It has been a month since the movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” opened to enormous fanfare. I’m going to assume that you’ve seen it, or else you don’t care. Either way, spoilers ahead.
To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about the previous Indiana Jones movies. I remember how tantalizing Harrison Ford was in the first one, playing an intelligent, cultured university professor in some scenes, and a macho adventurer in others. He was the unattainable man, and he was worth attaining because he had a secret identity just like Zorro or a comic book superhero. On the one hand he demonstrated all the refined qualities that a woman could want in a man, and on the other, he could handle himself in a bar fight. A woman likes to know that a man is capable of defending her in a bar fight. Of course, his love interest in that movie, Marion Ravenwood, was quite capable of doing the bar fighting, which was kinda cool. But when he hitched a ride on a submarine, and did that stunt on the speeding truck, I knew the movie was not meant to be convincing or a romance. It was meant to be fun.
The two sequels were too violent (“Temple of Doom”) and too lightweight (“Last Crusade”). There was nothing in them that I could even pretend was real romance, even by (metaphorically) squinting. In fact, Jones’ cavalier attitude toward women always grated on me. But then, this whole series was a boys’ adventure fantasy, and in them the hero never is interested in the girl, not really. That would be mushy, and boys don’t like mush.
Then why am I even talking about the fourth Indiana Jones movie? The series has never featured a satisfactory romance between a man and a woman. The movies never were aimed at women; they were aimed at men. But so was the first “Star Wars,” and it had one of the strongest and truest female lead characters I ever saw in an adventure movie, Princess Leia. Loved that woman. Loved her sarcasm. Loved Han Solo’s sarcasm right back. Even if at times, Dennis the Menace and his friend/antagonist Margaret came to mind, quintessential child opponents divided by the differing interests of gender. The Indiana Jones series was equally true to the same divide, only it did not sustain a strong female lead character through the series.
What were my expectations of this fourth Indiana Jones movie? Lots of action. Hopefully nothing too embarrassing. Harrison Ford had a smoking hot body well into his fifties from all the tennis he played, but those geezer pants he was wearing in the trailer didn’t augur well. Maybe they were hiding a gut he has grown since his second divorce. Dunno, and this movie was so lacking in physical intimacy that I never had to care. Yeah, he’s seen without a shirt here and there. But his pants were big enough for two men.
It’s not that the plot didn’t have any possibilities. I thought we were getting them when the FBI guys looking for Commies showed up and got Jones fired. And then started following Jones. But then they simply vanished from the movie, and so did any semblance of an adult, layered struggle. I should have known it when he survived the atomic bomb test in a refrigerator. In this series, the over-the-top action has always clearly signaled that there would not be serious tension, or genuine intimacy, or any depth to characterization.
This latest sequel was true to the series, and more. Every scene was a reference to something in a previous Lucas movie. I’ve got news for George Lucas. We don’t all memorize his movies. Even so, once I suspended disbelief (which incidentally is the only way to enjoy Marx Brothers movies, too), it was sheer fun. I thought it was silly and sort of heart-warming. Jones never was a mighty thinker when it came to his personal relationships. But in this movie he does recognize that it’s time to marry Marion Ravenwood, his girlfriend from the first movie, and settle down and be a father and resume his academic career. The adventuring is over. In a way, it’s not much of a romance. But in a way, it’s perfect. His excuse for decades of not committing to any other woman is that they weren’t her. That line can just make a woman melt. It’s enough of a declaration. And how about a mature man actually marrying a woman of his own generation!? Totally cool. It also solved the problem in this boys’ adventure movie that, like most little boys, Jones didn’t want any mush.