Indiana Jones: A Look Back
"You call this archeology?"
- Professor Henry Jones Sr.
Growing up, I had a few selection of heroes, either real or fiction, that I admired or thought were "cool." I liked a few sports figures, Joe Montana and Michael Jordan, had my favorite Ninja Turtle and loved everything Star Wars. In hindsight, though, I think the best hero I could have asked for or ever wanted was gruff, rough-around-the edges archaeologist in a leather coat and brown wide-brimmed fedora hat. On his side, a revolver, bag and 10-foot bullwhip, not to mention khaki shirt, pants and dirt-encrusted boots. You know him from his silhouette alone and before he even enters a screen. Because he's that damn cool.
I could go on about how great the movies are (Yes, that included the fourth one, you can read my reviews if you want) but this isn't so much the movies as it is the character himself and why he loves him and why, not the stories or plot, is what draws us into loving him. It's his wit, and ability to think on his feet, his shit-eating grin and the fact that, in most cases, he doesn't ask for all the problems that come his way. But they do...and he still chugs through. Although we love his personality, the fact that he's fundamentally flawed and likely came from a dysfunctional family (or, at least the fraternal side), it's really the rousing sense of the one thing that many have tried to emulate but most have failed at:
Adventure!There is no better sense of adventure than the Indiana Jones films. George Lucas and Spielberg gave us a classic serial hero doing classic adventurous stuff. Some of the films may be better than others, but the over-the-top action, wry sense of humor and simple stories (all are just good guys v. bad guys) aren't much different than putting on cowboy hats and running around the yard with guns, except now we watch a guy in a fedora run around with a whip.
Lucas and Spielberg achieved exactly what they set out to do: to take us on an adventure that, if anything, recaptures those feeling of their childhood thanks to all the stuff they throw at our beloved hero. As a child when I first saw the original three, it's easy even then to see the appeal across all ages. Women want him, men want to be him, kids look up to him, the elderly reminiscence vicariously through him. He has all his bases covered and is probably the most universally loved character in film history.
Yet, we love him not entirely for those things of adventure, swashbuckling at times, romancing and chivalry, we love him because he isn't perfect. He's fallible, like us, and if the greatest hero ever has problems or issues, then maybe he's not too different from us afterall. The man gets excited over artifacts like a child over a new videogame and, like a child, he sometimes doesn't think things through when he goes out to play with them, often having it end up in an uninviting neighbor's yard. He gets beat up...a lot. Sometimes by women. He has dad issues, raised primarily by a single parent and it's easy to assume his best friend was probably his dog. Despite the fact the breaks sometimes...okay usually....don't go his way, he chugs through battles, ridiculous feats and conspiracies until one finally does. That is all Henry Jr. needs. That one opening because he doesn't give up.
Another nugget of our childhood Indiana taps into is our imagination. As kids, we liked to use our imaginations in a similar fashion. We usually put ourselves in dire straits, at the end of our ropes. Maybe we pretend we're in a room filling with water, or walking along a beam on a playground and pretending we're on a cliff edge with the bad guys after us. Or maybe we're in our parents' living room and can't touch the floor because it's molten lava or a bottomless pit. It's these moments that the Indiana Jones movies rekindle and why we route for him. Indiana Jones is, for better or worse, a big kid on a playground.
Now, I and others like me are adults. In a sense, Indiana Jones has moved beyond just a hero and movie character and represents what we love about movies and imagination to begin with. Indiana may be what we wished to grow up as and what we regret not being today. So we look back to a character that encapsulates everything we dreamt of and imagined: Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr.
A Brief History of Indiana Jones
-Originally titled "The Adventures of Indiana Smith," George Lucas based the concept around the idea of bringing back the old, fun serials he saw as a kid. While Indiana himself was created by Lucas, the Ark of the Covenant and plot surrounding it was created by screenwriter Philip Kaufman. This was the early 1970s, and with Star Wars revving up and Kaufman getting different work, the idea was put on the backburner.
-"Indiana" was the name of George Lucas's Alaskan Malamute
-After shelving it for a few years, the throwback to serials showed it would work thanks to a little film named Star Wars, and after that success, Lucas revisited his old draft after meeting Steven Spielberg (who was building a sandcastle and passively mentioned to Lucas he'd love to do a James Bond Film, Spielberg also coming off of success with Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.) Spielberg, having heard Lucas's pitch, suggested a name change. Lucas came up with "Jones."
