Article originally posted on the website abnersjournal.com, you can read it here
WELCOME to another installment of "The Reboot Awakens", your weekly update for all news, rumors and speculation on Indiana Jones 5.
Here it is, Episode 5. Feel free to take the discussion over to the Forum after reading and remember... anything goes.
INDY FIVE: THE REBOOT AWAKENS
EPISODE 5: THE EDGE OF DARKNESS
APRIL 26, 2015
Thanks for joining us for another installment of "The Reboot Awakens". Last episode I discussed the idea of an ANIMATED INDIANA JONES SERIES to accompany the release of the potential Disney reboot. If you have not read Episode 4, you can do so here. This week I wanted to touch upon a thought that I brought up briefly during the tail end of the last post, and that is getting back to the roots of the series by making the films a little darker.
BUT FIRST, THE WEEK THAT WAS
Nothing in the way of official news has been released this week from Disney, but who cares, check out these diamonds in the rough.
- THE RAVEN FORUM IS BACK! Any fan of Indiana Jones should already know about the #1 Indy fan- site out there, theraider.net. But how many of you all visit the site's forum to discuss the latest news? Well, you're missing out. Go now (raven.theraider.net) and join the community, cause everyone should have a soap box to preach from. I'll see you there.
- Some sad news to announce, legendary comic book artist Herb Trimpe passed away on April 13th at the age of 75. Best known for illustrating the debut of the Wolverine character in Hulk #181, he also did some fantastic work on Marvel's The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones. Comicalliance.com did a nice write up which you can read here.
Moviepilot.com is a great website where we as fans can write articles and get them read by a large audience. I post these episodes there as well, go take a look, I usually add a few things that you can't find on the Abner's Journal site. Other than that, the site has a wide variety of articles about our favorite archeologist and I wanted to highlight a couple that I read this past week. The first is by Jorge Rodriguez-Ramos Fdez entitled "5 Reasons Indiana Jones Is The Ultimate Male Power Fantasy", you can read it here. The second article "Harrison Ford Deserves One Last Run in Indiana Jones 5" was actually a comment posted on a feature that I wrote on how I think Harrison Ford could pull off another Indy film. The author's name is Christopher Miller, you can read the article here (I love his idea for a last scene, where the fedora raises up, make sure you read it).
- If you have not heard the bi-weekly Indiana Jones podcast at The Indycast, do yourself a favor and go listen, Episode 210 should be here any day!
- Want an Indiana Jones MAGAZINE? Here you go. INDYMAG is prepping issue #5 as we speak.
- Going to be in the Washington D.C. area around mid-May? Go check out the Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. Opening on May 14th the exhibit offers a redefined, modern experience with a combination of Hollywood magic, history and science. Head here for more details.
AND NOW IT'S TIME TO GET DARK... JUST HOW DARK YOU ASK? WELL, THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION.
The Indiana Jones series has taken us across the world, into the bowls of hell and back again. There have been some dark times in the series, some ghastly images that are suppose to conjure up a sense of terror, their sole purpose to raise the hair up on the back of our necks. But isn't that part of the fun? The movies are meant to get our hearts racing, be that by action or by horror. Though we all may disagree on whether or not Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a viable film within the series, some enjoy it while others like to pretend that the movie never existed, I think it is safe to say that we all agree that there were some elements that left us questioning the decisions of the filmmakers. In this episode I wanted to point out one of those elements in particular, the "absence of darkness". Hopefully by analyzing some interesting facts we can come to a conclusion on why it was implemented in the first place, then decide what could be done in the future Indiana Jones films that would leave both the studio and the audience feeling satisfied with the right amount of doom and gloom.
Confused? Let's start at the source, shall we.
BLAME IT ON THE DOOM
Temple of Doom, the second film in the series, was a turning point, not only in the Indiana Jones franchise, but also in the spectrum of cinema history. For one, it ushered in the PG-13 rating, up until 1984 a film could only receive a G, PG, R, and X (which would later become NC-17).
