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Franchise Review: Indiana Jones (1981-2008)

September 1, 2011

Four years ago today, the premiere episode of Laserdicks Reviews made its way to YouTube. The first film to fall victim to the satirical critiques was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a film that I have already skewered on this blog. Now, in honor of the fourth anniversary of The Reviewniverse, I present a series of teeny-tiny capsule reviews on all four Indiana Jones movies. Those of you wanting a review of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles can forget it, though!

Note: Due to the endless whining of fanboys, I have opted to bump Temple of Doom to two stars for this franchise review. So shut up already.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

  • Dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Released by Parmount
  • Written by George Lucas, Philip Kaufman, and Lawrence Kasdan
  • Rating: ****

The original Indy film is a great big-budget adaptation of the old matinee serials. The action scenes are all excellent, the plot is interesting without being convoluted, and the acting is spot-on. Karen Allen makes the perfect love interest for our hero, while the Nazis & Co. are worthwhile (if deliberately one-dimensional) villains. A fun ride that knows to not take itself too seriously, Raiders still manages to remain pastiche rather than parody. It needed no sequels, although they’re certainly appreciated…mostly.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

  • Dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Released by Parmount
  • Written by George Lucas, Willard Huyck, and Gloria Katz
  • Rating: **
A major misstep. Despite some thrilling action scenes near the beginning and at the end, and a fun new ally in Short Round, this “adventure” is severely hampered by mean-spiritedness and a lack of the light-heartedness that made the first film so entertaining. The violence and tone are often off-putting, as is some of the humor! The MacGuffin this time is rather unimpressive, so this film rides more on Indy saving the enslaved children than recovering the lost artifact. Even worse, the love interest is so annoying that I have a hard time caring about her. Still, there are a few good scenes buried in this mess of a prequel.
 

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

  • Dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Released by Parmount
  • Written by George Lucas, Menno Meyjes, Jeffrey Boam, and Tom Stoppard
  • Rating: ****
The third chapter is actually an improvement over the original, adding a nice element of humor thanks to Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr. The comic conflicts between father and son hide some of the minor flaws of the story (the love interest is completely a plot device this time, but why complain?), and the action is no disappointment. The evil Nazis are still shallow, but who cares in a popcorn movie like this? This is the most fun out of the four, and that’s no easy task to accomplish. We can blame it for that silly prequel TV series, though.
 
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
  • Dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Released by Parmount
  • Written by George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson, and David Koepp
  • Rating: ***

The final film places Indy into a new period, and it captures the flavor of the 1950s films as much as the previous chapters did for the pictures of the 1930s and early 1940s. Shia LeBouf is especially good as the Brando/Dean figure, and Harrison Ford does not disappoint as the aging hero. Karen Allen returns to show that no one else can match Marion as the love of Indy’s life. The action is a little cartoony at times, but what did you expect from the era of Commies, aliens, and the bomb? Its only real flaw is its reliance on CGI effects, which clash with the 50s feel.

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From → Film Criticism

3 Comments
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