DISCLAIMER: The following is an op-ed about personal life experiences, as they relate to watching this fine action-film franchise. Nothing you will read could incriminate myself or anyone I know. Nontheless, I share some pretty personal life stories here. Please enjoy, but be respectful. It also contains some spoilers for the second and third Indiana Jones films. You've been warned.
Hey. It's Thanksgiving. I literally had no one to talk to today. So what did I do? I got onto YouTube and I stumbled upon a review on all four Indiana Jones films. Funny. I was just discussing James Bond in a previous article. Funny how Indiana Jones is the next franchise I chose to talk about. Funny indeed. What's not so funny? Indiana Jones effects me more than any other film franchise. Why? I'll tell you. You're about to get a little (possibly unwanted) window into my soul. Needless to say this article is going to contain NUMEROUS SPOILERS. Of both the Indiana Jones films and my life. Haha. You've been warned.
When I was 4 years old my parents both worked in high-profile corporate jobs in which they both made--let's just say TONS--of money. So, they were never around. My oldest brother attended school. Me and my older brother (who was only about 5 or 6) stayed home with me and our extremely neglectful and absent au pair. Then he would go to pre-school at noon, leaving me at home with our au pair. But before that, we'd pretend that were both characters in--you guessed it--Indiana Jones. I always did want to play Indy, but Nick would insist he was Indy and force me to be Sean Connery; Indy's Dad. Of course, I hated being Sean Connery. Honestly, I just wanted to be accepted and liked by my older brother, who undoubtedly did not see me as worthy of playing Indy. To top it off, our au pair seemed to care even less than my older brother did about what I wanted to do, and basically screamed at us whenever we’d do anything that looked like fun. She also had a wonderful habit of swearing at our dog when no one was around. That is where I heard my first f-word. Moving on, though.
Back when I had a good relationship with my father, when I was six or seven, my parents saw fit to get a divorce. Somehow, the court or my parents deemed it necessary that I live with my Mom and my brothers. I loved my Mom, but I wanted to hang out with my Dad too. I wanted to hang out with "my best buddy" as I used to call him. Every other weekend my brothers and I did get to spend time at Dad’s condo. Guess what movies we watched?
These films filled a significant part of my life that had almost everything to do with my formation as a person for better or worse. So why are they so great? They're great for a lot of reasons. But, they're even greater in my eyes for reasons that I hope you never have. I won’t be talking about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in this article. It was almost 20 years since the last film before it was released, and I was a grown man when it came out.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
I'm going to get this one out of the way quickly.
It's a great movie. It really is, but it's the one I care the least about. The film is non-stop high adventure from start to finish. Without flaw, it integrates supernatural elements into a sweeping tale of adventure to the back drop of nazis yadda yadda yadda. It's good. We get it.
This film never hit me quite like the next two Indiana Jones films. To my recollection, I did not see this film first. At least I don't remember seeing it first. And if I did, it wouldn't matter since the next film actually takes place before this film. I was enthralled by this one the least. I didn't share great memories of it with my father, or my family. And that is why the next film hits harder home for me. On to the next one.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Spoilers ahead. Don't read if you haven't seen it. That goes for The Last Crusade as well.
1984. This hit the big screen. I saw it almost ten years later, just as shocked as I would've been had I seen it the '80's.
I honestly don't think Kate Capshaw's character was a detriment to the film. Who cares? It's all about the story. This story is as DIRE as they come. And that resonated with me. The movie is violent. Very violent. Much more violent than Raiders. This film wasn't fuckin' around. Shit got real. That resonated with me as a kid.
You have an incredibly strong and smart man named Indiana Jones who treats an 8-year-old kid like an equal. At the time, I thought of Indiana Jones like my father, and myself as "Short-round." As a small child, my Dad talked to me like I was a partner in crime. He didn't bullshit me (when I got older...not so much). Neither does Indy. Short-round thinks of Indy like a father. So much so that when Indy is possessed and about to kill Willie in the pit of fire sequence, Shorty says "Indy, I love you," and burns Indy with a torch to wake him up--to which Indy wakes up, fakes like he's still possessed, grabs Shorty by the collar and hangs him over the pit of fire with a horrified expression on his face, and says in that way only Harrison Ford can; "I'm alright, Kid." Then he turns around and Shorty and Indy beat the living daylights out of everybody.
Yeah. I thought my Dad and I were a great team. My Dad also took martial arts lessons with me back then, so this solidified our friendship.
This film teaches some things the other Indiana Jones film don't. How? First: the film is a completely morally based plot. There is no reason for Indy to get these stones other than to help out the village that he, Willie, and Shorty stumbled upon in the beginning of the film. Second: What's in it for Indy? Nothing. No glory. No academic accolades. Just survival, doing good and saving a ton of children from slavery. Nowhere else in the entire franchise does Indy go out of his way to do something so good for other people. The other two films of the original trilogy have him pursuing relics that will, ultimately, buy him STATUS. Yes, he's helping defeat the Nazi's diabolical schemes of human destruction in the process, but his main INTERNAL motivation is SELF-SERVING to a reasonable degree.
