on Indiana Jones’ radar, wherever you lie is about to soon be in ruins and you probably will never make it to your glass case.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas destroyed the movie industry for me. Jaws gave birth to the idea of the summer blockbuster, and Star Wars (frankly I have no idea what to call that movie anymore, and I still think it’s a sin they replaced the old man at the end of Return of the Jedi) begat the monster franchise concept that would never end. It all became marketing and synergy.
“Synergy.” What an awful word. It suddenly wasn’t enough to make a good movie anymore. You suddenly needed to make room for a sequel, some hit singles to spin off would be nice, action figures, stickers, trading cards, video games. I thought it was about achieving a cinematic vision not an income stream.
If Spielberg and Lucas had been on the set of Easy Rider, they would have constantly been telling Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper how stupid their ending was from a monetary point of view.
“Harrison Ford is the main reason everyone hates the second Star Wars trilogy. Not only wasn’t he in them, his presence wasn’t in them…”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that comic book movies are so huge right now. Comic books just can’t end. Marvel started making comics that had longer arcs that seemed to move past the stale days of the one off where Superman would face a new villain each issue and everything would go back to where it started the same way a Warner Brother’s cartoon character’s head would return to shape after being flattened by a frying pan.
Peter Parker’s arc was pretty perfect until the death of Gwen Stacey, but nothing can end if there is more money still to be made.
The same thing happened on television when “Crime Story” and “Wiseguy” brought arcs to the format. The answer is a guy like Vince Gilligan who sets off to do a complete story and plans it to end perfectly from day one.
That can’t happen on network television. It has to go on as long as possible until it becomes a guilty pleasure you want to shoot yourself for watching, which is why Jon Hein has a job with Howard Stern.
Even in the early days of Spider-Man you saw the downfall of all comics. Villain inflation. Early on Spider-Man would fight the Rhino or the Vulture to the death and barely win, but soon he had to deal with the Sinister Six, which is why I was always much more interested as a geek in Spider-Man’s personal life than his action sequences no matter how exciting they may have been drawn.
I’m still upset that the latest Peter was given a super suit by that drunk Tony Stark. Peter is supposed to be sewing that stuff himself and creating his own gear. Peter lost his mentor when Uncle Ben died. Yes, the latest franchise makes me irate. Peter is more immature than he was able to be able to afford to be as first conceived, his angst is gone, and Aunt May is hot. I’m old, but I think I’m also right.
Frankly, Spider-man really died when John Romita took over from Steve Ditko. Ditko drew Spider-Man as he was, a science dork. The second Ditko quit, Peter suddenly started to look like a muscular matinee idol. The death of Gwen Stacey was such a big deal to me because whereas Mary Jane was in love with Spider-man, Gwen was in love with the real Peter. If someone marries you after you become a rock star, you never really know whether she loves you for you do you?
Harrison Ford is a fantastic leading man. His charisma was clearly there in Lucas’ only earthbound directing effort American Graffiti, and then he had a small part in the anti-blockbuster Apocalypse Now! If you disappear without a script intent on spending a lot of money you are making a Mission Impossible movie that has nothing to do with the source material these days.
Hollywood learned about the downside of auteurs forever after the Michael Cimino Heaven’s Gate debacle. If you are going to give someone a ton of money to do his passion project, they finally learned they were better off doing it with something like Waterworld that could potentially become a theme park ride.
Harrison Ford is the main reason everyone hates the second Star Wars trilogy. Not only wasn’t he in them, his presence wasn’t in them. No one really ever wanted to be Luke Skywalker, they wanted to be Han Solo. Han Solo got the girl. Han Solo may have been in space, but he was really just the cowboy hero that American’s have always loved. The same Western hero mocked the best movie I’ve ever seen The Third Man.
Why do you think his last name was Solo?
For some reason American’s are just not happy unless one dude fixes things all by himself. Clint Eastwood moved that hero into sadistic police movies. John Rambo had to refight the Vietnam war all by himself, and it wasn’t a coincidence that John McClain’s catchphrase was “Yippee Kay Yay M**********r” and that he fought villains not from America. Hans Gruber even mocks him for it during the movie. Die Hard was both a modern Western and a parody of them. America is still about one dude doing everything alone. I don’t care how successful the Avengers or X-Men movies are. I didn’t want to see a team either. I wanted to see Wolverine kick some a*s.
Without Ford around to make fun of the solemnity of the Force, you really just had a bunch of humorless children’s movies, which is what they wanted. You can sell toys to children. If you are going to turn a good guy into the devil, it’s pretty hard to do it well by aiming it at a young audience.
Somehow, when I first saw Raider’s of the Lost Ark, I had heard absolutely nothing about it. A friend of mine had just gotten his driver’s license and took me to see it at the mall. Malls were very important to teenagers in the 80’s. You can see it all over Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Literally, neither of us had any idea what we were about to see, we only that Harrison Ford was the star, which was obviously enough.
There is almost nothing to fault about the first Indiana Jones movie. The opening sequence was perfectly executed, full of real danger and endlessly surprising. You were on the edge of your seat the entire time, until you were finally given a moment’s rest when you discover in the getaway plane that Indy’s Kryptonite is snakes.
