In 1981, Steven Spielberg (Jaws) and George Lucas (Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) reinvented the pulp adventure genre that they had fallen in love with during their youth. Their film Raiders of the Lost Ark was the perfect tribute to Saturday matinee serials and boys' adventure magazines. Not only did Spielberg and Lucas create the greatest action film in decades (and perhaps in the history of American movies), but they also introduced movie audiences to the greatest adventure hero since the days of Allan Quatermain, Tarzan, and Doc Savage. Harrison Ford, who lent his devil-may-care attitude to the globetrotting archaeologist, embodiedIndiana Jones as no other actor could. Raiders of the Lost Ark became more than a blockbuster; it was the birth of an American icon and the first chapter in one of the greatest film franchises ever.
Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981
Adventurer and archaeologist, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) searches for the fabled Lost Ark of the Covenant while being pursued by insidious Nazis and their vile henchmen. Along the way he reunites with his former lover, the feisty Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and confronts charming, treasure-hunting rival, Belloq (Paul Freeman). Indiana also encounters tarantulas, poisonous serpents, a deadly Arab swordsman, and a host of other perils and pitfalls, all of which he overcomes with a sly grin. But can even this daring heroic figure survive the lure and the power of the legendary Lost Ark?
After the huge success, both commercial and critical, of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas set out to tell a second fantastic Indiana Jones story. However, this time they decided to use darker thematic material and in so doing caused some controversy. When Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released in 1984, it became immediately apparent that the film was darker and, in all likelihood, too violent and intense for children. The film utilized elements of pulp adventure stories, as had Raiders of the Lost Ark, but there was a greater emphasis on violence and horror. Many critics accused the film of being too extreme and even disturbing, and said that it lacked the spirit of fun that made the first film so accessible. Despite the negative reviews, no one could deny the film's commercial appeal or its originality.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - 1984
After narrowly escaping from Asian gangsters, Indiana Jones, his young sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), and ditzy American singer Wilhelmina "Willie" Scott (Kate Capshaw) find themselves stranded in a small village in India. They soon take notice that there are no children in the village and they are told that the children were taken by a cult that worships the Goddess of Death, Kali. Indiana Jones finds connections between the story of the missing children and old legends of sacred stones that hold great power. He, Short Round, and Willie Scott go to Pankot Palace, where they discover that the cult has taken over the palace using a supernatural method of brainwashing, voodoo practices, ritualistic human sacrifice, and worse... they've enslaved the villagers' children. Can Indiana Jones find the sacred stones, stop the cult, and return the stolen children to their parents?
In 1989, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas released their third Indiana Jones film. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a more light-hearted adventure with the welcome addition of Sean Connery as Indiana's father, Prof. Henry Jones. The film relied heavily on action and comedy, and was at times overly formulaic and reminiscent of the first Indiana Jones film. Despite some flaws in the script, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade became another mega-hit and provided the characters with a wonderful finale (which has since been rendered moot by the decision to make more Indy films) where they actually ride off into the sunset.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 1989
After his father, Prof. Henry Jones (Sean Connery), goes missing during his search for the Holy Grail, Indiana Jones teams up with Elsa (Alison Doody), an Austrian researcher to find him. When Indiana Jones rescues Prof. Jones from the Nazis, he discovers that Elsa is a traitor and that the Nazis are close to uncovering the resting place of the Holy Grail, which has the power to give whoever drinks from it immortality. Can Indiana Jones and his father beat the Nazis in this epic race between good and evil?
These three films form one of the most successful trilogies of all time, and it's no wonder that Indiana Jones is still in the public eye after all of these years. The three films feature an extraordinary cast including Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, Julian Glover, and River Phoenix.
Besides the wonderful cast, one of the main reasons for the longevity of the Indiana Jones series are the action set pieces, which include some of the most memorable stunts ever captured on film. Who can forget the first time that they saw Indy skillfully swing across a chasm using his trusty bullwhip, or outrunning a giant boulder, or survive being in a room full of lethally venomous asps, or being chased by cult members in a mine cart, or cutting a bridge in half while he's still on it, or chasing an armored tank while on horseback? As you can see there's no limit to his adventures.
Since his debut, Indiana Jones has been emulated and imitated, but never duplicated. The quality of the writing, the direction, the acting, the production design, and the stunt work are unmatched by any other films within the genre. The series is also given an emotional resonance with the help of John William's brilliant theme music and scores. Though the series, much like Indiana Jones himself, has seen its share of ups and downs, it will undoubtedly go down in cinematic history as the greatest adventure films ever made.
The Adventures of Indiana Jones- The Complete DVD Movie Collection contains Indy's first three classic films, which have been gloriously restored and remastered for maximum video and audio quality. Also included in this excellent 4-disc set are the following bonus materials: the comprehensive three-part documentary "Making the Trilogy", "The Stunts of Indiana Jones" featurette, "The Sound of Indiana Jones" featurette, "The Music of Indiana Jones" featurette, "The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones" featurette, theatrical trailers for all three films, and access to exclusive online features.
I think it's safe to say that "The Man in the Hat" will be around for many more years to come.
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