It was reported to me that the Indiana Jones booth at COMIC CON in San Diago July 11th through July 15th will have a recreation of the famous Well of Souls scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark complete with live snakes to celebrate the release of all four Indiana Jones films to Blu-Ray. For those who need a map and want to know where to go, the Indiana Jones booth is 2913 at the Lucasfilm pavilion on the show floor. In the spirit of this exciting push to keep the name of Indiana Jones alive I am going to spend a moment to defend the last film, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from the scrutiny it has received, which I have been thinking about for 4 years now.
To me all the Indiana Jones films are innovative fun escapades into the deepest questions of our times. Few people know it but George Lucas originally wanted to be an anthropologist but since he settled into a job as a “filmmaker,” the character of Indiana Jones allowed him to explore aspects of archeology that he could have only dreamed of as a field scientist. However, I will say this; George Lucas should go down in history as one of the greatest archeologists who ever have lived for the simple fact that many of today’s current world explorers, scientists, physics geeks, treasure hunters, mercenaries, and authors have been profoundly inspired by George Lucas’ creation of the character Indiana Jones. Because of Indiana Jones hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars have been invested in archeological research that would have never happened in the field of that scientific endeavor if not for the first Indiana Jones movie, the greatest movie in the history of the world in my opinion, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I would have come to use a bullwhip anyway, since my grandfather passed on to me the love of it which predated Raiders. He and his father were deeply inspired by old Zorro films like Don Q Son of Zorro from the silent era, so he was going to teach me whether I liked it or not. But when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, which was a tribute to those old Saturday Matinees it allowed my generation to understand what my grandfather’s generation had loved so much. From the early film era of the 1940’s it was Zorro’s Fighting Legion that I love the most, and Indiana Jones was the modern mythic tale of those old adventures. So I took to the study of the bullwhip which has personally led me on many unique adventures and has given me a view of the world few get to see through that martial art weapon.
Some die hard film critics will say that Temple of Doom was the worst Indiana Jones film. Even Steven Spielberg has said he isn’t proud of that movie. Yet, the film is one of the most beloved movies in the history of film. It invented the PG13 rating because the film was too violent to be simply rated PG and was too family oriented to be rated R. Temple of Doom is the ultimate adventure film and studios have been trying unsuccessfully to tap into the magic of that particular movie for many, many years. I’ve seen it at the movie theater over 15 times that I can remember, the most exciting time was when I was on a high adventure camp excursion deep in the hills of Kentucky within one week of Temple of Doom’s release. I was only 15 at the time so I was under the care of adult supervisors. After a day of intense backwoods hiking and spelunking the members of our camp went to bed around 9 PM. Two of my friends in the same tent waited patiently with me for everyone to go to sleep since everyone was exhausted and covered in dirt and sweat. When we no longer heard voices speaking from the many tents, we quietly escaped and ran 5 miles into a nearby college town to catch the last showing of Temple of Doom for the day at 11:15 PM. With sweat pouring down our faces and backs we bought our tickets and sat down in the wonderfully air-conditioned theater just as Indiana Jones came into the Club Obi Wan with his white tuxedo. I have raised my children to the movie Temple of Doom. It played on our television every day for about 8 years. I raised my niece and nephews on the movie since my wife and I helped raise them as children. To this day, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom brings them found memories that they cherish from their childhoods. It is the story of good and evil and even though Indiana Jones gets stabbed, burnt, tortured, poisoned, possessed, and beat up in countless ways he somehow comes out heroically in the end facing all the dangers by stating, “It’s a long way to Deli,” meaning anything can happen, and we’ll deal with it as it comes. To this day my wife and I say that to each other whenever a series of bad things happen, and it brings comic relief.
(This is a personal friend of mine, Gery Deer in Jamestown, Ohio performing at the Murphey Theater in Wilmington.)
When Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out, I took my oldest nephew who was 5 at the time out of school to the premier. We saw the movie on opening day for the very first screening. I figured he would learn a lot more at that movie than he would in school, which I was of course right. In Last Crusade the archeology follows along the lines of the typically Christian pursuit of archeological relics. Made just 8 years after the first film in Raiders, Last Crusade had not yet experienced the changes in archeology that would come as a result of the massive amount of money that was flowing into the science because of Indiana Jones. Last Crusade was about the legend of the Holy Grail which is an item that runs deep into Christian religions. This film took Indiana Jones back to his childhood so audiences could see what kind of events helped shape the kind of person that Indiana Jones would become as a man. The concept was so successful that George Lucas started a television show called The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles that would be geared to teaching people about the events of world history taking place from 1900 to around 1919. (Yes, I have every one of them on DVD and my kids have watched them all with me many, many, many times.)
For many fans, The Last Crusade would be their last impression of Indiana Jones. Archeology to them would be biblical in scope, and the adventures of Indiana Jones would end. Life would move on. To the rest of society, people get old, and they put away the items of childhood, which Indiana Jones was. The television show was enjoyed by people like me who naturally loved history, but was not geared to the swashbuckling action of the movies. Instead it centered on the character development of Indiana Jones as a young man.
Over the years many things happened in popular culture. Thousands of archeologists who went to college and pursued their dream of working in that business because of Indiana Jones were doing investigations of their own. Private investors who loved the Indiana Jones movies poured millions of dollars into college research projects giving archeology a lot of money that it didn’t have prior to 1981 when Raiders of the Lost Ark hit theaters. In the 1990’s archeology were doing some big things—but the revelations being discovered with all this new money was not more of the Christian based study that many would have thought it to be. The evidence being discovered was that human existence on planet earth was much more complex than we previously thought and it appears that mankind had help getting started. So when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out, audiences who did not know of these developments were a bit mystified to see what had happened.