There’s not much new in the movie (it was an homage to the days of Errol Flynn and maybe even Buster Keaton), but the execution was flawless and scenes like the bald dude getting made into mulch by the airplane propeller showed real, visceral danger. The stunt work was so good that you never thought for a second that a mere human really couldn’t be dragged by a truck for more than five seconds.
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom should be most significantly remembered as the movie so gruesome that it invented the PG-13 rating…”
Nazis have had a special place in Hollywood’s heart at least since Casablanca to me. Michael Curtiz’ movie set up the tripe that basically the most important thing in the cinematic world was finding true love unless there were Nazis to fight. If there are Nazis to fight, you have to choose to hang with Claude Rains over Ingrid Bergman, and to do that you better have a really good reason.
Spielberg and Lucas have made so much money off of Nazis and stand-in Nazis. Nazis are perfect. No one ever thinks for a second that a Nazi has gradations of evil. You just see a swastika and you know that you are going to enjoy seeing those dude’s faces melt off at the end without a moment of remorse.
More important than the Citizen Kane homage at the end, Raiders had a woman worthy of its hero. Karen Black’s Marion was a badass well deserving a walk off into the sun with Indiana Jones, and I was happy to put up with the fourth incarnation of the series just to remind people of that.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom should be most significantly remembered as the movie so gruesome that it invented the PG-13 rating. It pulled the heart right out of everyone’s chest.
The PG-13 rating killed R rated movies. It set exactly how bloody and sexual you could be and still let the youth profit center in the door. If you want to avoid an R, it helps to have a great financial track record and be part of the club.
The opening sequence to the sequel was brilliant, but then immediately there is Short Round to appeal to the kids and bring in foreign dollars by showing ethnic diversity. It’s still a wonderful movie even though it has Indy’s worst female co-star. Kate Capshaw does nothing but screech, be helpless, and make it harder on Indy.
This leads to the wonderfully exasperated, “Willie, we-are-going-to-DIE!” from Ford, but it may have set women back in film for at least five years.
Of course, Spielberg then ditched his brainy looking Jewish wife to marry the picture perfect gentile Capshaw. I have no idea if Capshaw challenges Spielberg intellectually in real life, I just know when I see a pattern.
I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade right after taking LSD for the first time at Armadillo Day, a yearly outing at Northwestern University. I hadn’t even smoked a cigarette much less done anything remotely adult before that.
I wore a Michael Jordan jersey that day. A friend had told me that acid would make the Grateful Dead sound good. What it did was make a reggae band sound like they were playing “Stir It Up” for four hours and that music is not known for its variation to begin with.
Towards the end of my trip, Michael Jordan went crazy to beat the Pistons in the fourth quarter of a playoff game and people started yelling Michael at me for reasons I was unaware of which didn’t help my paranoia.
All in all, it was a fantastic day even though I discovered that my bumper had fallen off of my car after I came out of the movie. The same friend was responsible for me doing the stupidest thing in my life, a similarly altered trip over the Golden Gate Bridge that is still the only time I’ve ever thrown up after imbibing anything and probably why I will end up in hell.
“…a carpenter before he was an actor, chose the cup of a carpenter when he did finally make his best decision.”
He said it was 50-50 that I was sober and I lost that coin flip.
It’s still hard for me to watch the beginning of the third film, because it just seems to me that no one remembers how amazing and good looking River Phoenix was anymore. Joaquin is a fantastic actor. He was great in Parenthood when he was Leaf, but River was a movie star the second he first appeared in Stand By Me. I still miss him and relish his goofy request for that Uzi carrying agent’s phone number in Sneakers.
Indy’s search for the holy grail has a lot to say about today’s world. “Choose Wisely.” Greed is not good! It made it even better that Ford, a carpenter before he was an actor, chose the cup of a carpenter when he did finally make his best decision.
Of course, that wonderful 1000 year old knight who had been guarding the grail peacefully for years without any hassle saw his sanctuary destroyed forever, but at least Indy sort of finally realized that sometimes you just have to let the artifact go. I can still watch those three movies over and over again. They’ve gotten me through some hard times.
Indy is not in any way an archeologist, no matter how educated he is. He’s just a dude that loves adventure, fighting, and competition. He doesn’t mind how many beautiful cathedrals or landscapes get destroyed in his quests. He needs the challenge. He needs to win. He’s the ultimate American hero. Sometimes he does gets a magic rock to some hungry people, but he always kicks a*s. If anyone else ever takes the role, I’m taking my life, because suggesting blowing up Hollywood does not seem like a politically correct or strategically prudent thing for me to convey in order to further my writing career or my political freedom. IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!
Brad Laidman bio
Brad Laidman has been writing since he was 4. He has been known to howl at the moon on occasion like Crash Davis; is incensed that anyone alive thinks Kevin Hart is anywhere near Eddie Murphy’s ballpark; and doesn’t particularly like where and when he lives right now. A collection of his previous Film Threat work and his other books can be found on Amazon in a book entitled The Key Largo Essays. His entire catalog can be found on Brad Laidman’s Author Page.