Spielberg was partly responsible for the creation of the rating, believing the system that was in place was unfair to older adolescents (for more details read the businessinsider.com article here). According to a 2008 interview with Vanity Fair, Spielberg says he came up with a new rating that would bridge the gap:
"I remember calling Jack Valenti [then the president of the Motion Picture Association] and suggesting to him that we need a rating between R and PG, because so many films were falling into a netherworld, you know, of unfairness. Unfair that certain kids were exposed to Jaws, but also unfair that certain films were restricted, that kids who were 13, 14, 15 should be allowed to see. I suggested, 'Let’s call it PG-13 or PG-14, depending on how you want to design the slide rule,' and Jack came back to me and said, 'We’ve determined that PG-13 would be the right age for that temperature of movie.' So I’ve always been very proud that I had something to do with that rating."
Another outcome of the movie, due to the excessive violence in Doom, was the so-called "return" to the lightheartedness, or fun, of the franchise, evident in the third installment Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Whether or not this was the direct effect of some of the criticism of Doom or as the filmmakers have discussed in the past, that they themselves were in darker places in their personal lives during the making of the second film, can be argued. But none the less, the series took a turn towards humor over darkness, lightheartedness over grittiness in the follow up, and even more so in the latest film, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
So once again the pendulum of judgement swings, this time in the opposite direction, and fans and critics alike call foul over the silliness of Crystal Skull. Instead of being too dark the series is now too light. The filmmakers answer back, stating there might have been some disagreement as to the direction of the installment. It then becomes a question as to who is responsible for the tone of the film, are the filmmakers trying to please too many camps? Are they being swayed by the fan-base, by studio heads, or by the ability to sale the film in terms of marketability? Maybe all of the above. Should these filmmakers, that have contributed so much to film history and pop culture, even listen to these outside sources or give excuses when those sources complain? Shouldn't they just make the film they want to make, and damn those that dislike it? They've earned the right to do as they please, haven't they?
WHEN SUCCESS BECOMES A BURDEN
When George Lucas and Steven Spielberg came together to make Raiders it was a union born out of pure love of adventure stories. A simple concept. The outcome was more than they could have hoped for, not only was the film a commercial success but it also received high-praise from both fans and critics. With the second film, all they wanted to do was out-do the first, make something bigger, up the ante, give the audience amusement park thrills at the theatre. Another simple idea, right? No so much.
With success comes expectations, and no matter what, with expectations comes disappointment. The old saying "you can't please everyone" becomes even more prominent when everyone has this idea of perfection that they are basing their opinions on, that's why most sequels just don't work. Me, personally, I admire Spielberg and Lucas for not taking the easy way out and just remaking Raiders. They went in a different direction entirely. They made a horror movie, and it pissed some people off.
For a couple of guys that get their kicks making films that are meant to entertain, any kind of rejection, justified or not, must be a hard pill to swallow. Artists put their blood, sweat and tears into a project and we, as an audience, can just shrug it off and not think twice about it.
On top of pleasing the audience these men are also dealing with a franchise that is worth billions. Billions. That alone is a lot of pressure. In the eyes of the studio, they want a product that they can mass market, mass produce, create shirts, coffee cups, and a hot selling toy line. They have crunched the numbers to figure out the precise demographic they are aiming at, the exact time and place the movie will be shown. Every detail is examined and reexamined. The last thing they want is backlash of any kind especially with social media today. So, 9 times out of 10, they err on the side of caution. And let us not forget that these studios are putting up the cash to get these films made, if you want your movie seen you have to give in to some of their demands, even if you're Spielberg and Lucas.
DOOMED TO FAIL
The sum of all these precautions came to a head with the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, tack on an additional twenty years of anticipation. But what was not considered was that somewhere between the "darkness" of Doom and the "playfulness" of Crusade the franchise had lost its way, lost its identity and its demographic. The film could not make up its mind if it was a product of nostalgia or aimed at a new younger audience. I think that above anything else, this is what went wrong with the film: they tried too hard to please both.
I'm not going to nitpick, there are enough sites out there that exhaustively berate the film, anyways I personally enjoy it. What I want to concentrate on is identity. These cherished franchises from the eighties that are getting the reboot, or a new sequel, should be directed at the audience that watched them originally. That is where the emotional connection is. If a younger audience wants to jump on board so be it, but you're trying to play off nostalgia and then you go off and stray from what made those films classics to begin with. It just doesn't work.
That includes the use of CGI. Unlike the Star Wars prequels which had whole worlds created within the computer, Crystal Skull used CGI sparingly, but still when it was used it had a jarring effect, and not in a good way. The audience was aware that these scenes felt out of place and their "suspension of disbelief", such a sacred term in cinema, was immediately crushed.