My oldest daughter asked me how I managed years ahead of the film’s release to make many of the statements about human society that Crystal Skull was making. I explained to her that George Lucas was following the Robert Pirsig “quality rule” as he was in front of the train yet again while the rest of society was well in the back. Crystal Skull offered an explanation to the advanced societies all over the planet that were obviously connected in some way. This science was revealed in part by Indiana Jones films, so it was up to Indiana Jones to offer the difficult reality that other beings played a part in human evolution, and not just beings from outer space, but “interdimensional” creatures. I had come to this same conclusion years ago after my own studies, which is why my daughter was amazed that Crystal Skull was right on target with what I had been saying for nearly 10 years, that earth was seeded from another civilization that did not originate on earth and that the idea of God had suddenly become much larger.
After 20 years of not seeing Indiana Jones on the big screen audiences were suddenly confronted with an Indiana Jones who was 70 years old who was still in fist fights, romancing women, and performing unbelievable stunts. This is a difficult reality to a society of people who cast senior citizens into disregard past age 65. Seeing a film icon like Harrison Ford looking quite good as a 70 year old man shattered perceptions of what the elderly could do, and opened up the possibility that aging didn’t have to be a degrading process. The second thing that audiences had trouble with was that Indiana Jones survived a nuclear explosion by climbing into a lead lined refrigerator. Many fans did not know that the only objects to survive nuclear explosions in the many tests done were lead lined refrigerators, so Indiana Jones true to his past exploits of always finding a way to survive climbed into the only thing that would have saved him from a nuclear blast, a lead lined refrigerator.
Fans were mixed on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It wasn’t what they thought it should have been. Indiana Jones as a character had evolved over the years through the television show, which was incorporated into the new film and it served as a kind of bridge to merge the films and the television show together. The abandonment of typically Christian relics also caused some anxiety as the plot of Crystal Skull centered on the ancient alien oriented plot complete with flying saucers and little green men. And of course people had a hard time accepting Indiana Jones as an older person with a society that thinks age 30 is the end of life as they know it. But, society will catch up to the vision of George Lucas. They are doing it already. The current show on the History Channel Ancient Aliens would have never become possible if not for the mass audience exposure to the kind of information that has been coming in from archeological research. The mainstream audience was confronting for the first time in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the possibility that mankind’s Gods were in fact beings from another world, and possibility from another dimensional reality which really messed with the stereotypes many had formed over the years through their religious studies.
Before seeing Crystal Skull I had already read several books by Zecharia Sitchin and of course the great Forbidden Archeology by Cremo and Thompson so I could almost see George Lucas smiling from behind the movie screen as I watched the events of the latest Indiana Jones movie play out. I knew exactly what he was doing, and slowly, four years after the release of that very innovative movie, people are beginning to catch up to Lucas’ vision. In the years to come, it will be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that will be known for changing the way human beings see themselves as science is only now starting to admit that the discoveries of Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull film are turning out to be more of a reality than they ever dared to admit.
I personally loved Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and I place it somewhere in quality to being between Last Crusade and Temple of Doom. To this very day it is Raiders of the Lost Ark that is my favorite movie of all time. So much so that the CD soundtrack has been played in my home and to my family well over a thousand times—my oldest daughter actually used to sleep to it. When she was married, it took her about 6 months to finally learn to sleep without listening to the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack. My favorite song on that soundtrack is called “Desert Chase” which I listen to almost every day at least once. In fact yesterday as I cleaned my motorcycle, I listened to that part of the soundtrack on my iPOD.
For my birthday several years back, my family bought me a leather flight jacket from U.S.Wings that was made from the same roll of leather that created the leather jacket for Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I have put that jacket through absolute hell. It’s been drug in the dirt, pelted with rain, snow, ice, and had just about every kind of living creature crawling on it. It has been to the top of mountains and touched the breath of foreign countries. It has seen 30,000 miles of torture from a motorcycle. I said to my family just the other day that the jacket was just now starting to get the look of “character” that I like. In another 15 years, it should look just about right. Indiana Jones is known for his period style hat, his beat up leather jacket and his whip. Many of those things are part of my personal attire as they are of many science lovers coming out of the 1980’s who found magic and hope in Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones for millions has set the bar high for not only what we expect in our movies, but also in what we expect out of ourselves.
People often wonder how I have done and survived many of the things I have, and why I am not content to just drift off into the sunset on a sail boat. Well, I spent a lot of time watching Indiana Jones and raising my family on those films, and it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t give them the closest thing in reality to that dynamic character. The magic of Indiana Jones is in saying “yes” to life, to not allowing convention to rule the day. If Indiana Jones is anything, he is probably the most tenacious character ever to appear in film, and he is a survivor to such an extent that not even a nuclear blast can stop him. He’s not a superhero from some other planet, or a multi millionaire who can afford to build the machines of his dreams to combat crime. Indiana Jones is just an ordinary man with an extraordinary sense of wonder and hope, which has never learned the word can’t, and that is why fans will flock to the Indiana Jones booth at COMIC CON and take pictures of themselves next to the live snake exhibit. They’ll do it because there’s a little bit of Indiana Jones in each of them, thanks to George Lucas who decided to make his kind of movie from the front of the social train while the rest of society watched from the back.
Yes, I will buy the new Blu-Ray set of the Indiana Jones films. I have a grandchild coming and I can promise that his first images, his first sounds, his very first impressions will be of Indiana Jones punching a bunch of maniacal Thuggee in the face from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. My grandchild has a lot to learn from me, and to prepare his mind for what his life will be like, he had better start thinking the way Indiana Jones does—that nothing is impossible, that life is a never-ending adventure, and even when the worst that can possibly happen happens—there is always a way out so long as your mind can dream and adapt.