In 1973 George Lucas wrote The Adventures of Indiana Smith and while on vacation in Maui in 1977 George pitched it to Steven Spielberg and Indiana Jones was born.
George Lucas in 1977 went to Maui for some vacation to escape while Star Wars opened in theaters to smashing success. Steven Spielberg was also in Maui on vacation after having worked on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg told George of his interest in directing a James Bond movie and that’s when George told him of his idea for a character that was “better than James Bond”. Lucas outlined the story for Raider of the Lost Ark in which Spielberg called it “a James Bond film without the hardware”.
Lucas envisioned the films in the vein of the 1930s and 40s serials. Spielberg who was on board loved everything Lucas pitched with the exception of the name. Jones was suggested as the new surname instead of Smith and one of the most loved film franchises in history of the cinema was born.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was released to theaters in June of 1981 to great success becoming the highest-grossing film that year. Since then Indiana Jones has managed to span over three decades producing one prequel and two sequels. Along the way Lucas, Spielberg and Harrison Ford carefully crafted an iconic hero just as memorable as the British spy himself, James Bond.
Recently Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade both celebrated anniversaries. Temple of Doom although the second movie is actually a prequel and The Last Crusade the third movie in the franchise is really the first sequel.
Lets start with Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom.
George Lucas wanting to avoid using Nazis as the villains yet again set the Temple of Doom a year before Raiders of The Lost Ark. Much like the Empire Strikes Back, Lucas wanted to make the second Indy film darker and different from the original movie.
Beginning with a musical number followed by a showdown that sees Indy narrowly escaping the clutches of Lao Che with nightclub singer Willie Scott. Spielberg and Lucas with the Indy films have always made a conscious decision not to repeat themselves and it shows with Kate Capshaw’s character of Willie Scott. With Marion Ravenwood in Raiders we got a dark haired, confident out-spoken female character, one that was not afraid to speak her mind when it came to Indy. With the character of Willie Scott we got a blonde-haired infuriatingly self-obsessed, screaming female character that is very reminiscent of a damsel in distress.
With Temple of Doom, Spielberg and Lucas also introduced us to Short Round, Indy’s sidekick played by Jonathan Ke Quan. The majority of the movies comedic moments come between the two and even though none of those moments were cheesy, it was those light hearted moments that kept Temple of Doom from becoming a dark, horror-action movie. With both Raiders and Temple of Doom, Lucas and Spielberg both embraced a horror genre B-Movie feel.
If you were to pick a favorite moment from Temple of Doom it would have to be the mine car chase in the movies third act. In 1984 they had to use miniatures in order to make that scene work and while there are a few moments its obvious the majority of that chase screams Indiana Jones.
Temple of Doom was released to theaters on May 23, 1984 and while it was darker then Raiders of The Lost Ark it was still very much an Indiana Jones film. The humor between Short Round and Indy is defiantly a highlight, while Willie Scott as a love interest never fully worked like it did with Marion in Raiders.
While I’ve always been a huge Indiana Jones fan, Temple of Doom has never been one of my favorites. Will I watch it if I see it on cable? Of course, it’s Harrison Ford as Indy, why wouldn’t I stop. And just because it’s not one of my favorite Indy movies doesn’t make it a bad movie. It wasn’t a bad movie in 1984 and it’s far from one in 2019, it just falls short in my mind from being a great Indiana Jones movie.
After the success of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom it would take five years before we would see the release of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade to theaters in May of 1989.
As a fan of the Indiana Jones franchise, The Last Crusade is a strong contender as the best movie in the franchise. Some may gasp at that notion, but I’ll come back to this later in my post.
Even though the Last Crusade is the third film in the franchise the movie begins with River Phoenix as Young Indy, who by the way was a perfect casting choice. The elaborate chase sequence on and through the train is extremely entertaining. Showing us how Indy got his phobia of snakes to how he got the scar on his chin by using a bullwhip to keep a lion from attacking. The sequence ends with Indy having to give a golden crucifix belonging to Coronado back to the robbers who took it and the leader of the robbers gives Indy his fedora.
As fun and as exciting as the first fifteen minutes of The Last Crusade is, it’s just the beginning of a son still seeking his fathers approval all while trying to keep Indy’s father’s Grail diary from falling into the hands of the Nazis and recovering the Holy Grail.
What makes the Last Crusade a great Indy film besides Harrison Ford is the introduction of Henry Jones Sr. played by legendary actor Sean Connery. Connery as Indy’s father was brilliant and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. When you watch the movie you can see just how much Indy is still looking for approval from his father.
One example would be the scene on the Zeppelin after it departs and Indy telling his father they never talked when he was growing up or as an adult and when Henry Sr. says ok lets talk Indy is at a loss for words.
The interactions between Indy and his father also lead to plenty of humor through out The Last Crusade. One of my favorites takes place on the biplane when Indy asks his father to use the gun mounted on the plane to return fire at the German fighter plane attacking them and when Henry Sr. accidentally shoots up the planes tail rudder, Indy asks if they’ve been hit and Senior replies “I’m sorry son, they got us.”
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade isn’t just a good movie, it’s a great Indiana Jones movie. Raider’s of the Lost Ark may have started it all, but for me its hard to top what Spielberg and Lucas came up with for the Last Crusade. The addition of Sean Connery and Harrison Ford at his best in the role of Indy puts the Last Crusade in the number one slot in the Indiana Jones franchise.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was released on May 23, 1984 and celebrates its 35th Anniversary this year.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was released on May 24, 1989 and celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year.
If you are curious as to how I rank the four movies in the Indiana Jones franchise I will quickly list them below, but will save the discussion as to why I have them ranked the way I do for another post.
1. The Last Crusade
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. Temple of Doom
4. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Categories: Movie Anniversaries