Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Indiana Jones

Hero of a series (1-3 below) of three movies and a series of books (4).

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark US movie (1981). Paramount/Lucasfilm. Pr Frank Marshall. Exec pr Howard Kazanjian, George Lucas. Dir Steven Spielberg. Vfx Richard Edlund. Spfx Industrial Light & Magic. Screenplay Lawrence Kasdan. Novelizations Raiders of the Lost Ark * (1981) by Campbell Black and Raiders of the Lost Ark * (1981) by Lawrence Kasdan. Starring Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Paul Freeman (René Belloq), George Harris (Katanga), Anthony Higgins (Gobler), Wolf Kahler (Dietrich), Ronald Lacey (Toht), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah). 115 mins. Colour.

Set in 1936, this may not include every cliché in its joyous homage to dime-novel fiction, but not for lack of trying. Its slam-bang opening sequences alone take in an astonishing number: a treasure hunt in the South American jungle, treacherous native servants, giant Spiders, elaborate mechanical booby-traps and much else besides, including the famous rolling boulder, an echo of that in the early underground scenes of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) – all merely to introduce us to the characters of field archaeologist IJ and his dastardly rival Belloq. In the tale proper, IJ and university colleague Brody discover the Nazis are after the headpiece of the Staff of Ra, a pointer to the burial place of the lost Ark of the Covenant. With allies including rekindled old flame Marion, IJ, meek in his academic persona but dynamic outside it (like Clark Kent and Superman), battles the Nazis for the Ark in Tibet/Nepal, Egypt and the Aegean. When finally opened, it releases a pyrotechnic display that destroys the baddies but spares the goodies.

The plot is a mess and the fantasy elements have no discernible rationale. Implausibilities are not so much committed as revelled in – by moviemakers and audience alike. Hugely popular, ROTLA is fundamentally garbage – but good garbage. [JG]

2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom US movie (1984). Paramount/Lucasfilm. Pr Robert Watts. Exec pr George Lucas, Frank Marshall. Dir Steven Spielberg. Screenplay Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz. Novelizations, etc. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom * (1984) by James Kahn, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: The Storybook Based on the Movie * (1984) by Michael French, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: The Illustrated Screenplay * (1984) by Huyck and Katz. Starring Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott), Roy Chiao (Lao Che), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Ke Huy Quan (Short Round), Amrish Puri (Mole Ram), Roshan Seth (Chattar Lal), Philip Stone (Blumburtt). 118 mins. Colour.

Set in 1935, this predates 1. After the requisite slam-bang start – an incredible piece of nonstop thrill-making that has been emulated but never equalled elsewhere – the plot sees IJ (saddled with Scott, with whom he shares tiresome sexual byplay) penetrating a remote Indian temple to recover from it the stolen children and Fertility lingam of a poor village. In so doing he battles the adherents of a Thuggee cult, is temporarily transformed into a Zombie-like slave, escapes performing Human Sacrifice on Scott, etc. Though even more spectacular than 1, this has a sense of rehashing. IJ complains of Scott at one point that "the trouble with her is the noise", and the same criticism could be applied to the movie. [JG]

3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade US movie (1989). Paramount/Lucasfilm. Pr Robert Watts. Exec pr George Lucas, Frank Marshall. Dir Steven Spielberg. Vfx Micheal V McAlister. Vfx Industrial Light & Magic. Screenplay Jeffrey Boam. Novelization Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade * (1989) by Rob MacGregor. Starring Michael Byrne (Vogel), Sean Connery (Prof. Henry Jones), Alison Doody (Dr Elsa Schneider), Robert Eddison (Grail Knight), Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Julian Glover (Walter Donovan), River Phoenix (Young Indy), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah). 127 mins. Colour.

Although this is set in 1938, thus sequelling 1 (some of whose supporting characters it shares), the action starts in 1912, when young Utah boy scout IJ contends (unsuccessfully) with despoilers of an archaeological site for an important artefact, a gold cross. In the course of these adventures he acquires his famous whip and hat. Today (i.e., 1938) he must try to track down the Grail before the Nazis, headed by sadistic Vogel, get there; in this he is assisted by his father Henry, who like himself has enjoyed the sexual favours of the beautiful and duplicitous Schneider. At last all concerned reach the Grail chamber, hewn out of a Middle Eastern mountainside, where an immortal (> Immortality) Grail Knight explains no mortal may remove the chalice – a statement the baddies discover, fatally, to be true.

There are several reasons why IJATLC is the most exhilarating and satisfying of the series. The script adds vigour, wit and some profundity to a plot that is much better worked out than those of 1 and 2. The jokes are better, and a considerable merit is that, unlike the earlier movies, this has a strong female lead role. But the greatest strength is the crusty, bickering relationship between Jones père and fils. [JG]

4. Rob MacGregor, who novelized 3, thereafter continued with an Indiana Jones book series: Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi * (1991), #2: Dance of the Giants * (1991), #3: Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils * (1991), #4: Indiana Jones and the Genesis Deluge * (1992) and #5: Indiana Jones and the Unicorn's Legacy * (1992). [JC/JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.