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Indiana Jones Trilogy Recap & Mini Reviews

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5-rating (5/5) action, adventure
In preparation for the much anticipated North American release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (1998), due out tomorrow (May 22, 2008), over the last week I watched the original Indiana Jones trilogy for the first time since their cinematic release. Alongside the original Star Wars Trilogy [wikipedia], the Matrix Trilogy [wikipedia] and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy [wikipedia], The Adventures of Indiana Jones [wikipedia] is one of the all-time great trilogies. I enjoyed them as much as I did when I first watched them years ago. They are true classics.

Each movie in the series follows the tried-and-true Indiana Jones formula: exotic locations, James-Bond-style action sequences, beautiful cinematography, ancient treasure hunts, the supernatural, wise-cracking quizzical humour, hero vs. anti-hero, reluctant love interests, implausible, yet engaging, fantastical stories, snappy dialogue, snakes, critters and Harrison Ford’s trademark grin.

John Williams brilliant Oscar winning Indiana Jones soundtracks are pleasantly seared into my brain from years of repeated listening and from the thirty or so enjoyable hours I spent playing the under-appreciated Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb video game on my original Xbox.

To bring you up-to-date, below are mini-reviews for each of the three original Indy movies followed by a reminder summary of how they all ended.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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5-rating (5/5)
Raiders of the Lost Ark imdb is my second favourite of the trilogy. Set in 1936, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is commissioned by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before Hitler’s Nazi army does. Any army in possession of the Ark is invincible.

In Raiders, Indy travels from the jungles of South America, to Nepal, Germany and  Marrakech Morocco. Indy is assisted on his trek by Marion (Karen Allen), a spurned lover from his past (and daughter of a professor, from which he had a falling out – over her) . Of Indy’s three trilogy love interests, the spunky Karen Allen is the best and most believable. I’m delighted she is returning in the Crystal Skull.

Raiders cemented George Lucas’ and Steven Spielberg’s reputations as the preeminent film makers of their generation. It’s opening sequence, with Indy being chased by a gigantic boulder, is one of the most memorable scenes in motion picture history. As the first movie from the Indiana Jones franchise, it is terrifically good fun that cannot be missed by anyone claiming to be a film buff.

[See ending summary in SPOILERS section below.]

Reference: Roger EbertIMDB External Reviews | Wikipedia

Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom (1984)

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4.5-rating (4.5/5)

In the action-packed Temple of Doom imdb, Indy is asked to recover a sacred stone, stolen from an Indian village, and to free the village children pressed into slavery.

The first question I had when watching The Temple of Doom was, what happened to Marion (Karen Allen)? Her absence is explained by the fact that The Temple of Doom is set in 1935, the year before Raiders.

Indy’s love interest in The Temple of Doom is a Shanghai lounge singer, Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott, played by Kate Capshaw. I much preferred the swashbuckling Tom-boyish side-kick, Allen, over the mostly damsel-in-distress played by Capshaw.

After a brief stint in a Shanghai lounge followed by the Indian village and an Indian castle, most of the Temple of Doom takes place in, well, the Temple of Doom. As a result, the movie is a darker (figuratively and literally) than Raiders or the Last Crusade.

While my least favourite of the three, it is still a very good movie.

[See ending summary in SPOILERS section below.]

Reference: Roger EbertIMDB External Reviews | Wikipedia

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

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5-rating (5/5)

The Last Crusade imdb is my favourite of the three. Set in 1938, after fulfilling an unresolved quest from his childhood, Indy’s primary objective in the third instalment is to find nothing less than the Holy Grail itself. In a story that winds its way through Utah, Venice, Austria, Germany and Egypt, Indy is once again up against the Nazi army in a race to find the Grail and harness its power of everlasting life.

We are introduced to the young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) and discover the genesis of Indy’s snake phobia and how he got started with the whip. Indy’s duplicitous ‘love interest’ Elsa, Alison Doody (who went on to star in nothing notable) is forgettable. The absence of Marion (Karen Allen) is still not explained away. The writers chose, instead, to focus on Indy’s relationship with his estranged father (Sean Connery) at the expense of a romantic side-story. This is just as well. Connery is in top form and a pitch-perfect choice to play Indy’s Grail-obsessed father.

Filming locations include the stunning Arches National Park, Moab, Utah (which I was fortunate enough to visit in 2002), Venice and the incomparable Al Khazneh, (a.k.a. ‘Treasury’) in the rock city of Petra (standing in for the “Canyon of the Crescent Moon”) in Jordan‘s Edom Mountains.

A note about the residential interiors: Perhaps its only noticeable in the HD version, but I detect a Hitchcockian art-deco quality to the film during the indoor residential scenes. They are reminiscent of Hitchcock’s North by Norwest [wikipedia] & Vertigo [wikipedia] [Dalisphere], among others. Very enjoyable.

The “Last” Crusade capped off the trilogy wonderfully. Alas, with the imminent release of the Crystal Skull, it was not Indy’s last adventure and I’m certain we’ll be the happier for it.

[See ending summary in SPOILERS section below.]

Reference: Roger EbertIMDB External Reviews | Wikipedia

SPOILERS – INDY TRILOGY ENDINGS — SPOILERS

WARNING: In order to provide s recap before seeing the Crystal Skull, I reveal the endings of the first 3 Indy Movies below. DO NOT READ if you do not want the endings spoiled!

You were warned.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Last Ark (1981): Indy finds the Ark. The Nazis capture the Ark, Indy & Marion. The Ark kills (burns, blows up or melts away) everyone who looks at it. Indy and Marion are saved by closing their eyes. Marion & Indy rekindle their love and walk away arm in arm.  The resealed Ark is discreetly stored in a massive top secret U.S. army intelligence storage facility, never, presumably, to be seen again.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984): Indy searches for the precious stone and the kidnapped children at the nearby Pankot Palace. After dining with the local royalty, he discovers a secret passage leading from Willie’s bedroom to the ‘Temple of Doom’, an underground temple and mine where the locals worship a voodoo God named Kali. The stolen stones are used to empower Kali. Indy survives a series of heroing chases and near-death-by-lava-pit experiences, recaptures the stone and frees the enslaved children. While emphatically stating her desire to go back to Missouri and have nothing further to do with him, Indy uses his whip to pull Willie back to him and kiss her as the credits begin to roll.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989): Following notes in his father’s Grail diary, Indy both finds his Nazi-captured father and determines the general whereabouts of the Grail from a tablet found in the tomb of a Crusader under a Venetian church. Indy and his father race against the Germans to find the Grail at Al Khazneh in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon. The Grail is guarded by a 1,000 year old Crusader guardian.  Dr. Jones Sr. (Connery) is revived from certain death after drinking water from the Grail. Elsa sets off an earthquake (and is swallowed up by the earth) when she tries to abscond with the Grail – the Grail may not pass beyond Al Khazneh’s great seal. Indy lets the Grail fall into the abyss. Indiana and his father ride off into the sunset – literally. Presumably Indy’s father will live forever after drinking from the cup – though, ironically, Connery chose not to appear again in the Crystal Skull.

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