Indy aged, and so did the world. In the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indy (Harrison Ford) is embroiled in the controversy of the day, Soviet Communism. It’s 1957, and Indy is prisoner of a Soviet paranormal researcher named Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), who’s snooping around Roswell, New Mexico.
If you know anything about Roswell, you may discern where all of this is going. Indy winds up on an adventure that will re-introduce the love of his life, Marion (Karen Allen), to the storyline and will include stories of conquistadors searching for El Dorado.
Indy escapes his Soviet captors, but his experience with them makes him suspect to the FBI. Agents “debrief” him, which leads to dismissal from his teaching job. He tries to find a new job, but meets Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), who has a letter that takes Indy in search of the crystal skull, which will unlock the mysteries of parapsychology. The letter leads to Peru, possibly El Dorado, and a crazy colleague played by John Hurt.
In the past three installments, the focus has been on metaphysics. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Temple of Doom” and “The Last Crusade” are all stories with a theological angle to them. This installment focuses on science fiction, and the goal of those involved is more secular than sacred. And it may be better said that the secular is now sacred.
Spalko is an atheist. She doesn’t want faith, but knowledge. Her mantra is “I want to know.” There is no faith here, except a faith that the human mind is more sacred and divine than any book, stone or being. She believes she has the power to know what people think based on study and reason.
Indy is part of this, and it seems he’s forgotten his past experiences. He stated in the first movie that archeology is not the search for truth, but facts. Yet, truth turned up in his adventures—but not this one.
The morality of this story is one of modernity. It reflects the belief that science and technology are the ways to salvation. We cannot depend on what is divine to save us; we will instead be saved by secular knowledge, such as paranormal and psychic research.
This is not a bad movie, just not a good Indiana Jones movie. It’s contrived in its telling, and the desire to “pay homage” to the movies of the past gets in the way of the storytelling. The movie doesn’t look as “alive” as its predecessors.
We read that Ford did more stunts in this movie than any of the others. That doesn’t cover for the fact that it seems he does not know who the character is. He is no longer the worldly adventurer, but a world-weary professor of archeology in some university.
For purists of the franchise, this movie will feel like the recent “Star Wars” movies. Much is familiar, but the tone and timbre seems off, making us long for what was …
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: David Koepp
Cast: Indiana Jones: Harrison Ford; Irina Spalko: Cate Blanchett; Marion Ravenwood: Karen Allen; Mutt Williams: Shia LaBeouf; George “Mac” McHale: Ray Winstone; Professor Oxley: John Hurt; Dean Charles Stanforth: Jim Broadbent.
The movie’s official Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.