Reviewing the Indiana Jones Series

raiders-of-the-lost-ark

Indiana Jones #1: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Release Date: June 12, 1981
Director: Steven Spielberg
Studio: Lucasfilm/Paramount
Created by George Lucas and directed by his friend Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the brilliant, white-knuckling action-adventure of the modern era about a rough-and-tumble archaeologist and his quest to prevent the Nazis from obtaining the Ark of the Covenant. Rife with allusions to classic Hollywood, amazing cinematography, pitch-perfect acting from Harrison Ford and others, as well as a triumphant and transcendent score from John Williams, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my favorite films.

Indiana Jones #2: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Release Date: May 8, 1984
Director: Steven Spielberg
Studio: Lucasfilm/Paramount
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a complete tonal shift from Raiders of the Lost Ark (George Lucas blames this on a somewhat nasty divorce he was ensconced in at the time). The whole film reeks of anger, bitterness, and the macabre. When it is not overly slapstick and silly, The Temple of Doom is extremely dark, brutal, and gory. In fact, its many scenes of shocking violence helped to inspire the PG-13 MPAA rating after many parents and reviewers complained. It follows Indiana Jones who accidentally crash lands in the Himalayas before finding his way to a remote Indian village which leads him on a quest to retrieve a sacred stone from blood-drinking, child-enslaving black magic cult.

indiana-jones-and-the-the-last-crusade

Indiana Jones #3: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Release Date: May 24, 1989
Studio: Lucasfilm/Paramount
The Last Crusade offers a wonderful return to the high drama, action-adventure thrills previously established in the original movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. The plot of The LastCrusade alludes to all manner of archeological mysteries and Arthurian legends as well as the Crusades and medieval Christian romances. It has sometimes been referred to as Steven Spielberg’s apology for the darkly unpopular sequel Temple of Doom in 1984. For this final film (or at least what should have been a final film in the series), we see Indiana Jones again reprised by Harrison Ford as he teams up with his father, played by Sean Connery, in order to track down the Holy Grail before the Nazis do. The “Odd Couple” dynamic between Indiana Jones and his father plays well in this film, despite the fact that Sean Connery was a mere 13 years older than Harrison Ford at the time.

kingdom-of-the-crystal-skull

Indiana Jones #4: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Release Date: May 18, 2008
Director: Steven Spielberg
Studio: Lucasfilm/Paramount
After a long hiatus, it was a sad experience to sit down and watch as the gritty, hard-edged but heroic Indiana Jones was degraded into a cartoonish CGI-infused movie which Spielberg and Lucas united again to create, although apparently with little regard for plot development or the classic cinema allusions which had once so brilliantly characterized the original. This film will probably please acolytes of the odd New Age ancient alien theories, but otherwise I think the crossover of Indiana Jones into conspiracy-laden science-fiction land is a complete failure.

Sadly, as I write this, corporate greed is once again intent upon squeezing the last gasp out of this franchise. Yet another Indiana Jones film is in the works amidst hoards of yawning audiences. It’s possible the film could surprise us all, but since the release date has been delayed at least four times, Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm’s intellectual property promises to pump out new shows and merchandise, and Kathleen Kennedy has replaced George Lucas on the project (just recall how the new Star Wars trilogy turned out) it seems we’re only just getting started with watching the Indiana Jones franchise being beaten into the ground.

There was also a spin-off series called the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which I have yet to see.

Ranking My Favorites of the Indiana Jones Series:

#1 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

#2 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

#3 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

#4 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

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