-Lawrence Kasdan and Frank Marshall joined up with Lucas and Spielberg. Lucas, Kasdan and Spielberg worked together to give us "Raiders of the Lost Ark." After various drafts, many of the ideas would be put into the sequel, Temple of Doom, as Raiders was already getting too big (and the budget could not support it).
-Comic artist and writer (and comic Hall of Famer) Jim Steranko created the look of Indiana Jones, from scruffiness to every piece of clothing. He also did many concept arts, influencing the look and feel of Indiana's world with Spielberg.
-No other defining trait is more identifiable than Harrison Ford himself, who has stated he loves how to balance the romanticism with the cynicism. Amazingly, Lucas mulled on the subject despite him being Spielberg's favorite choice (as well as Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, the producers, choice). It's hard to imagine Tom Selleck, the original cast Indiana, even coming close.
-Harrison Ford is not the only person to play Dr. Jones. River Phoenix (The Last Crusade) and Corey Carter, Sean Patrick Flanery, Neil Boulane and George Hall (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) also played him.
-The musical score for the Indiana Jones franchise was arranged and composed by John Williams and have sense become as synonymous with Indiana as his fedora and whip. Amazingly, the score was left off of AFI's greatest scores list. What's sad is I bet you're humming it right now.
-Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in 1981 (and barely scratched by not getting an "R" rating), Temple of Doom released in 1984 (and created the PG-13 rating), Last Crusade in 1989 and Crystal Skull in 2008.
-Indy's Bio: Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones Jr. was born in Princeton, New Jersey, on July 1st, 1889, to Professor Henry Jones Sr. (father) and Anna Jones (mother). He was raised primarily by his father, however, as Anna Jones died on May 16, 1912 at the age of 34. Indiana also had a sister, Suzie, that passed away as an infant.
-Reflecting real-life George Lucas, Henry Jr. gave himself the nickname "Indiana" adopted from his dog. He was a boy-scout and had a fondness for archeology, likely shaped by his father and his obsession with the Holy Grail.
-After the passing of his mother, Indiana became more rebellious, most noted in his participation in World War I, something his father was against him doing. This caused a rift between them, and Henry Sr and son became estranged from each other. Only until the events of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade do they come to terms.
-Indiana eventually becomes a professor (as well as associate Dean) of Marshall College in Connecticut. Marshall College was named after producer Frank Marshall and does not actually exist.
-Jones also participated in World War II as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (in other words a spy). He eventually attained the rank of Colonel.
-Indiana's father, Henry, died in either 1955 or 1956, the exact date is unclear. Another source has indicated it was 1951.
-Indiana has one wife, Marion Ravenwood, and one son, Henry Jones the Third. He's literally traveled the world and probably saved it a few times. His list of feats is impossible to grasp, but that's what makes Indy, well, Indy.
Top 10 Indy Moments
What's an "indy" moment? Easy: whatever amazing, awesome, cool, smart, witty or just fun thing Indiana Jones does. IGN did a "Top 10 Indy Moments" to correspond with the release of the fourth movie. While some are solid choices, and I can definitely agree with, some are just wrong. To me, an Indy moment can be defined in three easy steps:
1) Observe and analyze the situation.
2) Think of what a normal and rational person would do.
3) Do the exact opposite of that and have a high percentage of awesomeness while doing it.
So when you're thinking back to those classic memories of Indy, think of how it's his dire situations and child-like antics that causes him to do the most insane things imaginable...and if he's lucky he won't get scolded by his dad.
10: Nazis v. Jones Boys
The Situation: Indiana Jones and his father are tied up by the Germans in a castle near the Austrian-German border after Indiana's failed attempt to get his father out of there. Both are tied back-to-back in chairs and are awaiting execution.
What a Normal Person Would Do: A normal person would probably struggle, no doubt, and at least think of a way to escape. Most likely, though, they would simple fall over and be stuck on the ground.
Indy Moment: I know what you're thinking: what about the motorcycle chase? Hey, that's some great Indy moments during that series of events. No, when I think of the Indy moment during these sequences I think of the very first: two tied up archaeologists trying to escape. Indy and his dad must now work together, somewhat clumsily, to do the following. First, they try and burn through the ropes. By "they" I mean Henry Sr. who sadly drops the lighter. Knowing he screwed up, he tried to blow it out which causes the floor "and the chair!" to ignite. Indiana moves on to plan B: hide in the fireplace to escape the flames (ironic, no?).
