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Indiana Jones and... the Retirement Party

Contains Spoilers!

This is part of the "Best of..." series.

The Indiana Jones Series (1981-2023) is one of the most iconic film series to grace cinema. Thanks to George Lucas (of Star Wars), the series become another victim to that sinister movie industry villain - money.

Let's be honest, the films are crap. But they are fun as well, and that is what has made them successful. Along with charismatic cast, over-the-top action sequences and inconsistencies galore, these films have continued to be in demand and helped further cement Harrison Ford (Jones) in action hero folklore. I will put forward here the films in my order of worst to best.

Fifth - The Temple of Doom (1984) - 3/10

Sadly, I really think this film was ruined simply by Kate Capshaw as Willie Shaw. Being the second in the series, it was fated to be worse than the others, but Capshaw made it worse for me. After Raiders of the Lost Ark and Karen Allen portraying Marion, Capshaw's character Willie Scott is a ridiculous inclusion. She fills the gaps where Indiana and Short Round are about to die with no escape, however she spends the rest of the time either screaming excessively or getting obsessed with diamonds and jewellery. There is one scene in the jungle where Indy and Short Round are play cards while she is running from one side of the came to the other screaming at every creature that moves. It's supposed to be funny as they guys sit there and ignore her but by this point Willie has screamed in every scene she has been and it gets old so fast. It's also the only film in the franchise that doesn't have a scene that "settles" you into the film. I don't count their dinner scene because it is still tense, and it sets up too much coming up. It is bad.

Fourth - The Dial of Destiny (2023) - 3/10

This one had promise. I don't really like Phoebe Waller-Bridge's acting style, and in this one she is too confident considering who she is playing. But as the film progresses she is shown up by Indy. Irritatingly, this film then goes on to take us on a trip through time, quite literally. I don't like time-travel films all that much and this one took the piss a bit. A 1960's restored WW2 Nazi plane, flying through a cloud to the Siege of Syracuse in 213 BC took it too far for me. I'm not going to go further because otherwise I might as well tell the whole story. I didn't think much of it.

Third - Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) 5/10

A rare moment in the cinematic movement of "restarting" iconic franchises where the restart movie was not awful. What I like about the Indiana Jones series is that, with the exception of Temple of Doom, the female characters are strong-willed. This is because they films are set at a time when the expectations of women being "dainty" and "lady-like" have been... shelved (for lack of a better phrase) due to the war. This gives license for the female characters to be far more involved and independent in the stories. Cate Blanchett plays the villain in this episode wonderfully, and really throws herself into the insanity that they role demands, and Marion returns! We love Marion! As with all Indiana films, we have an utterly ridiculous ending that is more ridiculous than the others (with the exception of Dial of Destiny) by the escape. John Hurt guest-stars, which is a bonus, and there is the classic mid-film escape scene that doesn't help them get away but allows for some underlying plot-point to be revealed. The disappointment of this film is that it "stars" Shia LaBeouf. It is before his recent years of controversy (2013-2020) (sorry that the link is Wikipedia), so it isn't his worst, but still. Ray Winstone is quite good in it though. It could have been a lot worse, but it is head a shoulders about Dial of Destiny!

Second - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - 7/10

The first of the franchise set the tone for the ridiculousness of it all and it didn't disappoint. It is fast-paced, fun, idiotic and cheeky. There was absolutely no seriousness taken in it and, I believe, it has almost all of it's main characters baring some substance to themselves. Karen Allen, as Marion, holds her presence in the film just as dynamically and powerfully as Harrison Ford in the lead and she appeared to really enjoy her action scenes. We don't need to mention Harrison Ford being Harrison Ford, because he controls the whole film. In the Bazaar scene (from approx 1:55 in this linked clip), as Indy is surrounded by locals and a warrior spins a sword around looking menacing and is promptly shot by Indy, Ford was terribly ill that day and that was the only thing he shot. It was supposedly going to be another fight scene, but his illness led the writers and director to rewrite the scene and it became iconic. John Rhys-Davies, as Indy's friend Sallah, enjoys his over-the-top, yet somehow stereotypical Arabian role. He is funny and serious is equal measure, which is the main drive to keep some focus on the actual story.

A small mention here needs to go to Ronald Lacey (1935-1991) who played the evil German Agent who comes knocking on Marion's door at the beginning and is the sinister side-villain in the film. As I found out in my research for this article, he played Harris in my all-time top TV Series Porridge (1974-1977) prior to Raiders of the Lost Ark and the legendary "Baby Eating" Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder 2 (1986) a few years later. Now that is an actor with range!

First - The Last Crusade (1989) - 8/10

Finally, the best of the lot. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark before it, The Last Crusade boasts strong, dynamic characters that compliment each other well and a leading female role that isn't pathetic or screaming. Sean Connery (1930-2020) as Indy's Dad was a superb choice, with them bouncing off each other so expertly, and Connery plays Dr Jones Snr with such a youthful enthusiasm it really helps their chemistry with Indy not knowing whether to be embarrassed or impressed. Marcus Brody, played by Denholm Elliott (1922-1992) returns after Raiders of the Lost Ark and is a bigger character here, being far more involved. He is the "comic relief", if you will (considering the nature of the film), as he is actually utterly useless on his own but is prepared to risk it all for the Jones'. This is the best film of the lot, and I would happily just watch this one over and over again.

The Indiana Jones franchise has officially been closed off now after Dial with Destiny, which is arguably two films too late, but don't count your chickens. As much as I would like to think that Jones and Ford have finally been retired as a duo, I would not be surprised if we saw "youthful reboot" with someone younger cast. Take Solo: A Star Wars Story for example. They recast Ford's character to make an earlier story in his timeline, so I would not put it past the producers to consider doing the same here. I certainly hope they don't.

Original Indy (Left) is definitely my preferred Indy. Sorry Harrison.

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