The heart of modern action-adventure, true classics. I’ll focus on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade. I have never watched Temple of Doom since my parents mainly recall creepy bits and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while is has funny throwbacks, is just weird. There is talk of a fifth Indiana Jones movie coming soon, but I will believe that when I see it.
Directed by Steven Spielberg and story by George Lucas [yep], these movies have a great cast. Harrison Ford leads as Indiana Jones, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in Lord of the Rings) is his friend Sallah along with Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody. Sean Connery joins Last Crusade as Indiana’s father, Henry. Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones, he made an appearance in Merlin, The Young Victoria, and Troy and was General Veers in Empire Strikes Back) is Walter Donovan.
Raiders opens with a trek through the jungle where Indy discovers a golden idol. He uses a sandbag as a weight to fool the booby trap, but it still triggers and eventually sends a huge bolder rolling after him (a now iconic scene). His treasure is taken by fellow archeologist, Belloq and Indy manages to escape to a waiting sea-plane and we first hear of his hatred of snakes [and briefly hear a few notes of the theme, superbly composed by John Williams]. Turns out our adventurer is a professor of archeology at a university. Marcus Brody, from the nearby museum fetches Indy to meet with two gentlemen from Army Intelligence. They ask Indy about his former mentor Ravenwood, whose name came up in a Nazi report about Tanus. (Hitler was actually very interested in the occult). Well, the Nazis are digging in Cairo to find the Ark of the Covenant. Indy and Marcus have to explain to the Army what the Ark is and Marcus remarks that an army that marches with the Ark would be unstoppable, armed with the wrath of God. Ravenwood studied the Ark and knew the whereabouts of the headpiece for the Staff of Ra, a way to find where the Ark is actually kept. Indy takes the job to track down Ravenwood, starting with his daughter, Marion. Indy’s in the quest for the historical and archeological significance; he doesn’t believe in magic. Hence why he packs his whip and gun.
Marion owns a bar in Nepal and had a previous romantic relationship with Indy, that ended badly. She’s relatively happy to see him, but still holds a grudge. Her father is dead and she won’t tell Indy where the headpiece is, he has to come back tomorrow. Well, the Nazis are on the trail and threaten Marion, even starting a fire in her bar. Indy to the rescue, but he’s gained Marion as a partner. A Nazi tries to grab the metal piece while it’s in the fire, burning his hand, but Marion is smart enough to use a cloth real quick. The couple heads to Cairo and meet up with Sallah.
Things do not go fully according to plan in Cairo; a monkey spies on Indy and Marion, resulting in Marion getting taken and supposedly killed. Indy shoots a fancy swordsman instead of crossing blades with him while he’s looking for Marion (another iconic scene now). Sallah and Indy have the headpiece translated and with both sides, they have the actual height of the staff, meaning they have the actual location of the Ark. Indy briefly runs into Marion, but he can’t free her, it would be too suspicious. So Marion plans her own escape from Belloq (he’s almost the equal to Indiana, but more selfish).
Sallah and Indy in fact uncover the Ark, but it is taken from them by the Nazis; Belloq spotted them in the morning. Marion is thrown in with Indy, along with a pit full of snakes. Indy uses a statue to break down a wall so they can escape. They come across a Nazi airfield and manage to create a huge fireball, after Indy’s taken a few punches. They meet up with Sallah again, though Indy had to go after the truck the Nazis put the Ark in [here, the full theme kicks in]. Indy knocks out some of the bad guys, but also gets shot in the arm, then thrown through a windshield. He’s almost run over by the truck, but instead goes underneath and climbs back up. Bye-bye bad guy and Indy has control of the truck now, running Belloq and his Nazi companions off the road. Locals help hide the truck and Sallah arranges a ship back to England to carry the Ark and Marion and Indiana.
Marion tries to help Indy clean up and kisses the only spots that don’t hurt. “It’s the years, not the mileage,” he quips. Come morning, the Nazis are back on their trail and retrieve the Ark and Marion. Indy manages to hide, then swim over to the sub. In the hanger, he steals a uniform to follow the group to a Greek island, where Belloq plans a Jewish ceremony to unveil the Ark to ensure its true power. Indy threatens to blow up the Ark, but Belloq calls him on it; Indiana could never destroy such a significant find. And he can’t. So he and Marion are tied up at the back of the ceremony and once a mist creeps out of the Ark, they close their eyes. Spirits from the Ark take out all the Nazis and Belloq. Marion and Indiana are unharmed and return to the United States with the Ark of the Covenant. Instead of the museum getting the Ark as agreed, the government hides it away in a warehouse full of other crates.