All the moving together and jumping around loosens some of the ropes, and as Indiana struggles he finds a secret doorway in the fireplace that leads to a Nazi Radio room. Eventually, the Nazi's see him and send in some guards. Indy, now free, gets he and his father to hide in the chimney as the Nazi's enter, punches both out as the doorway swings around and puts the Joneses in the Radio Room. After that, all it takes is a nice large piece of thick metal, also known as Hitler's head, to block the door from opening and trapping the Nazi's inside the burning room. After that, it's only a run around a castle, a secret exit, a decoy boat being launched to distract the Nazi's and a motorcycle chase away to freedom. But those first few moments with his dad in that room is the catalyst and one amazing Indy Moment.
9: The Three (no make that four) Challenges
The Situation: Indiana Jones is forced by the Nazis into completing a series of tests that their other subjects have failed on completing in an ancient ruin to reach the Holy Grail. To entice him, his father is shot and lays dying on the ground. Only the power of the Grail can save him.
What a Normal Person Would Do: Well, we see what the normal people do: get their heads chopped off only moments after entering the caverns.
Indy Moment: With his father slowly dying, Indiana knows he has to complete the tests to save his life. So not only does he have time against him, he also has to recall his teachings from his father to complete them. Poetic, and very dangerous. His first trial is to understand what a man humble before God does. He kneels, as Indy finds out, and he does so just in time to avoid a spinning blade to the neck. He also rolls avoiding another one, how does he know to roll? Because Indy doesn't kneel, he's too cool for that, he has to put some pinache in it, it's a good thing too because that one almost got him. Then it's the second trial, an easy one if you can spell and know that the name of God doesn't begin with "J." The final test, though, is more of a trick. Indiana, despite knowing the odds, just says "screw it" and takes one big step off a cliff...to find a bridge that somehow he couldn't see.
This whole series of Indy moments build up to the climax: choosing the Grail. "Oh, that's the cup of O'Carpenter" he says nonchalantly, just to show us that he's smarter than any other person in the room, as he finds this little clay cup sitting in the back of a line of gold ones. Indiana knows and as the ancient, thousand year old knight says: You have chosen wisely.
8: Fighting Large, Bald, Muscular Germans Nazi Plane Mechanics
The Situation: Marion is locked inside an out of control German plane on, unfortunately, what is a German airstrip. As Indiana climbs up to try and unlock it, after beating up a few Nazis already, a rather large, muscular Nazi grabs his attention...he wants to fight Dr. Jones.
What a Normal Person Would Do: Probably lose control of their bodily functions, then likely run off to fight another day and leave Marion to deal with her own problems.
Indy Moment: Even Indiana gives an "oh shit" look when he looks down from atop the plane and sees who's waiting for him. But instead of running, he just moves on down the side of the plane, a "fine, fine...I'm coming" attitude and takes him on. Indy knows he can't win one-on-one. He's tired, worn and beaten up already, but he knows the only way he can get to Marion is to take this guy out first. He punches, sometimes missing, but lands a few with no effect.
All is taken care of thanks to Indy just being patient and playing the odds, because the odds are this large, dumb brute, who could easily be mistaken for Jessie "The Body" Ventura, can't defeat a rapidly spinning propeller. What's sad is this guy is Pat Roach, who also played the large Sherpa in the Nepal Bar where he also got his ass kicked by Jones. Twice in one movie? Not only that, he also played the large Thuggee guard that gets trapped in a rock grinder in Temple of Doom. Poor guy...
7: Liferafts = Parachute
The Situation: You wake up, your plane is without a pilot, the fuel has been dumped and that mountain ahead is getting close. Despite not realizing he's on a plane owned by his formidable enemy, Lao Che, Indiana Jones doesn't even bother to really questions who the pilots are or where the plane comes from. After all the shit he just went through by escaping club ObiWan, Dr. Jones takes a nap and awakes to find the plane going down.
What a Normal Person Would Do: Cry, pray and probably burn in a fiery crash.
Indy Moment: After giving the controls a shot, Indy finds the fuel is gone and there's only one thing to do: jump out of the crashing plane with two other people holding onto a liferaft that expands as they fall and gently lands on a mountain slope without a scratch moments before the plane crashes (and people complain about hiding in a fridge in this world?) He is alays thinking, observing and finds solutions quickly no matter how crazy they may be. As mentioned, he's like a child that way, not really thinking of the consequences until those consequences create more problems. While he saved himself, Willie and Short Round from the crash, now he has an out-of-control liferaft sliding down a mountain, then falling off what appears to be a hundred foot rocky cliff. Luckily, they all survive because the amazing power of Jones is like a bubble and when you're around him, you too will survive these scenarios, even if you're only 13.
