Raiders of the Lost Ark
In 1973, George Lucas wrote "The Adventures of Indiana Smith" in an
effort to create a modern version of the serials popular in the 1930s and
40s. His friend and colleague Steven Spielberg suggested that Smith was
not right for the character. "OK," Lucas replied, â€œWhat about Jones?â
€� Indiana was the name of Lucasâ€™s dog. Lucas saw his character
as a James Bond type playboy, while Spielberg wanted him to be darker.
The film was rejected by every major studio as too over the top and
expensive to produce. Lucas filmed it on a tight schedule, to achieve the
â€œquick and dirtyâ€� feel of the Saturday matinee. The $20 million
film grossed $384 million worldwide and remains one of the top 20
highest-grossing films ever made.
Harrison Ford plays the adventurer/archeologist, who races the Nazis to
locate the Ark of the Covenant, the chest containing the tables of the 10
Commandments and Aaron's rod that budded. It was set in the Peruvian
jungle, Nepal, Egypt and Tunisia--the later two locations from the
Tatooine scenes from Star Wars.
John Williams composed the score, including the well-known â
€œRaidersâ€™ March,â€� which came to symbolize Indiana Jones and
helps give the film its drive and excitement.
Legitimate archeologists deplore the movie as pseudoarcheology,
destroying sites and turning the science into a treasure hunt. But it
probably prompted more than one adolescent to go into the legitimate
field. I disapproved of the magic use of the Ark of the Covenant as a
political tool but enjoy its sense of fun and adventure..
The Temple of Doom
Due to the abbreviated shooting schedule
and limited budget of Raiders, Lucas wasnâ
€™t able to include all the elements he
wanted, so he saved them for his second
film in the franchise, The Temple of
Doom. It is generally considered a darker
and weaker film than the first.
Highlights include falling out of a plane
crossing the Himalayas and snowboading
down on a raft, the cocky child star playing
Short Round, and a theme park ride
through mining caves. But even they arenâ
€™t enough to compensate for the
distasteful adolescent gross-out humor,
racial condescension and a weak female
The Last Crusade
Starring the original James Bond, Sean
Connery, as a thoroughly believable Henry
Jones Sr., The Last Crusade returns to the
themes of Nazis and Biblical relics--this time
the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus used to institute
the Lord's Supper. The film, however,
avoids the totemism of the original, using the
relic to make legitimate points about the
humility of Jesus and the faith required of his
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
During the first three feature films, Lucas and
Speilberg began constructing a timeline of the
life of their adventuresome character. The
Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was an
Emmy Award-winning educational series which
appeared from 1992-96 and explored Jones's
childhood and youth.
Corey Carrier portrayed the 10-year-old
Henry, who in 1908 joined his father, Henry,
on a lecture tour around the world. His father's
Oxford tutor was hired to accompany them and
supervise Henry Jr.'s education. He didn't like
her at first, but they had amazing adventures
together, including exploring the tombs of Egypt
with T. E. Lawrence.
Patrick Flanery portrays Indiana Jones from 16-21, as his quest for
adventure grew stronger. At this stage, he runs away from home to join
Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution. After that, he joins the Belgian
Army, fighting in the trenches of Europe, in the African campaign and as
The episodes were book-ended by reminiscences by an 93-year-old
Jones, played by George Hall. When the series was cancelled, TV
movies were made from 1994-96. The episodes have since been sold
to the History Channel.
The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The fourth feature of the Indiana Jones
franchise was released 19 years after the
Last Crusade. Set in 1957, it pays
tribute to the science fiction B movies of
the era. In it, Indy takes on Soviet
agents, headed by Cate Blanchett as the
villainous agent Irina Spalko. He is
aided by Marion Ravenwood, his lover
in the first film, and their son, Mutt, a 50s
The movie features an aging Indiana
Jones sharing the spotlight with his son
and alterego. I could have done without
the aliens and supernatural elements.
It recaptures the good-natured fun of the original episode and makes striking use of
the archeological site of Petra, the Jordanian desert fortress carved into caves and
approached through a narrow cleft.
I, for one, am grateful to George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Harrison
Ford and the Indiana Jones franchise for hours of fun spanning
decades and giving a sense of joy, comfort with various parts of the
world and its past, and an appreciation for scholarship which gives it
backbone and a moral center.