Indiana Jones has become what he was always intended to be – a genuine cinematic icon, a true Hollywood legend, and one of the most successful film-related brands ever created. Many have tried to create the prefect mix of cinematic elements, and many have failed – but in Indy, co-creators George Lucas and Steven Spielberg succeeded perfectly.
No, neither Indy nor the films in which he appeared were overly original – but they were never intended to be, having been deliberately designed as a hybrid of James Bond, the Victorian adventure stories of H Rider Haggard, and the Saturday morning film serials so popular during the 30s, 40s and 50s.
The success of this formula speaks for itself – there’s the $1.1 billion the three original films pulled in at the box office during the 1980s, and then (to further rub it in) the untold additional millions that have been generated by the video and DVD sales and rentals, the four theme park rides, the countless toys, the 50-odd books, the comics, the 28 episodes of the epic TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and sundry other pieces of merchandise that have been snapped up by eager fans during his 27-year existence.
Yet, despite this vast success, and despite Indy’s continued place as one of the best-loved film characters of all time, the idea of his return to the big screen has filled his fans with dread.
If you look to the tabloid coverage, this has all been thanks to the return of Harrison Ford in the lead, and the fact that he’s not only now old enough for a bus pass but also, were he British, for a state pension, having hit 65 last year. The world’s most successful film star during his 1980s heyday, he’s also not had a genuine box office hit to his name since 1994’s The Fugitive, and is these days mostly seen sporting an ill-considered earring while chaperoning girlfriend Calista “Ally McBeal” Flockhart down various red carpets. From being two of the coolest film characters of all time – Indiana Jones and Star Wars’ Han Solo – he’s become the epitome of the mid-life crisis, like your dad dancing at a wedding.
And then, of course, there’s George Lucas, an undoubted genius as the man who invented both Indiana Jones and Star Wars. But since his revival of the Star Wars franchise with 1999’s really rather poor The Phantom Menace, Lucas has become a hate figure for an entire generation. Because for anyone – especially male – now around 28 to 40 years-old, Star Wars was a vital part of their childhood, and Lucas’ long-hoped for revival of the franchise was widely considered such a disappointment that many of those cherished memories of pretend lightsaber battles with classmates have now been forever sullied with images of Jar-Jar Binks screaming out “Meesa sorry!” or a child Darth Vader (the stuff of nightmares when we were children) going “Yippee!”
There was a 16-year gap between the last of the original Star Wars films and 1999’s disappointing revival, and it has now been 19 years since the last of the original Indy movies. The similarity in timing, combined with Harrison Ford seeming far too old and uncool for such an action-heavy role, and the fact that many fans of the films hated the early-1990s Young Indiana Jones TV series means it should be little wonder that fans are desperately worried that Lucas may have produced something that will sully yet another batch of nostalgic childhood reminiscences. With the plot and action kept tightly under wraps right up until the release, the only way to find out is to go see for yourself. And let’s face it – you’re going to. This is Indy, after all, and Steven Spielberg’s still in the director’s chair – they surely can’t have mucked it up. Can they?