This goes to show that Indiana is like McGuyver only willing to sacrifice other people and put their lives in jeopardy if necessary, he knows they'll survive because he's there....which brings us to number six.
6: Rope Bridge Showdown
The Situation: After escaping the hidden mines and freeing hundreds of child slaves, not to mention just finishing number 4 on this list, Indiana finds himself stuck in the middle of a 100 foot suspension bridge over a large gully. At one end is Mola Ram, his enemy, and his two friends Short Round and Willie. Also a bunch of Thuggee soldiers with a bunch of shiny swords creeping closer. The other end: same soldiers and same shiny swords creeping closer
What a Normal Person Would Do: Assuming a person would go across a bridge in the first place, if confronted with being outnumbered and cornered in the middle of a 100 foot suspension bridge, your friends forced onto it with you, and armed with only a sword and torn clothing, a person would likely give up.
Indy Moment: Indiana, knowing he and Short Round are the only ones that speak Mandarin (I think that's Mandarin) he informs his friend to hold on tight while everyone else has no idea what he's saying. He then slowly raises his sword, intensely says "Mola Ram! Prepare to meet Kali... in Hell!" Amazed he would ever do such a thing, the Thuggee are simply too slow to get off the bridge before Indiana gives the biggest "fuck you" to any of his antagonists and cuts the bridge's support sending the entire cult to the river and man-eating crocodiles below. Indiana and friends hold on, as does the bad guy, but his demise is only a matter of time as he and Jones fight, and punch, and kick, and eventually Jones uses Mola's own greed against him as he uses some sort of enchantment (of course, this isn't explained, we just assume Indy has a large assortment of spells and curses at his disposal because he can) to cause the stones to heat up, ignite the bad they're in and eventually spill out. Mola reaches to grab one, knowing he can't lose them, only to get his hand burned and thus lose his grip on the bridge, which is really more of a ladder at this point, and fall to death-by-croc below.
Oh, and did I mention Indy has to dodge arrows and falling Thuggee soldiers as he climbs up the bridge and battles Mola Ram? Yeah, has to do that also. As short round says "He no nuts...he cwayze!"
The Situation: Indiana Jones's father, Henry Sr., has been kidnapped and is being held inside a German tank that's on its way to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon.
What a Normal Person Would Do: Probably just follow the tank until it reaches its destination and everyone inside leaves the tank behind. That way, you don't have to take on a damn tank.
Indy Moment: You don't mess with Indy's family or friends, did you not get the memor about faces melting? Period. Are you going to be stupid enough to kidnap his father...again? After all those two have just been through together? Escaping castles, running off on motorcycles, encounter Hitler and escaping a zeppelin while in mid air and taking on two Luftwaffe planes from the ground? Screw you, Nazi. You bring a tank if you want, because I'll take Indiana Jones on a horse any day. Indiana first disables one of the tank guns by shoving a rock into the barrel (yeah....but c'mon, it's Indy) and that causes the German's to open the hatch because the gun backfires and smokes up the whole damn thing.Then it's just a series of kicking ass and taking names, from jumping on the tank, falling and dangling on the side of the tank, killing Nazis, then saving his father, getting him to safety with Sallah, killing more Nazi's and then having a one-on-one with a German General. I assume it's a General because he's the only one that gives Indy a run for his money, that isn't a hulking plane mechanic, I suppose. And all while knowing the tank is out of control and heading towards a rather large hole in the ground otherwise known as a "canyon." Eventually it just rolls on over the edge, sending that asshole General to the rocky bottom.
So take that, technology. A horse would have known to stop.
4: Like Space Mountain...Only You can Die
The Situation: Escaping the hidden slave mines, Indiana, Short Round and Willie take the only way out they see: a mine cart. Indiana, fortunately, hits the controls taking them down the wrong track, the Thuggee guards giving chase.
What a Normal Person Would Do: Jumping into a mine cart would be the last thing on anyone's mind, other than to hide. More likely a person would jump out of the cart as soon as possible or would run away from the bad guys around it.
Indy Moment: Not only does Indiana get into a minecart, he swings and lands in it. So even getting into one is far cooler than what a regular person would do by just hopping over the side like a pansy. We're then taken on a rollercoaster ride with Dr. Jones, Short Round and Willie as they are pursed by the guards, who are pretty pissed at this point, through an elaborate, interweaving series of rails within a hollowed out mountain. Wow, on paper that sounds pretty ridiculous, but this is Indiana Jones. Indy uses his surroundings and items to take out some, has to fight off others and dodge bullets...and then the brakes give out.
