Indy The Antihero
There are certain, unconscionable gaps in my pop culture knowledge that my friends deem unforgivable.
For example, I did not see any of the Star Wars movies until I was a full-fledged grownup in grad school. (I, however, did know the general plots because I had played LEGO Star Wars and seen the Family Guy parody versions.)
This is probably why the magic nostalgia of The Force Awakens failed to awaken anything in me, much as I do enjoy the films.
Another major gap was, until very recently, the Indiana Jones movies. But I found all four on Hulu last weekend and so set myself to crossing this storied franchise off the list.
I got as far as Raiders of the Lost Ark (so, not very far) and then found myself oddly … unmoved.
Raiders is widely regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made. When I went to Amazing Hawaii Comic Con a few months back, Brian Michael Bendis (an amazing storyteller in his own right) talked for a half-hour about how he saw the film, like, 30 times as a child. He memorized every scene.
I don’t know. I just couldn’t get into it. I appreciate the narrative beats, the whirling set pieces (that opening scene!), the way the stakes get upped just enough, every single time. I appreciate the film’s disconcertingly graphic violence (culminating in Nazi face melting, of course) and wry, quick humor. I can see, definitively, why this movie changed the action genre.
All right, fine, I’ll be honest. I just could not stand Indiana Jones himself because he’s a dick.
He’s an awful archaeologist because every precious old thing he touches, like, explodes into dust afterward. His treatment of Marion Ravenwood veers toward downright mean at times. He leaves most of the people who help him in the dust. He is good at Die Harding his way through tough spots, I’ll give him that, though he’s much luckier than John McClane.
The movie’s key moment, I think, is when Belloq calls Indy’s bluff on destroying the Ark. You won’t do it, he says, because you want to know what’s inside just as badly as I do.
And Indy puts the bazooka down and is, in fact, a very passive participant in the film’s final sequence. It’s a subversion of everything he’s done in the film until that point. It adds that little weakness to his character; in fact, it makes him a fleshed-out character like nothing else he does.
But the movie skates past the very character it developed and prefers instead to venerate Indy, placing him on a pedestal all the other characters gather around in blind admiration.
There’s a pointed disconnect between the Indiana Jones that exists, and the Indiana Jones everyone sees. He’s an antihero that everyone treats like a hero.
It’s a baffling decision in storytelling, a strange kind of laziness that assumes that Harrison Ford’s dashing good looks and the general coolness of bullwhips are enough to carry the film. And I guess it was (just not for me).
Well, maybe Temple of Doom will be better?