Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Indiana Jones [A Fat Jesus Trilogy Review]

Indiana Jones is legendary. As a kid, I watched all three films with my mom and dad, but I don't really remember them. Before the 'National Treasure' and 'DaVinci Code' films, to me they're awful, there was Indiana Jones. Pulse pounding action, awesome music and exotic lands abound in some of the best action films in movie history. I've gotten into them even more because they remind me of the 'Uncharted' video game series. Films where I can remove myself from reality for awhile, to go an adventure with a larger than life hero, are some of the best films you can ever hope to see. Indiana Jones fits the bill perfectly.

'Raiders of the Lost Ark' follows the story of Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), a famous archaeologist. In 1936, Jones is hired by the United States government, to locate The Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. The Nazi's are trying to use the Ark, to become invincible like the Israelites of The Old Testament. The Nazis, on the other hand, are being aided by Jones' arch nemesis, Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman). With the help of an old girlfriend, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and a close ally, Sallah (John-Rhys-Davies), Indiana Jones must travel to Egypt and find the Ark, before the Nazis.

'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' once again follows the story of Indiana Jones. This time it is set in 1935, a year before the events of the first film. Jones escapes a deal gone bad with Chinese gangsters with the help of singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Indy's 12 year old sidekick, Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). The three crash land somewhere in India and arrive in a village whose children have been kidnapped. The children have been kidnapped by a cult, led by Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), and are being used to find two missing Sankara Stones, which are needed for them to take over the world. Indy, Willie and Short Round must infiltrate this cult to save the children, and perhaps, the world.

'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade', you guessed it, follows the story of Indiana Jones. We open in 1912 where a young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix), attempts to recover a valuable item from hunters, in which he fails. Indiana completes the recovery on said item in 1938, three years after the events of the second film. When he returns, he is tasked, alongside Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), by businessman Walter Donovan (Julian Glover), to find The Holy Grail. It is revealed that Indy's estranged father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery), is missing. They fly to Venice to meet Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), to begin looking for clues where his father left off. Then eventually set out to find him and the mystical grail.

These movies, much like the first trilogy I reviewed, 'Back to the Future', are an absolute blast. I was once again astounded by how well these films have held up over the years. Also why they've garnered the critical acclaim that they have. They're just plain fun to watch. 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' is the best of the trilogy. We're not even going to touch 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.' Yuck. The first film sets the tone for the series so well. From the opening ten minutes, you know you're in for a thrill ride. Complete with explosive action, a great hero and even great humor as well. The story is awesome. While it doesn't quite kick in until about 15 minutes into the movie, the opening sequence is an amazing precursor of what you're going to see throughout the rest of the film (and series). An archaeologist trying to uncover some of the worlds coolest secrets. That's a cool concept when done right, like in this series. The rest of the films lives up to the start, as the action looks great. Not being aided by the CGI we have now, the live action fights and chase scenes are done amazingly. Indiana Jones, our main hero, is built even further to be the awesome adventurer we see being chased by the rolling boulder. Played perfectly by Harrison Ford (throughout the series as well), Indiana Jones has all the bravado, snarkiness and skills to overcome any situation (that he usually gets himself into). The rest of the cast, aides in this effort. Paul Freeman, Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davies make up a great supporting cast. The cinematography was awesome, as the sweeping shots of the deserts and mountains were nice. Not to mention the set design was awesome, especially the opening scenes in the jungle and the snake-pit itself. There's also a good bit of humor sprinkled throughout, and all of it works well. The infamous scene where the giant man with the sword challenges Indy, Indy smirks, pulls out his gun and shoots him, is still hilarious. The iconic score is...well iconic. It makes the action pop and makes you feel all giddy inside. That somehow, someway, Indy is going to pull through. 
'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' is a nice follow up, this one's a prequel is a fun watch. While not quite capturing the same magic of the first film, it's undeniable, that it's an enjoyable film. Everything got bigger with the second installment. From the overall story to the stunts, everything felt, more robust. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones didn't change at all and that's one of the strong points. A character like his doesn't need to ever change. Blasphemous words I know, since you're used to seeing a character grow in films. Without his machismo and sense of adventure, these stories don't work. Kate Capshaw and Jonathan Ke Quan, as Willie and Short Round, are Indy's side-kicks this time around. I very much liked Short Round, but Willie was a little lacking. Comparing her to the hold your own style of Marion in the first film, Willie was made to be merely a damsel in distress. Not to mention the screaming throughout was on the other side of pleasant. The other problem I have with this film is the amount of gags thrown in. 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' has that perfect balance of humor, drama and action. While in 'The Temple of Doom' the humor is made more prevalent, and some of the time it falls flat. Despite these two minor gripes, 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' is quite a fun film, same as the first. From the cinematography, to the story, I liked the darker feel to everything happening, to the still awesome score. This film is one that improves upon a lot, but doesn't quite nail everything in the process. Plus, the villain is able to pull a person's heart out at will, how awesome is that?
'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' is a breath of fresh air after the second film, that really does make its mark as being as good as the first film. Not quite as good, but comparable nonetheless. The feel of it, excitement. The action is grand. Indiana Jones is Indiana Jones. Whether is River Phoenix playing his younger self, or Sean Connery playing father Jones, it's a joy to watch this film unfold. The mystery is as grand as eternal life and right from the start, yet again (an action sequence roaring through a circus train) you're sucked in. Action that really only slows down when the archaeologist, and his brilliant father, are devising their next move. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are as charismatic as a duo can get, working off each other in every scene flawlessly. Even River Phoenix gets Ford's mannerisms and style down pat. The Nazi evil is back, and while the voodoo of the second film was an alright antagonist, the Nazi side of things fits the narrative of "Indiana Jones" much better. The story overall, finding The Holy Grail is quite an interesting one. The final scenes, leading to and in the chalice chamber itself, is an amazing sequence. Once again, we are welcome to a strong female lead, in Alison Doody as Elsa, and that makes this feel even more natural. After watching the three films, you notice just how out-of-place Kape Capshaw felt as the heroine in these films. Everybody, main or supporting cast, has a strong air about them in these films, except for Kate Capshaw. The action is the same Indiana Jones action. This time there's even a bad-ass tank battle, that's now one of my favorite action sequences ever. The humor is there as well, but this time around, thanks to a capable (and charismatic cast) the gags work quite well. All of this done in a way only an 'Indiana Jones' film can do it. Oh yeah, the score is still awesome whenever it really ramps up.

The 'Indiana Jones' trilogy was a blast to watch. Credit Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford and John Williams for sticking together from beginning to end. Steven Spielberg knew how to direct these films. George Lucas had a fantastic vision for each film. Harrison Ford was the star power, that really vaulted "Indiana Jones." While John Williams conducted an amazing score for each film. This series is action packed, well told, full of humor, looks amazing and sounds beautiful. While the weak point is 'The Temple of Doom', this series as a whole is fantastic (again leaving out 'Crystal Skull'). 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' is a phenomenal film and 'The Last Crusade' is a fantastic end. This is truly a great trilogy, plus, you can knock it out on a Saturday. It's more than worth your time.

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