Not here. Not in this film. It's just Indy surviving, and being a badass. As a small kid, and hell, even as an adult, I care more about that than anything else. Saving other people's lives seemed like such a more human, vital, relevant, and current issue. In this movie, they are fighting for their lives, and other peoples. Not for a toy. I can't stress that enough.
When they do escape the underground prison, and they are there on the wooden bridge, Indy CHOPS the bridge sending many of the acolytes that were after him to their grave below. Indy and Mola Ram (the villain) fight to the death on the bridge--which is now turned into a ladder--while they climb up the cliff-side. In no other film does Indy fight the main villain TO THE DEATH. This is the only one where he does it. (Sorry, Indy 3 doesn't count because Herr Oberst was a henchman, not the main villain).
Nothing like almost getting your heart ripped out.
Is this film better than Raiders of the Lost Ark? No. No, it is not. But it affected me more, and in a deeper way than Raiders did. I saw this film when my family was fractured, and it just happened to be the way that my father, my brothers and I spent time with each other. As flawed as that time may have been.
It also told me, on a personal level, that no matter what happened in my life, I have to be like Indy. I have to (not necessarily literally, but who knows?) fight to the death for my survival, happiness, and overall wellbeing of myself and those I care about. I have to be like Indy. Hopefully along the way, I will meet great friends, some enemies, and see a lot of great places.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
If Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom represents the relationship I had with my father when I was a kid then Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade represents my relationship with him from age 14 to now.
It's funny. When you have kids, guess what? They grow up. They get older. THEY DO NOT remain children. My father seems to believe I remained a child. Henry Jones Sr. treats FULLY GROWN Indiana Jones like a little child. What an ass, right?
Why is this movie so perfect? Why is it so good? Because it's REAL. This is what fathers and sons actually do. It works. It makes the movie more alive. It shows us what really happens when an aging father tags along on a frustrated, and downtrodden son's epic journey toward fulfilling greatness.
It's chilling. Absolutely chilling. Indy is seeking the grail. He is undoubtedly seeking the grail for his own personal fulfillment (because it belongs in a museum). Not for the benefit of anyone else necessarily (except the museum). Marcus Brody gave him the assignment and by God he's gonna fucking get that grail (and put it in a museum). Until he learns, that is, that his father has been kidnapped. Guess who has the missing pages of the diary that can help Indy along on his quest? His Dad, that's who. Guess what terrifying question a "grail protector" asks Indy in Venice? "Why do you seek the grail, Dr. Jones? Is it for 'His' glory, or for yours?" (His, being God. The Catholic God). Indy replies, "I didn't come here looking for the grail, I came here to find my father." Bullshit! He totally came to Venice to find his father SO HE CAN FIND THE GRAIL. Ding! Ding!
So, 'Kazim' tells Indy where he can find his father, and Indy stupidly goes there and gets himself and his father captured, and his diary taken away. Meanwhile he asks his Dad the clues to finding the grail, and Daddy-o tells him "I wrote them down in my Diary so I wouldn't have to remember."
Oh. Haha. That's good.
So they have to go get the diary back, and they end up getting themselves into even more trouble. There's a gigantic sequence involving a tank, a cliff, and getting tied up in a burning building with a bunch of Nazis. Yeah. We know.
Somehow we end up at the temple where the grail is kept. Indy's father get's shot. Indy must get the grail to save his father's life. Here is where the film gets me into screaming tears category. If my father got shot, and I had to go through a pit of trials to save his life, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to do it. Even though I vehemently despise my father at times, I'd be left with no choice.
So Indy gets the grail. The bad guys (for the most part) are dead. He pours water from the grail on Sean Connery's bullet wound. It heals it like it was nothing. But then Elsa (the Nazi lady who was romantically involved with Indy) picks up the grail and crosses the seal of the temple while holding it (something The Grail Knight warned them not to do).
The earth opens up and Elsa falls into a chasm where she is clings for her life. Indy tries to save her, but she tries to reach for the grail which is on a ledge. She slips out of Indy's hand and falls screaming to her death. Indy almost falls off the ledge but is grabbed by his father. Indy looks back at the grail, and like Elsa tries to reach for it when....
I hate this part
....Indy's Dad looks him in the eye and for the first time in the movie doesn't refer to him as Junior, but instead says "Indiana. Indiana....let it go."
Indy, looking like a 5-year-old kid who just dropped his lollipop into a river looks back at his father and takes his hand.
Okay. Well, that's enough heavy subject matter for one night. I really can't write any more about this or else I will surely have a meltdown.
I am not going to bother discussing the fourth film. It's not terrible (though this is the subject of heavy debate). But I have neither seen the film with my family much less my father. So in the context of this article, it's not worth discussing. Do give it a watch, though. It's quite entertaining.
Do you have a film that meant a lot to you and your family growing up? I'm pretty sure you probably do. Feel free to mention it in the comments below. Please keep it respectful, which I'm sure you will.