The first two Indiana Jones movies have been criticised by many film writers for their somewhat dubious approach to cultural politics, but The Village Voice have published a slightly different take on this controversial subject.
In his piece, Indiana Jones and the Perils of Humanistic Decency, Alan Scherstuhl acknowledges that “the colonial assumptions of the first two Indiana Jones pictures have not aged well”, but suggests that the harder, more “disreputable” edges of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom make them superior to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which are more grown-up works of art, but less enjoyable movies.
“[Raiders] is a film made by a kid eating SpaghettiOs, a kid who knows it’s hilarious for the pragmatic American hero to just cold pop the Arab swordsman still enamored of ritual and time-wasting displays of grace. The latter two Jones pictures, in which the grave robber has become a gently unpleasant preserver of trinkets, were made by a grown-up, a serious artist, a good liberal, a citizen of the world, an ambassador of his culture, and a good-hearted boomer bonhomie. Just as it’s hard to picture the Spielberg who made the tony, undervalued War Horse hunkering down with some Chef Boyardee, it’s impossible to picture the Indiana Jones of the tepid Kingdom of the Crystal Skull willy-nilly murdering Lucas’s sleazos.
“That Spielberg is now above such nastiness is a net gain for his soul but a serious a loss for adventure movies. An Indiana Jones who plays by our rules of humanistic multiculturalism is like a James Bond who isn’t a misogynist—what’s the point?”
There’s lots of great reading to be found in this series of Indiana Jones features that Empire magazine ran around (I think) the time of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s release.
Those well-versed in Indy history won’t find too much new material here, but it’s nice to have such a great resource just a mouse-click away.