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 6. Feel free to take the discussion over to the Forum after reading and remember... anything goes.
INDY FIVE: THE REBOOT AWAKENS
EPISODE 6 : MEMORIES OF MAD MAX
MAY 21, 2015
Thanks for joining us for another installment of "The Reboot Awakens." Last episode I discussed the idea that the Indiana Jones reboot needs to return to the darker PULP roots that made the films edgy and original. It seemed to be one of the main components lacking in Crystal Skull. If you have not read Episode 5, you can do so here. This week, in honor of the release of the Mad Max reboot, I wanted to elaborate on that idea and discuss a few things that Disney could take away from Fury Road.
BUT FIRST, THE WEEK THAT WAS
- Finally some official rumblings, though really nothing new. Kathleen Kennedy, while speaking to Variety, reiterated the comments expressed by Disney CEO Robert Iger a few months ago. Disney will continue the Indiana Jones series... "one day." Read the entire article here.
- Want an Indiana Jones MAGAZINE? Here you go. INDYMAG has just released issue #5. You can read it, free of charge, right here.
- If you have not heard the bi-weekly Indiana Jones podcast at The Indycast, you got a lot of catching up to do, they are on Episode 211!
- Have you ever wondered what Indy's pilot Jock did after their getaway in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Well, I guess he opened a bar! Disney has announced the fall opening of Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar at Walt Disney World Resort, an aviation-themed lounge where you can enjoy everything from a "Hovito Mojito" to "Rolling Boulder Meatballs," I'm not kidding you. Read all about it here.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES
It has been awhile since my last post. I actually had an episode completely outlined out and then scrapped it after seeing the new Mad Max film. I thought this would make a better transition after the last episode which discussed the darkness of the Indiana Jones series. Mad Max is a great action film; it does a lot of things right and barely makes any mistakes. It is simple, straightforward, gut-wrenching action, and makes no apologies for being anything but that. Imagine the truck chase in Raiders lasting for two hours. After watching the movie, I immediately jotted down some thoughts of things Disney should take away from the experience. Mad Max is a game changer, the filmmakers have upped the ante for the action film of the future, and strangely enough they did it by remembering where they came from.
Here are my 5 ideas that the Indiana Jones reboot should take away from Mad Max: Fury Road.
OIL AND DIRT, SWEAT AND FIRE
THEATRE OF THE ABSURD
RISING ACTION/RISING TENSION
- STRONG SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
OIL AND DIRT, SWEAT AND FIRE
Mad Max reminded me of the very best moments of action throughout the Indiana Jones series (the truck chase, the mine car chase). The film, above anything else, is raw. Machines are made of gears, that twist and turn, crank and make noise, full of oil and fuel, burning and kicking. The characters surround themselves with this machinery, it is part of their world. And because of that, the characters sweat and get covered in sand and dirt. The machines collide, they falter, they hit one another and explode. Fire and metal in turn create chaos.
Disney needs to remember this when creating the world of Indiana Jones. The machines of the 1930s were very much a part of the environment, but they were also marvels of creation that did not work as conceived most of the time. Simple machines consisting of engines, pulleys, and gears aimed to make transportation and daily activities easier, but instead they broke down, had to be repaired, broke down again. Machines were a work in progress. They were erratic and unstable. This was especially true outside the city, on the edge of civilization, where technology is always years behind. This is where the Indiana Jones films will exist, where men are covered in dirt, sweat and grease. But that fickle nature is what makes the Indiana Jones films so entertaining, so unpredictable. You might trust the man, but when he puts you in a mine car, with villains in hot pursuit, and halfway down the tracks the brake handle snaps off, who you gonna blame?
THEATER OF THE ABSURD
Mad Max is pure fantasy. What makes it feel realistic is that it is not that far removed from our world today. It is a twisted vision of what the world could be, played out in dramatic theatrical fashion with absurd characters and situations. It relies heavily on camp to entertain, but never crosses the line of being too ridiculous for its own good. Indiana Jones should be no different, after all it's playing with the same deck of cards, only it is trying to portray an ideal vision of the past, a romanticized version of what once was.
Disney needs to be wary of the use of camp and the use of absurd imagery in the new Indiana Jones reboot. Camp is such a tricky thing. After all, it has been the series' bread and butter, but it has also drawn the most criticism. Mad Max sets the rules at the very beginning of the film. You know what to expect, and Max eating a lizard means that you should expect the absurd. Indiana Jones on the other hand is more grounded. The rolling boulder is believable; monkeys attacking Nazis, not so much.
