Old Men, New Magic

IndyOn May 22 an event will happen that I’ve been longing for all my adult life. Indiana Jones will return. He will ride out of my memory and be real again, large in the light on the screen with his crooked smile, bloodied knuckles, and awkward machismo. Just typing that name got me a little choked up and nostalgic. Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the first movies I remember seeing (it was either that or The Empire Strikes Back) and I don’t remember whether my interest in archaeology predates Indy or not but either way, both he and it are integral parts of my childhood. He was the greatest of silver screen heroes. Smart, rugged, wearing a leather coat and a hat that no one since has been able to pull off and he’s got a freakin’ bullwhip! And on top of all this he’s risking his life to save the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat itself.

Spielberg and Lucas set the bar high enough for Action/Adventure that a generation has gone by and it hasn’t been touched. They managed to key in on the perfect confluence of character and story, humor and drama, action and romance, human and super-human. The look of the films is at the same time unique and old as cinema itself. It’s as instantly recognizable as the gamboling theme of that unforgettable score. Will there ever be another film composer to equal John Williams?

Every now and again I pull out the DVD set and put in the old Indy movies for the boys I work with and I’m overjoyed to see how well the movies have aged. Even though I can see the pole sticking out of the bottom of the flipped truck in Cairo, even though the ditch Indy is laying in underneath that truck is plainly visible, even though Belloq’s exploding head is as cheesy as a Gob Bluth parlor trick, the stories hold, the action gallops, the jokes land, the spirit of a boy breathes and aches and soars, and no one says, “That movie is old,” they say, “That movie is good.”.

And now, after all those years of wanting and wishing and hoping he’d come back and take me with him, he’ll be here next week. But instead of elation and pure anticipation, I’m scared of it. The scars George Lucas gave us when he butchered my generation’s cherished Star Wars memories with the abominable prequels are still fresh in my mind. Once bitten, twice shy, I suppose. In my dreams, I hear Indy at the end of Raiders screaming, “Don’t look at it, Marion! Keep your eyes SHUT!” as what looks like angels come flooding out of the Ark and then before the eyes of those watching, the beauty they anticipated turns to horror.

So I’m telling myself, everyday now, this movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, this movie is going to be awful. This movie is not the longing of the boy inside me. This movie is not going to make me feel like a kid again. It’s not going to inspire a love of archeology in young boys today the way it did in me over twenty years ago. I must lower my expectations. I can’t handle another tragedy on the scale of The Phantom Menace. I hope that if I can convince myself to lower those expectations enough and expect nothing more than another The Mummy-style pretender to the throne that when the day finally comes, I will sit in the darkened, butter-scented theatre and I will hold my breath when the projector sputters to life and I will grow somehow smaller and younger when through misty eyes I see that magical “Lucasfilm” logo spangled across the silver screen and I will believe that old men can bring new magic into the world. And that timeless theme will play. His voice will say “Trust me,” and he’ll smirk. And Indiana Jones will live again.

Don’t think about, I say. Just keeping reminding yourself:

This movie is going to suck…
This movie is going to suck…
This movie is going to suck…