Last Crusade actually begins with Indy’s childhood in 1912 Utah, as a Boy Scout. (And as Boy Scouts are prone to do, they wander off when they’re specifically told not to.) Indy and his friend come across a group uncovering the Cross of Coronado. Indy can’t stand to see these men take it; it belongs in a museum. So he swipes it, not minding the snakes about, and gallops off. He’s pursued by the group and they make their way onto a traveling zoo train, dodging giraffes and rhinos. Falling into a snake pit is where Indy gets his fear of them (understandable), and he gains his trademark whip and scar on his chin when he has to get past a lion. The group hauls him out, but he still gets away, running home. His father makes him stop and count to twenty in Greek; he’s busy with his own work. Unfortunately, the sheriff takes the group’s side, since they were financed by a rich guy, so Indy loses the cross. But the leader, wearing a leather jacket, tells Indy to buck up and gives him his fedora.
Time skip to our current Indiana, he’s on a boat during a storm, recovering the Cross of Coronado again, from the same guy. “It belongs in a museum!” “So do you!” the guy retorts. Indy makes it off the boat before it collapses and explodes. Marcus eagerly accepts the cross to put in their Spanish display. We also get a good lesson on archeology, that Indiana doesn’t necessarily follow himself. 70% of all archeology is done in the library, reading and researching. Archeology is the search for fact, not truth. There are no maps to buried treasure and X never marks the spot. When Indy returns to his office, it’s overrun, so he escapes out the window. There, he’s picked up by some men and taken to a swanky house, where he meets Walter Donovan. Donovan has been a generous benefactor of the museum and has a piece for Indy to look at. A partial stone tablet that mentions the cup that holds the blood of Jesus Christ: the Holy Grail. Grail lore is Indiana’s father’s area of expertise, aside from the medieval literature classes he teaches [I’d like to take a class on the subject, among others]. Donovan reveals that a project has been started to uncover the Grail, but their leader has vanished. That leader is Indiana’s father, Henry Jones.
Indy heads to his father’s house along with Marcus and find it ransacked. Indy recalls he got a package sent from Venice, where the next clue was possibly located. It’s his father’s Grail dairy. Marcus agrees to accompany Indy to Venice. There, they meet Elsa Schneider. Indy of course flirts with her, but they get to business in the library inside a converted church. Henry’s last note was of Roman numerals; there’s a connection between the stained glass window and the pillars from the Holy Land. The final Roman numeral, “X” for ten, is in the floor. (Indy’s banging coincides with a librarian’s stamping for a funny scene). Elsa and Indy venture below into the rat-filled catacombs. A few men sneak up on Marcus and knock him out, then light the petroleum that is underground. But Elsa and Indiana have found the second knight’s tomb and his shield is a copy of the tablet, though complete. Indy finishes a rubbing, but the tomb is sacrificed to keep him and Elsa safe from the fire.
The same men pursue the couple once they’re above ground and Indy heads for the docks. Elsa driving their boat between them, while crazy and dangerous and not what Indy shouted, does help deplete some of the men. Indy grabs one of the men and threatens to chop him to bits with a propeller, but keeps him alive for information. The man is part of a society guarding the Grail, the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword. They know that Henry Jones is being held at a castle on the Austrian-German border.
The rubbing reveals Alexandreta as the starting point for a map Henry has in his diary, pieced together to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, but no names. Now they have the starting point. Indiana sends Marcus ahead to meet Sallah. Indy finds his and Elsa’s rooms ransacked; someone was looking for the diary. The angry flirting continues between them.
Indy and Else pretend to be Scottish for a minute, switching hats and coats to gain entry to look at the tapestries. The butler doesn’t believe them, but Indy knocks him out. And discovers the castle holds Nazis as well. He hates those guys (wonder why), but goes off to find his father. He crashes through the window, then gets a vase to the head. Henry and Indiana are happy to see each other for a few seconds, then back to work. They’re interrupted by the Nazis and Henry is mad that Indiana brought the diary after he mailed it away from him. Being called “junior” is a button for Indiana his father likes to push, so Indy takes care of matters like he usually does. They’re almost out until Elsa is threatened. Indy puts down the gun, but Henry was right; she’s with the Nazis and now they have the dairy.
But not the map. The map is with Marcus. And Donovan is with the Nazis as well. Indy bluffs to the Nazis that Marcus is brilliant, knows the languages and customs wherever he is and will blend in. Sadly, the man is a bit bumbling and got lost in his own museum once. Marcus does indeed meet up with Sallah, but is shortly afterwards picked up by the Nazis. The Jones men are tied up and will be disposed of. They’re tied back to back and while alone, Indy has his father take out his lighter. But Henry drops it, lighting the floor and then the room on fire. “Dad!” “What!” “Dad!” “What!” “Dad!” “What!” “Head for the fireplace!” (so amny iconic scenes: this is why they’re classics). The fireplace is a secret passage and Indy manages to slip out of his ropes so they can escape. And the escape is rather funny at times. Indy is used to doing his own stunts, but now he has to pull his father along. [Harrison had fun driving Sean around in the motorcycle]. His father should be pleased with Indiana jousting against the Nazis, but he disapproves of his son’s smile once the Nazis are dispatched. Henry urges Indiana to head to Berlin to retrieve the diary; there’s more than a map. There are clues to passing the three challenges, clues he wrote down so he wouldn’t have to remember.
