Even to this day, what makes Raiders of the Lost Ark so special is how it embraces its B-move roots. captured no-holds-barred action stuffed with whimsical humor in a tried and true tale of good versus evil. It's movie making at its finest. Most importantly, he gave us an iconic hero: Indiana Jones.
I remember growing up as a kid wanting to be an archaeologist because I thought it would bring me fortune and glory. The sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, tried to go the way of Empire Strikes Back and aimed for a more darker tone with Indy almost literally having his heart ripped out. The Last Crusade returned the series to its more lighthearted roots, brilliantly casting as the absent father figure. It's one of the greatest film trilogies of all time, and I would go as far to say that Raiders is arguably movie making at its most perfect.
Fans of the series had to wait 20 years for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; the anticipation was huge, so it was almost impossible for it to meet our expectations. Although not a horrible movie, it had a myriad of problems. Will the series end with a whimper instead of a bang?
Well, maybe not...
With talk of Indiana Jones 5 on the way, here's what I think needs to happen to make it a success.
All CGI monkeys should be killed with fire
If there's one enduring memory (read: nightmare) from Crystal Skull, it's Shia LaBeouf swinging through the jungle like a leather-jacketed Tarzan surrounded by computer generated monkeys. It looked ridiculous. The same could be said for the army of ants that had a taste for Russian soldiers. Even Indy being flung through the air in a fridge was all wrong.
I don't have a problem with the concept of these action set pieces, but the execution and the reliance on CGI rendered them almost shamefully un-watchable. The opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark still remains one of the most exhilarating in cinema history and there wasn't a CGI monkey in sight. I'm not some technology hating Luddite that laments the death of practical effects, but I do draw the line at CGI monkeys. Indy 5 needs to return to its B-movie roots and shoot all computer generated apes, gofers, ants and snakes on sight.
Fortune and glory
Indiana Jones: Where'd they go? Space?
Professor 'Ox' Oxley: Not into space. Into the space between spaces.
Crystal Skull had the most disappointing cinematic payoff since the trees decided to exterminate humanity in The Happening. Think about it: You had crystal aliens coming to life, causing everything to swirl around, only to blow up a Russian lady's head before zooming off into the space between spaces. It made no sense.
The first three movies ended with Indy within touching distance of fortune and glory. The Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara stones, and the Holy Grail were all tangible artifacts that had the weight of history behind them. The Crystal Skulls were glass ornaments that wouldn't look out of place in a Damien Hirst exhibition.
Indiana Jones 5 needs a MacGuffin that excites and inspires the inner-archaeologist in all of us. Send Indy and Marion in search of the Lost City of Atlantis or Noah's Ark. They need to go an old fashioned treasure hunt where X never marks the spot. Unless it's like The Last Crusade, in which it does. Then X totally marks the spot.
George Lucas belongs in a museum
All the issues we've discussed so far have now led to this. It's time to talk about the big, bearded, billionaire elephant in the room. The man who conceived both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. He's the same one who single-handedly tried to destroy them. Yup. .
First up, here's what Spielberg told Empire Magazine about Lucas and his influence over the creative processes for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:
I'm very happy with the movie. I always have been...I sympathise with people who didn't like the MacGuffin because I never liked the MacGuffin. George and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin. I didn't want these things to be either aliens or inter-dimensional beings. But I am loyal to my best friend. When he writes a story he believes in - even if I don't believe in it - I'm going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it. I'll add my own touches, I'll bring my own cast in, I'll shoot the way I want to shoot it, but I will always defer to George as the storyteller of the Indy series. I will never fight him on that.
While Spielberg's loyalty to his friend is commendable, it's about time we admitted to ourselves that George Lucas is a busted flush when it comes to movie making. Lucas made my childhood better, of that there is no doubt, but it's time for him to let go and retire to Skywalker Ranch.
Let's look at Lucas's involvement in Crystal Skull.
First up, he had possession of a killer script by Frank Darabont that both Spielberg and Harrison Ford loved. Titled Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, it followed a similar path to Crystal Skull, but had a far more satisfying payoff. It also didn't include Mutt and had a better written Marion Ravenwood. Unfortunately, Lucas didn't like it and the script was shot down in flames. To compound his total lack of creative judgement, Lucas then insisted on including a MacGuffin that no one really liked, not even the director.
I know it can be hard to let your baby go, but I think Indiana Jones 5 can only prosper if Lucas steps aside. Thanks for the memories George.
There you have it. Kill the CGI, get a better MacGuffin, and stop Lucas coming within 100 miles of the project. You might just have another great Indiana Jones movie on your hands. If that doesn't work, I have another solution: Sit back on your couch, grab a cold beer, stick Raiders of the Lost Ark on the television, and wait for the warm glow of contentment to wash over you as the movie begins and you hear THAT theme again. Some movies simply can't be bettered.
It's now over to you. What steps need to be taken to make Indiana Jones 5 a success? Be as constructive or critical as you want and drop your suggestions in box below.