One more thing, I don't think Indiana Jones shot his pistol at all in Crystal Skull. This is a man that shot three Nazis at once on a moving tank in Crusade; nonchalantly gunned down a swordsman in the middle of a crowded market in Raiders. It's basically the whole Han shot first argument all over again. I understand the discussion over violence in films. I really do, it is something that we should continually looked at and worked on. But when you allow those outside influences to dictate the actions of your characters on screen that just doesn't seem right. The character has already been established, and he uses his gun, a lot.
DISNEY, COVER YOUR HEART!
Disney must come to this conclusion when rebooting the series: what is the identity of the character. If you want to make a film about an archeologist that uses non-violence to achieve his goals, then go out and make up a brand new character that does just that. But please don't call him Indiana Jones. If your afraid of putting a gun in Indy's hand and having children see that movie, then maybe the film shouldn't be directed at children. Create a specific cartoon that targets that audience. If you want to sell toys over making a film that the audience wants to see, then good luck, be prepared for the uproar.
Then again, you could just stay true to the series' roots and...
Take a lesson from the television series Daredevil and don't apologize for knowing what you are. Daredevil is based on a comic book but is not directed towards children. It's comfortable with excluding that group. Which seems to be a conundrum, a MARVEL COMIC BOOK property NOT aimed at children. But more and more, this is becoming the norm, thanks in large part to the Dark Knight series. I don't think that Indiana Jones needs to be as violent as Daredevil. I don't think we need to see decapitations with car doors. But I do think you need to remember what made the character who he is, why the PG-13 rating was put in place to begin with. Indiana Jones is violent and gritty, with a touch of humor and the macabre. It is not politically correct. It laughs at its inappropriateness. There is nothing wrong with that. Don't apologize for it and definitely don't try and change to please certain people. Or the next thing you know, you've will have changed so much that you forgot who you were when you started.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GET CREATIVE
It's amazing what can be done with a little ingenuity. Filmmakers in the past have found creative ways to get a feeling or mood across without being so blatant. Today everything is in your face. I think Disney could utilize a few "tricks of the trade" to tone down the violence.
Take the Raiders scene with the airplane propeller for instance. The same, if not better result, is achieved by the way the scene was shot then just showing the blade hitting the mechanic. Filmmaking tools like this can be implemented through out a movie to obtain dramatic results without just using straight gore or violence. Movies like Jaws use the art of "not showing" perfectly to build suspense. In Psycho, Hitchcock used a series of impressionistic quick cuts to achieve his goal. A little creativity goes a long way.
TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'. WAIT, ARE THEY?
Violence in the mainstream media is a tricky subject. There seems to be a lot of talk about toning things down, but then again shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are the most popular shows on television. Action blockbusters like The Avengers and Hunger Games rule at the box office. What is the correct way of thinking? Are you going to be part of the problem? Is there a problem? All in all, a debate for another day. But these ideas become important when discussing a film hero like Indiana Jones, who kills bad guys as his other part time job. They will definitely be important questions that Disney will have to answer when they reboot the series. (An interesting article I came across while researching this episode, The Tyranny of Pew-Pew: How Fun Fantasy Violence Became Inescapable, by Alan Scherstuhl, worth the read, here)
I just wanted to throw in my two cents on the matter. I grew up watching R rated movies as a child, like a lot of kids I snuck into the theatre or turned it on HBO late at night. Watching movies like Terminator and Lost Boys. I also loved old television shows. Westerns were my thing, The Lone Ranger and Bonanza. I watched a lot of shoot-em ups. I played with toy guns as a kid, everyone on our street would get together and play war. I never had an interest or fascination with real guns though. I was never prone to violence or wanted to hurt anyone. I liked the idea of good guys versus bad guys; be it with sword, stone, gun or arm (Over the Top), and that was enough for me.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Join Abner's Journal next week for EPISODE 6 of THE REBOOT AWAKENS. In the meantime:
CALLING ALL SCRIPT REVIEWERS, fancy yourself a Hollywood producer, agent, or just like to read. I need my script Indiana Jones and the Stone of Destiny (the link is here ) reviewed for rewrites.
Send your review to [email protected] and I'll post a few of them on a future episode. Until next time, thanks for coming back.