There is a parade going on and Indy once again wears a German uniform to blend in. He grabs the diary off of Elsa and she pleads that she disapproves of the Nazis burning books [I also strongly disapprove…ignorant fools]. They part, but Indy is caught in the crowd and brought before Hitler. Luckily, Hitler thinks he just wants an autographs, so signs the diary. Father and son board a Zeppelin, but they are pursued again. Indy knocks the one man out of the window and passes it off to passengers as “no ticket.” He tries to have a conversation with his father and they hit on the point that Henry gave his son self-reliance, which Indy interpreted as being less important than men who lived and died centuries prior in another country. He learned it so well they haven’t spoken in twenty years. Well, Indiana left just when he was becoming interesting. But right now, they need to focus on locating the Grail.
The Zeppelin turns around, prompting Indiana and Henry to make for the airplane attached. They’re pursued and shot down, then one plane tries to follow them through a tunnel (does not end well for him) and Henry scares a flock of birds to take out the other plane. The two men make it to meet up with Sallah and Marcus is being held by the Nazis. The good guys find the bad guys and luckily a distraction comes from the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword. Henry finds Marcus in the tank, then they’re both kept inside. One Nazi wants to know why Henry came back for the diary, what does it tell him that it doesn’t tell them? Well, goose-stepping morons should “try reading books instead of burning them.” (love that line)
Indy jumps onto the tank and tries to get Marcus and Henry out. The men help a bit in their own way and Sallah gets Henry before he can be crushed by the tank’s tread. Then the tank goes over a cliff, Indy with it. Henry is remorseful, there was more he should have taught his son. But Indiana is okay and even gets a hug from his father. For a minute. Then the quest is back on. The Canyon of the Crescent Moon leads to a large temple [Petra in Jordan]. When Donovan’s mooks fail to make it past the booby traps, he threatens Indiana to get it. And to do so, he shoots Henry.
The first task is the Breath of God, only the penitent man will pass. Penitent, meaning humble, meaning he will kneel before God. Ducking allows Indy to avoid a set of blades. The second task is the Word of God, following the footsteps of God will allow one to proceed. The name of God: Jehovah. Except, in Latin, Jehovah starts with an “I.” Indy almost falls through the floor, but he’s lucky. And the final task is the Path of God, a leap from the lion’s head will prove one’s worth. It’s a wide chasm that no one can jump across, not even Indy. It will take a leap of faith. Actually, the bridge just blends in really well with the wall [remarkable effect]. Indy encounters the final knight, but their discussion is interrupted by Donovan and Elsa. Elsa agrees to give Donovan the Grail. She selects a golden and bejeweled cup, worthy of the “king of kings”. But when Donovan drinks the water, he rapidly ages (rather creepy). He chose unwisely, the knight states. Indiana selects a wooden cup, like a carpenter would make. He tests it, and chose wisely. But the knight warns him that the Grail cannot pass the great seal.
The Grail heals Henry and causes the mooks to scatter. But Elsa tries to take it with her, causing the temple to collapse. She and the Grail drop and Indy grabs Elsa. She tries to reach the Grail, but he can’t hold her. She drops and is lost, then Indiana drops. Henry grabs him and finally calls him Indiana instead of Junior when Indy tries to reach the Grail himself. The good guys escape and Sallah asks why Henry keeps calling Indiana “Junior.” Because his actual name is Henry Jones Junior. They named the dog Indiana. And the heroes gallop off into the sunset with the theme playing.
There are a few things I liked in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, and Jim Broadbent were great additions to the cast. They at least mentioned Marcus Brody and Henry Jones Senior. And Indiana and Marion officially get back together, and Indiana discovers he has a son. Oh, and we catch a glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant in a crate.
These movies are so full of adventure; don’t we all wish we could go on an adventure and find priceless treasures and be the hero? Thwart the Nazis? History comes alive…and occasionally tries to kill us, but we’re smart enough to get away. Harrison plays the role with charm. He’s not suave like James Bond, but we like a rough and tumble hero. And hey, he still gets the girl.
We can see where many of the elements of the past movies get their influence. And I have commented that I prefer this version of the Holy Grail legend; less controversial. As least pays homage to the time period that the Grail legend surfaced? (And who are we to argue with Sean Connery?) Overall, just fun movies to watch. At the end of the day, the good guy wins, with a bit of brain and brawn. And John Williams’ score is brilliant as well…everyone knows the theme; a cheerful march to victory.
Up Next: Adventures with the Library, starting with The Librarian movies