Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thoughts about a Fifth Indiana Jones film and Geek Hypocrisy

So ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm there's been a bit of a feeling that they might ultimately do something with Indiana Jones, which is unsurprising given that it's essentially Lucasfilm's secondary franchise. And by secondary I mean way secondary, which is natural considering that it's about a single character, but nonetheless it has a presence. If people think "Lucasfilm" they probably think "Star Wars and Indiana Jones." Y'know, in the event that they're the kind of people who even know what Lucasfilm is, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised these days if people thought Star Wars just manifested out of thin air one day in "the past." Because, as I'm so fond of suggesting, the overwhelming majority of "geek" pop-culture consumers are fatuous morons.

In any event the issue of another Indiana Jones film has raised its head. But of course people are saying they shouldn't do this that and the other with a fifth Indiana Jones. And as usual with people on the internet, most of what they're saying is stupid. Let's take a look:

"Harrison Ford's Too Old to play Indy now."
It's possible that he is. But if he is, why the hell are you all so excited about coming back to play Han Solo in the new Star Wars film? They're both action heroes who say wisecracks and fight people. Is Indy a more 'physical' performance than Han because Han's a pilot? Han's running around shooting people and stuff all the time in Star Wars. Sure, he doesn't have some of the massive punch-ups that Indy has, but a plot which wanted to deal with Indy now would surely, naturally, work around that. It's only a problem if you want the same old Indiana Jones template. I've got a crazy idea for you then - go watch one of the old Indy films on DVD! Holy shit! He's punching people and swinging on his whip and shit! Oh my god!

"Kingdom of the Crystal Skull sucked so a fifth Indy would as well."
For my own part I actually like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (although admittedly it could have been better) but I can't deny that a lot of people don't. Weirdly enough, a reasonable majority of critics thought it was a decent film, which shows that there's no accounting for taste. It also puts paid to the stupid myth that "Everyone hated Crystal Skull." Anyway, y'know what else everyone hated? The Star Wars prequel trilogy! And yet you're all getting pretty damn excited by Episode 7, aren't you? "Oh, but George Lucas isn't directing." Yeah, but, and I hate to break it to you, but he was still involved in development even if he's apparently not closely involved with production. "But the best Star Wars films are the ones he didn't direct, so some involvement is okay." Oh really? You are aware that Steven Spielberg has directed every single Indy film, not Lucas? "Err... errrm... aliens." Uh huh.

"They should reboot the franchise with that guy from Guardians of the Galaxy as Indy."
Jesus. Or maybe if they don't make another one with Harrison Ford they should just let the franchise die? The whole point of Indiana Jones (or at least a very large part of its point) was to pay tribute to 30s pulp adventure serials (or 50s B-Movies in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but most consumers are too ignorant for this idea to mean anything to them) and imagine what they would have been like if instead of providing escapism from the issues of the day (the rise of Fascism, the Cold War) or representing them obliquely through symbolism and analogy, they'd directly confronted those issues. The films use this method to subvert traditional hero narratives: note that as a general rule in the film Indy acts to save those close to him (Marion, his father, etc) not to "stop the Nazis" or what have you. None of that stuff means anything to anybody anymore. In the Twenty-First Century, Indy (as portrayed by another actor) would just be some cheesy action hero who beats up Nazis and swings on a whip. It'd be as irrelevant as it could possibly be.

Would I see a fifth Indiana Jones film? Absolutely, if Harrison Ford was Indy. If it's a reboot or a remake, not so much. Do I need a fifth Indy film? Not really. While it's possible to imagine the series "ending on a high note" as it were I kind of think it already did - not that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is or is not a "high note" on its own  - but simply with that image of Indy walking off with Marion at the end of Crystal Skull while "The Raiders March" blared. I personally found it to be a nice ending. At the end of the day people need to face the facts: we're never going to get the Indy films that possibly should have been made in the Nineties and set during the Second World War. There's never a bad time to enjoy the films we've got rather than yearning for a franchise of inevitably questionable quality.

Just as a final aside: the fridge scene. Did everyone else fall asleep during this bit? Look at the image of him stumbling up the slope and being contrasted with the mushroom cloud. The point is, here's Indy, who could outfox Nazis, the worst history had to offer, all day long in his heyday, but now he's barely escaping being killed by a horrific weapon built by his own country. It's juxtaposing the hero, who could confront terrible evil, to a new world where's he's helplessly at the mercy of his own government. Did no one get this?