Who is Indiana Jones to us, and what did a fourth film do to him?
If you pop in Indiana Jones, you will be introduced to his silhouette at first. Then, you follow him into the jungle and witness the fear of those in his wake of mystery and adventure. A man pulls a gun, and Indie cracks his whip! Then snap. He is revealed. Our hero. We follow him to a cave where no man dare go, or leave alive. He is sly and capable, intelligent and confident as he slips past creepy crawlers and booby traps. Then comes the idol. He licks his lips, twiddles his fingers, and with a counter weight of dirt, makes the switch.
It is at this time that we really meet the hero. He is not perfect, he, like John McLean from Die Hard, is a humorous, masculine guy just making shit up as he goes along and rolling with the punches. He knows when to panic, and is laughable in his goof ups as much as he is the man we root for when he succeeds. He is often accompanied by women who won't shut up, travels the world (tracked by the audience with the theme song and red line on a map) and sports his fedora, whip, gun, and leather jacket.
It was in a way, like going from meeting Indiana Jones, to (after the idol triggers the rock) meeting Junior, the boy with a taste for adventure that liked his dogs name.
We the people have followed Indiana Jones tied to a post with his eyes clenched shut in the midst of Gods wrath; hanging in a canyon above alligators with a hand in his chest, gripping his heart; and drinking from the cup of Jesus Christ before riding out into the sunset.
We truly witnessed adventure. It was in three movies. The enemy were German Nazis in a world with relics of religion.
Spielberg went past a trilogy so Indie could face Russian Reds in a world with relics of science. This was a risk, but a well taken risk. On a personal note, the fourth movie went to hell the moment they got in the jungle (or earlier when the skull was rotated to reveal it was an alien). However, if this makes itself into another trilogy with this Russian/Science theme, I think there is a lot of potential.
That being said, the potential of a good thing with an extension does not outweigh the potential of it being a bad thing.
A trilogy for a movie series is significant. It makes a bold statement about the run of the series and how it was received; it is often times the archetype for pop culture references, and stands the test of time. We have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Back to the Future, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, The Hannibal Lecter saga, Star Wars, etc.
There are anomalies to the rule of three when it comes to a series. Some times, two movies can be as powerful and everlasting as a trilogy (like Ghostbusters); other times, a trilogy successfully has a fourth film that isn't shit (Live Free or Die Hard was fantastic- - honestly, if we eliminate "Die Harder" and made it a trilogy, I would be just as happy). Those are two anomalies on either side of a third film that hold positive results.
The flip side is where negative outcomes occur when trilogies are altered in "clever" ways. Steven Spielberg has disrespected the rule of three to Indiana Jones, one of the most elite trilogies in cinema history. An idea! Lets take a trilogy that ended perfectly, and move it from golden age cinema, to contemporary commercialism! Now lets make the main character from dealing with Nazis and relics, to 1950's reds and aliens!
Promises were made. The film was to be shot campy and practical to maintain its independent roots and raw cinematic feel. Lets face the facts. The very first thing you see in the film (no joke) is a CGI gofer. It pops out of the ground. CGI gofer.
As if that weren't bad enough, keep on watching, and Indiana Jones will survive a nuclear blast in a CGI refrigerator that bounces so bad that the concussions alone would make him think he were Han Solo (which would be weird if you're actually Indiana Jones).
As if that weren't bad enough, there is an event that results in some rocks sliding and falling down a hill. The rocks are CGI. Come on, Steven!!! You couldn't afford any rocks?? Rocks, Steven!! ROCKS!
Needless to say, the movie is littered with a broken promise.
Fans were concerned about the leaking rumors about aliens which were squashed by Steven clarifying that there would be no aliens from outer space. Ah yes, I believe he referred to these fucked up creatures as: Beings of higher consciousness that exist within the "spaces between spaces". I couldn't help but relate the experience and betrayal of this sick word play to being a child in a car on a trip with my parents. You know when you ask you dad if you can stop at an exciting place you see outside the window, and he excitedly tells you "Sure we'll stop there! On the way back, okay?" And he would take a different way back? No? Well neither do I...I was just checking to see if that was the case for you folk.
The film had a number of winks to the series and luckily got them out of the way early. They didn't make the same mistake as T3. The problem with making winks to a series is that you are distancing yourself as a film installment. How can a film comfortably fit in as an installment when you are too busy hovering over the predecessors pointing and going "I remember that! Ha!".
The introduction of Mutt (Shia Labeouf) the dog named little bitch, was a disappointment. Disturbia, Eagle Eye, Indiana Jones, Transformers. Who's cock did Even Steven suck exactly? Regardless. It was not suspected so much as feared that this guy would be the son of Indiana Jones and fears proved true. Luckily, the torch was not passed to Shia by way of Indie's blowing hat. Which is a good thing. Not to say Mutt's character wasn't capable or anything - after all, apparently he can swing on vines faster than jungle monkeys and Jeeps on his first attempt.
To conclude, my only hope is that two more movies are made, and that they take better care than the fourth. That way there are two separate trilogies of the same universe, and then we Indie fans can whine like the Star Wars gang about the old/new trilogy (or "original", however it's being worded these days).