Indiana Jones and the Quarantine Theater
The best film of the series? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. By far. Change my mind.
As the weeks of the coronavirus crisis stretch into months, a handful of family members and friends have started what we call “Quarantine Theater,” in which we gather online each Saturday night to watch a movie together...or as close to “together” as we can get, under the circumstances.
Our first choice of movies was the “Indiana Jones” series (we’ll be watching the much-maligned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this weekend).
Some thoughts after the screening the first three episodes...
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is CLEARLY the best of the three films, and just an utter delight from the first frame to the last. The action-to-gags ratio, the INSANE level of chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, the brilliant casting against type of Connery as Indy’s book-nerd dad (I distinctly remember seeing this for the first time in the theater. When the Nazi smacks Henry Jones across the face, my buddies and I all thought, “OK, now Sean is gonna kick this guy’s ass REALLY bad.” And yet, he instead answered them by growling the classic line, “(My diary) tells me that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them!” Yes!! YES!!), Connery’s delivery of the line, “Indiana...let it go” (such a brilliant actor). And, on top of all of that, the utter defeat and humiliation of the Nazi bad guys (it’s never a bad time to utterly defeat and humiliate Nazis, and I never thought that in the 21st century that would be something I’d have to point out). CLEARLY the best of the three films. Change my mind.
I remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time in the theater. I was very excited to see what Sheldon Cooper called “the love child of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg,” as the two of them had just minted their status as film legends with Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But I also remember leaving the theater feeling kind of...meh. Don’t get me wrong, the movie was fun, and it’s certainly iconic for a number of reasons, but at the time, it felt like empty calories. Star Wars, Close Encounters (as well as American Graffiti and Jaws, for that matter), had all grabbed me by the brain and left me thrilled and moved and everything that great movies are supposed to do. Raiders, though, seemed empty of anything that would make me want to give a damn. It was a carnival ride that was incredible as long as I was on it, but it didn’t have that much of an emotional impact once I was off.
The less said about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the better. Honestly, I don’t know what they were thinking. Starts out OK. Ends OK. The middle act is horrendous. It’s a horror movie (and not a particularly good one) baked into the gooey center of an action-adventure film. In short, if you’re going to go over the top with something, make sure the audience wants to go with you.
And speaking of short: Short Round is literally the ONLY redeeming feature of Temple of Doom. He’s incredible, both as and action star and comic relief. It’s hard to see where he might have fit into the other films, but it would have been amazing if they could have found a way. (Side note: It’s nice to see that the film didn’t destroy Ke Huy Quan’s career in the industry. He’s gone on to become a stunt coordinator and assistant director on several other major films.)
We need to bring the fedora back into everyday fashion. And I don't say this just as a bald man, or as a bald man who looks great in a hat. I say this as a man who recognizes the innate coolness of fedoras.
By the way, Short Round is wearing a vintage New York Giants cap throughout the film, NOT a Yankees cap. Just wanted to make that clear.
God bless John Williams. Back in the day, a small handful of friends and I drove around listening to his film scores, from movies including Star Wars, Superman, The Empire Strikes Back, and yes, the Indy Jones films. We were laughed at by our peers. But try it. Honest to God, try it. Drive down the freeway and play “The Superman March,” or “The Asteroid Field” from the Empire soundtrack. But please, drive carefully. You’ll find your right foot trying to stomp the gas independent of the rest of your body. Williams is a national treasure, and his legend only will loom larger as the years pass.
Keeping in mind that part of Quarantine Theater is introducing our kids to the beloved movies of our youth...what franchise is next? Back to the Future? Star Trek? James Bond? I’m only hoping that we run out of coronavirus before we run out of movies.