News has emerged over the last few weeks for plans to make another couple of Matrix films and, shock horror, another addition to the Indiana Jones franchise. Normally news like this wouldn’t bother, or in the least bit surprise me, but when it comes to Indiana Jones, an institution that myself and many others grew up on, I felt forced to ask why oh why are they killing classics? In the 1980’s two legends of the movie world in George Lucas and Steven Spielberg came together to create a new hero and Hollywood icon in Indiana Jones. After Tom Selleck and his moustache originally rejected the role in favour of the movie Three men and a baby, up stepped Harrison Ford to the fill the hat and take the whip as one of Hollywood’s most iconic characters.
Two classic films followed, with more adventure, action, imagination and Sean Connery, as Indy journeyed to the Temple of Doom and became the only American in history to capture the Holy Grail in the Last Crusade. The trilogy climaxed with Indy and his companions riding off into the sunset (literally) to the classic John Williams theme and that was that… or so we thought. I grew up on Indiana Jones, idolised him as a character and loved the films with their amazing mix of action, history and comedy. Indy is quite simply the man and has to be the coolest archaeologist/professor of all time. So like millions of others around the world I was unbelievably excited when the 4th film was announced after 15 years without Indy.
[pullquote_right]Take the original Indiana Jones trilogy, the original Star Wars films, Back to the Future, The Lord of the Rings and now Nolans revamp of Batman, to name a small few, these are all trilogies made for the right reasons. Then look at the Matrix sequels, the Star Wars prequels, the ongoing American Pie saga (yes they’re making another one) It does seem all these films were made to milk a classic original, knowing full well that we would flock in our millions to go and see them.[/pullquote_right]So there I was May 2008 outside the cinema when the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released. At my side, an unwilling girlfriend who was falling out of love with me as I turned into an Indy geek and who wouldn’t let me wear my imitation hat. I emerged bleary eyed after 2 hours of Indy, to discover after 15 years of waiting and build up: I was completely and utterly gutted. I don’t wish to pretend that Indy’s 4th adventure is a bad film, it’s just a bad Indiana Jones film. For young kids and first time viewers, it’s a typical summer blockbuster: Entertaining, fun and unrealistic with crazy action and slapstick humour. For Indiana Jones fans however it is a massive jump away from what made the original films so great: unnecessary scenes, unnecessary actors and a poor storyline filled with George Lucas inspired CGI.
The use of extensive CGI was shocking when you consider a few months before production, Spielberg promised me a return to the old school stunts of previous films and using CGI very sparingly. You get the impression that George Lucas, legend that he is, got carried away in the CGI suite when Spielberg was off sick. Much like he did with the Star Wars prequels, pardon the expression, he alienated fans. There are certain things that fans will put up with and some they won’t. I didn’t care that Indy was supposed to be a school teacher, archaeologist, skilled whip-smith who could also drive anything and speak a dozen languages on his adventures around the world. It didn’t make any difference to the Last Crusade that Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were around the same age but still playing father and son and Indy’s dad was Scottish for some reason. But I draw the line at substituting real life action sequences for computer generated aliens and bringing Ray Winston into an unnecessary role.
This is in no way an attack on sequels such as Indiana Jones in particular. I love sequels, prequels and trilogies, anything that continues a story when it’s necessary. What I can’t take (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) is continuing classic films, to make the next so called blockbuster and a quick buck for everyone involved.
The Matrix sequels were possibly two of the most unnecessary films of all time. Films that were made to complete that DVD box-set and push franchise sales, based on the phenomenal success of a great original film. Would it be fair to think that studios are now more concerned with milking that cash cow i.e the original film and as a consequence are more willing to compromise integrity and quality? You decide.
So what next? Well in a recent interview Keanu Reeves hinted that the wheels are in motion for possibly two more Matrix films, another slice of American Pie is due for release next year and Indiana Jones and the quest for the unnecessary trilogy, also looks to be continuing soon. My main fear is that Shia Labeouf will eventually take the reins from Harrison Ford and completely ruin a Hollywood institution. You never know, maybe I’m being a little cynical and the new sequels will breath fresh life into the classics, but I’m highly concerned about a Police Academy type scenario where one cult film breeds 11 new and terrible sequels. (not that we can call Police Academy a classic can we?)
So are they killing the classics? I guess it all comes down to your own opinion on sequels. Is it just studio pressure based on money and demand? Is commercial success more important than creative art to the biggest studios? I’m not sure, but if I ever hear of a 4th Back to the Future film I swear I’ll cry.