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Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Jones’

I really should have seen this the first time. (Spoilers for Quantum of Solace below.)

The Palio di Siena

The Palio di Siena (source)

Having watched Quantum of Solace for the second time today, it seems so obvious to me. Hindsight, of course. The first big action sequence–Bond’s chase after traitorous MI6 agent Mitchell–is intercut against shots of a horse race. I noticed this the first time I watched the movie, and was amused by it: juxtaposing the exciting chase against an obviously artificial game expressly set up for the entertainment of the masses (and repeatedly showing us those masses as well as the actual racers). One way to read it is a contrast, life-and-death against a game, but of course it’s the opposite: it’s a reminder that we, too, are watching something constructed purely for our entertainment. Right from the start, Quantum of Solace seems to be saying: remember that this is a movie meant for your entertainment.

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Recently I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in theaters for the second time. I’m a true Indiana Jones fanatic–hung above my desk, right next to my computer, are all four movie posters, framed–so when I saw the film for the first time, most of my response to it was as from the view of a fan who had read over ten years’ worth of rumors and reports (basically, from when I first got internet access) about a fourth Indiana Jones movie. Even so, my analytical brain went into action when I saw it the first time, and there were a number of things that intrigued me about the film. I don’t consider it a particularly good movie: I think it’s certainly the weakest of the four, and what I have to say here is not meant to elevate the quality of the movie in any way. But there were things that seemed to deserve further thought than usual with the simple popcorn entertainment that I consider Indiana Jones, and so on my second viewing I went in with an eye for something more. Spoilers from here on, for all four Indiana Jones films.

What I realized, or decided, or constructed, was that The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not just a new movie about Indiana Jones; it is a movie about the death of Indiana Jones–the idea of Indiana Jones, the persona separate from the person of Henry Jones, Jr. Upon thinking about it, this is really strikingly obvious. After all, the film ends with Indiana Jones getting married, something that could not even be contemplated with regards to the Indy of the original trilogy, and an almost literal passing-of-the-hat to Indy’s son (although “Mutt Jones and the whatever” doesn’t seem to me as something that would play well on a movie poster). But it’s not simply the death of one man’s adventuring career, it’s the death of the entire idea of adventuring for “fortune and glory” (as Indy famously quips in The Temple of Doom), of death-defying stunts against insidious villains, of mysterious artifacts of ancient and unknown power. More than that, it’s the death of the unrepentant American optimism of the thirties and forties, when Americans believed in an American dream despite the Great Depression and later believed in their absolute righteousness in the fight against the Nazis, so gloriously demonstrated in the adventure serials that the original Indiana Jones trilogy were inspired by. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is about the end of an era.

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