Days after watching Fury Road, there are still images from the film that I can't get out of my head. To me, that's what makes a movie memorable. Film is, after all, a visual storytelling medium, a series of moving images; the very best of them burn in the mind long after they are gone. John Seal deserves an Academy Award for his work here. What he and Miller were able to capture, with a script that contains barely any dialogue, is remarkable. I love Janusz Kamiński's work, but Lord I would love to see Seal get his camera behind the Indy series.
That brings me to STAGING. Think of all the iconic images from the Indy series. They were not the benefit of merely one shot, but the succession of a series of shots that led to that iconic image. Spielberg is possibly the best out there today at staging a scene. I love the article on Steven Soderbergh's website about the staging in Raiders. Check it out here, then come back.
Whoever ends up making the next Indy film is hopefully a master at staging; not just the action scenes, but the more subtle moments as well. The extreme closeups of Indy's eyes, the fedora silhouettes, the David Lean vistas; all these things need to be incorporated back into the series. Pull out all the stops, all the tools of the trade, use epic filmmaking to make an epic adventure.
RISING ACTION/RISING TENSION
Mad Max contains maybe the greatest action car chase ever to be put on film, with that said, Indiana Jones did it first. The idea of suspense and cliffhangers has been around since people started telling stories. They are great tools to keep your audience invested. The biggest problem I see with action films today is that they are chalk full of mindless action. There is no rhyme or reason, only spectacle, and it really starts to get redundant. How many times have you found yourself watching an action movie and realizing that you're zoning out. The reason: not enough suspense, too much surprise.
Here is a great quote from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, that hopefully sheds some light on that last statement:
“There is a distinct difference between "suspense" and "surprise," and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean.
We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!"
In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.”
While watching Mad Max I never checked out. The film pulled you in with suspense and cliffhanger moments. Action scenes were layered. I think about the scene in Raiders involving the Flying Wing. So much is going on, but it's coordinated, like a beautiful dance that builds and builds: Indy, the giant Nazi, Marion trapped, the leaking fuel, Frank Marshall. The scene is glorious fun! That's what Mad Max did so well, and that is what Indiana Jones needs to do again. I'm not talking about spectacle, Transformers is spectacle. I'm talking about creative clever action scenes, built on suspense and timing.
STRONG SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
To make a world believable, you must have characters that the audience can relate to. Their motivations must be clear. They must be complex. They must seem real to the audience or else you risk losing the foundation of the entire story. In Fury Road, Max isn't even the main character. It's Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. At best they are dual protagonists. Does it matter? No. What does matter is that the film has given us a memorable character within the universe. In fact, Fury Road is full of them, a great supporting cast that adds to the reality of the experience.
Now think about the Indiana Jones series, what are those films without Marion, Sallah, Short Round, Indy's father? I always thought that they could make an Indy film with an older Harrison Ford by understanding this idea. Come to think of it, the original film was simply entitled Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? Indiana Jones takes place in a fantastic universe, the possibilities for unique characters are endless. There is no reason why we can't have a spectrum of roles as diverse as the Star Wars series. Smugglers, pirates, politicians, femme fatales, assassins, the list goes on and on. The introduction of memorable characters would only broaden the universe, give it more depth, add to the feel and reality of the world. When I think of supporting characters I always return to the Sergio Leone films. Every actor that had an ounce of screen-time in his movies had a classic face, had personality. Mad Max pulled that off as well. Indiana Jones has done a great job in the past, but needs to build on it, really establish the world through its characters.
I'm not saying Fury Road trumps the Indiana Jones films. They are different. I love the humor in the Indy movies, love the dialogue. There is a warmth in those films that would feel out of place in the Mad Max universe. But there are elements that I hope Disney takes away from Fury Road, for they are the best elements that made the Indy series so great to begin with. Maybe "take away" is bad wording, "remember" is more appropriate. These are elements that have been forgotten, they were so prevalent in Raiders but slowly seemed to fade away as the series progressed. My biggest worry is that Disney will try and copy Raiders to a T. Don't do that, just take the themes that made it a beloved series and expand on them. A reboot can be old and new at the same time... Mad Max is evidence of that.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Keep checking in to Abner's Journal for the latest Indiana Jones news. In the meantime:
CALLING ALL SCRIPT READERS!
I need my script Indiana Jones and the Stone of Destiny (the link is here) reviewed for rewrites. I would like to trim about 20 pages of the script and would like your input on changes I could make. Send your comments or reviews to [email protected] and I'll post a few of them on a future episode about screenwriting. Until next time, thanks for coming back.