So in an additional Indy Moment, we have Dr. Jones jumping out of the cart and using his shoes as break pads. Although I think it would have been easier just to throw Willie off the front, it got the job done.The mine cart chase is thrilling and exciting and one of Indiana's best moments, even though he really doesn't do much himself until the very end.
3: "Truck? What Truck!?"
The Situation: After digging a hole in the ground all night, being locked into a pit of snakes, escaping a pit of snakes, fighting a big German and blowing up an airstrip, Indiana is informed by his friend Sallah that the ark on the covenant is being transported by convoy on a truck. Many Nazi's are also there, Sallah forgot to mention that part.
What a Normal Person Would Do: Most likely try to find out where the truck is heading, then plan a shortcut and meet it there. Sneaking would probably be involved as a large group of Nazis with guns isn't appealing.
Indy Moment: Indy doesn't care about planning. Not when there are horses involved (he did destroy a tank while on one, remember). So he steals one of those, then (somehow) catches up to the motorcade, manages to find out which truck has the Ark (somehow) and hijacks it. From that point on, many a Nazi attempt to stop him, and many a Nazi fail. One does come close, probably a Sergeant or Major as a lackey infantryman would shake at the sheer sight of Indiana Jones, and throws Indy out the front windshield. Dr. Jones holds on for as long as possible, but knows the driver plans to ram him with the vehicle ahead of the, so he slowly sinks down, ties his whip to the undercarriage (somehow) which pulls him along the dirt path. He then climbs the whip, climbs to the front of the truck, punches a Nazi and regains control. One of the greatest action scenes ever shot on film, arguably a perfect scene, and one of the greatest Indy moments you'll ever see.
The Situation: Marion has been kidnapped and Dr. Jones is after the kidnappers. Along the way, the crowd parts like the Dead Sea and at the other end a large Arab man in black wielding a 5 foot sword, beckoning him to come.
What a Normal Person Would Do: Frightened by the sheer size and bulging muscles of the sword wielder, one would likely run away rather quickly. New pants may or may not be required afterwards.
Indy Moment: Wipe some sweat from your brow, then pull out your gun and shoot said swordsman. Indy then is required to casually walk away as though it's another day at the office.
As we all know, Harrison ford was sick from dysentery on this day of shooting and the scene was worked in last-minute. What you may not know is that the scene was intended to be three-days of shooting and be one of the major action sequences in the film. Not only that, this was just a slight example of Ford getting hurt/sick on the entire shoot, which also involved him tearing his ACL when shooting number 8 on this list.
1: Running from Giant Rocks
The Situation: Traveling through South America, Indiana Jones enters some ancient ruins to steal an idol. To take the idol, he has to replace it with something of equal weight, in this case a bag of sand. Let's just say, he should have left the handfuls of sand he took out in the bag because it the whole place soon begins to crumble around him.
What a Normal Person Would Do: I think it's safe to say a normal person wouldn't have make it past the spiders early on, but assuming they got to the idol they would likely cower and then be crushed as the ceiling came down on them.
Indy Moment: Honestly, it's the whole opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the most iconic and perfect sequence of scenes you could ever see. From the moment we see Indy silhouetted in front of the mountain to his plane flying off to the horizon, we are given the perfect scenario for Indiana Jones and the defining traits of his character. He's smart, knows his stuff, knows how to think ahead, sometimes misjudges things but still is awesome doing it, is athletic, uses a whip, is trusting (maybe too trusting), is always been pressured by villains, is afraid of snakes and always seems to get shit thrown his way repeatedly, and always finds a way out of it with a high-degree of awesomeness.
The climax is, of course, the massive boulder that attempts to close him in the ruins. This scene is the most iconic scene in Indiana's filmography, but one of the most iconic in history, right up there with the final scene in Casablanca, the Alien busting out of a chest, Psycho's shower scene or the speech from On the Waterfront. It's legendary, parodied countless times, and is Indy's truly defined moment: He goes into places most people don't come out of.
Children and Adults alike dream of being Indiana Jones, to have the whole world as one big playground and always find your way out of things, no matter how insane they may be. While everyone has their favorite, one thing can't be denied about the films and Jones himself: it's all good fun. Jones makes kids want to grow up to be like him and adults to pretend they're kids again.