Monday, May 19, 2008

The magic of Indiana Jones

My reverence for Raiders of the Lost Ark is well documented. The first I had heard of that film was a promotional flyer I received as a member of the Star Wars fan club. It was certainly intriguing - an adventure from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, starring none other than Han Solo himself. It was enough to compel me to be there with several schoolmates for the first show at Century 21 on opening day, June 12, 1981.

Needless to say, my life was changed that day. Raiders is one of a handful of films I've seen more than 100 times since it's release. It's officially the most-watched film in the Slaughtered Lamb cinema. And unlike Indiana Jones himself, Raiders will never grow old.

In 1984, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the most anticipated movie of the summer. I saw it on opening day (this time at Century 22), along with Joe, his friends and a foreign exchange student from Sweden who enjoyed telling passers-by that we were waiting in line for Fanny & Alexander. The film was certainly different than Raiders. The darker tone appealed to me, and while it wasn't as perfect as it's predecessor, in retrospect I realize that it fulfilled a 14-year old's dream that Indiana Jones could be his best friend.

It was 5 years before we'd see Indiana Jones again. In 1989, Vonna and I were able to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the night before it officially opened (thanks Kyle!), once again at Century 21. Indy saved his dad, his dad saved him, and off into the sunset they rode. Again, while not perfect, it was a fitting conclusion to what seemed destined to end a trilogy.

So here we are, 19 years later, on the cusp of the release of a new Indiana Jones film. And I can't wait. The Star Wars prequels reminded us of the risks of high expectations. So why am I not concerned? Because the ingredients are all here. Lucas and Spielberg. John Williams rousing score. And Harrison Ford in the fedora. There's no burden of trying to tie together all the loose ends of a much larger tale.

Watching the original trilogy again over the weekend reminded me that despite the flaws in the sequels, each is still an amazing film. And that's why I cannot wait to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. To relive the magic, one more time.

Thursday night, Century 21. We'll be there.


The Maverick said...

Yes, I remember that Star Wars Fan Club newsletter of yours with the storyboards and/or concept art - I'm sure you still have it!

I was skeptical - what was Lucas getting into, and why were they shilling this "yet another adventure film" project in the Star Wars newsletter when we were awaiting another Star Wars movie! (Now we have too much of a "good" thing in the Star Wars department...) And Han Solo being tossed into a historical action film??? Come on...

However, what changed my mind was seeing clips from the movie on Siskel and Ebert. Particularly memorable was Indy running from the pack of Hovitos, swinging on a vine, dropping into a river, and swimming to an amphibian biplane in a dramatic escape, set to a John Williams score. That's when I knew I had to see the movie!

I think it was John that convinced the whole family to go, and Raiders was among the last movies that our whole family went to see together in the theater (curse you, VCR!) Amazingly, everyone liked it, commenting on the pace of the action - a roller coaster ride that kept you on the edge of your seat.

Since that time I went on to become a fan of the original cliffhanger serials (the better ones, at least), primarily due to Raiders having increased my interest (even though we had seen the Flash Gordon serial which was making the rounds on TV in the wake of Star Wars).

My high school friends (John, Scott, Tim, and Mark?) and I lined up early at the Century theater to see Temple of Doom one afternoon during my senior year - with you in tow! Accompanying us was "Pehr from Sweden", an entertaining exchange student with a bit of a sense of humor. There we are, sitting at the front of the line in the Century parking lot, people on chairs and blankets, and "TEMPLE OF DOOM" up on the marquee. Nonetheless, a couple of people came up and asked us "Is this the line for Temple of Doom?" Without missing a beat, Pehr responded, "No, this is the line for Fannie and Alexander." We got a good laugh out of that.

While we enjoyed ToD, it couldn't quite live up to the spectacular original... you knew something was wrong when it started off as a musical number, and Kate Capshaw was a disappointing letdown after watching hard drinking Karen Allen brawl with Arabs and machinegun Nazis. But ToD was another action packed ride which is still head and shoulders above the Indy imitators which flooded out in the wake of both films.

And then there was Last Crusade, which more than made up for the failings of ToD. I was lucky enough to be at that same late, late night showing (thanks to you!) that ended about 2 a.m. I seem to recall having to attend classes the next morning, but it was a highly anticipated screening not to be missed. Knowing this was the "last" film, I remember wondering at the end if Indy was going to end up guarding the Holy Grail for eternity, which seemed pretty cool, but the ride into the sunset was a suitable ending for the series... or so it seemed!

In keeping with the anticipation for Crystal Skull, we are replaying the series here during movie nights this week. Unfortunately, I won't be able to catch the opening weekend here in sunny Afghanistan (which sometimes seems like being on location for an Indy film), but hopefully it will still be in the theaters when I am on leave in a couple of months! If nothing else, I am sure I can catch it at your home theater some time...

Until then - DON'T TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT IT! I have successfully continued to avoid obtaining any info about the movies, avoiding all commercials, trailers, and such, and averting my eyes when I see an Indy picture pop up on the Slaughtered Lamb blog!

But since you will get to see it first, you bum, make sure to pass along a thumbs up or a thumbs down to let me know what you thought about it...

The Maverick said...

We just watched Last Crusade, which reminded me that I forgot to mention my all time favorite Indy moment - when the fedora goes on young Indy, and the hat comes up to reveal Harrison Ford. Very nice... Some day they should make a sequel to that movie!