Last week I finally saw the first Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark). I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss that one all these years, but I’d actually never seen it before. I’ve watched my older brother play the Indiana Jones computer game on his Amiga 500 in the early 90s, I’ve seen Temple of Doom numerous times during my childhood (somehow it was always on TV when I was a kid), I’ve seen The Last Crusade once (and it scared me half to death), and I even saw the fourth one in the theatres last year (and holy Christ, what was the deal with that one? Aliens? What the hell??), but I’ve never seen the one that started it all.
And what a shame that is, because it’s such an awesome movie! There is hardly one dull moment, and the movie had such a great energy that I couldn’t help being sucked completely into it, despite not generally being into the whole action-adventure genre. Harrison Ford does a great job at establishing himself in the part of Indy, particularly because he’s got a knack for the self-irony that’s needed if the character wasn’t going to turn into a total Mary Sue. The opening sequence, with Indy retrieving the golden idol from the cave, is a classic moment of cinema, as is Indy’s nonchelant shooting of the scimitar guy in the bazaar, and the opening of the Ark. People are always saying that the special effects of the latter scene are laughable by today’s standards, but I don’t agree at all. Or, well, yes, I suppose I do, to a certain extent, but like I mentioned in my Scaries Movie Scenes entry I don’t think it matters. Special effects aren’t everything and the scene is so perfectly directed and composed that it hardly matters that you can tell that the melting Nazis are merely wax figures. It’s still completely bone-chilling.
But I think my favourite part of the movie is Marion. She’s just so completely awesome. Karen Allen plays the part with as much self-irony as Ford, so she never turns into a Mary Sue either. She also has a great sexual chemistry with Ford that’s established right from their first scene together, and you easily believe that the two have a history together even if it is never made clear exactly what happened between them – we only know that Marion was the daughter of Indy’s mentor Abner Ravenwood, that she loved Indy, and that he let her down somehow. And she’s gorgeous to boot: Not too skinny, slightly buxom actually, but still fit, and a bit of a hammerhead, which is always cute. Just look at her!:
And then she’s got that perfect combo of being tough, resourceful, and brave and squeamish and scared. See, this is what went awry in The Temple of Doom.
Okay, to be fair, a lot of things went awry in Temple of Doom: it is my personal conviction that Spielberg failed as a director with this sequel because he was determined to suck up to his audience of pre-teen boys (by creating the character of Short Round as an object of identification for them, and by stuffing the movie with gory scenes like the Monkey Brain/Eye Soup one that they could talk about in the schoolyard).
But the female lead in Temple of Doom was a major problem, too. The character of Willie is just way to squeamish. She does nothing but scream and fret throughout the movie, and it does nothing for the dynamics of the movie, and, I might add, nothing for the female Indiana Jones audience. Indy is still cool in Temple of Doom, but it seems rather too easy to be cool when you’re constantly contrasted by a screaming woman. Indy is much more interesting with a competent woman by his side who’s woman enough to challenge him, and to make him look stupid every once in a while, without him liking her any the less for it.
Sure, Marion does get kidnapped, she does scream a little every now and then, and needs to be saved by Indy in shining armour a couple of times, and I don’t really understand why we need to see Marion squeeze into not one, but two different uncomfortable and inconveniently tight dresses during the movie (first the one she’s forced into by Belloq, then the silky one she’s miraculously given as a present aboard the ship). But she also stands erect by Indy’s side, hits a villain over the head with a frying pan when needed, or uses her feminine charm (and impressive ability to hold her liquor!) to pull evil Belloq’s leg. “I’m your goddamn partner!” as she tells Indy early on, and she truly is. It makes Indy seem all the more manly, which, in turn makes him sexier to a female audience and more appealing to the male audience, while Marion makes a likeable character for the female audience to relate to. Everyone’s a winner!
In fact, Marion is so awesome that to me her mere presence was an extenuating circumstance in the trainwreck that was The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, too. I simply have to admire Spielberg for having had the sense to make up for the mistake of leaving Marion out of both Indiana Jones # 2 and 3 in his last Indiana Jones movie. I love it that in Crystal Skull Ford wasn’t paired up with, say, Megan Fox, or some other eye-candy starlet decades younger than him, I love it that Karen Allen looked middle-aged and fabulous, I love it that they provided us with a story that explained why Indy and Marion split up between the first and the third movie (Temple of Doom was a prequel to the first movie, so that does to some extend excuse Marion’s absence in that one), and I love it that they got to get married in the end, and that they’d managed to produce Shia LaBeouf together before Indy left Marion in the 1930s.
I found a great video on youtube by The Movie Critic which lists the ten most f’n awesome Indiana Jones Moments:
I agree with the list for the most part and think it’s a great tribute to Indiana Jones altogether, but I still feel that Marion deserves a list of her own. So here it is – below. If you notice any errors in my summeries of the scenes in question, please let me know. I don’t own the DVDs, so I had to do the list from memory. And with a little help from Wikiquote here and there.
The 10 Most Awesome Marion Ravenwood Moments
10. Drinking Match
I agree with The Movie Critic that Indiana Jones’s character is wonderfully established in the opening sequence of Raiders. But so is Marion Ravenwood’s character in her first scene where we see her kicking a big man’s ass in a drinking contest, to the point where the guy is literally unconscious, while Marion just gets up and leaves triumphantly with not as much as a reeling in her walk. We know at that moment that Indy will meet his match in this woman.
9. “Indiana Jones. Always knew someday you’d come walkin’ back through my door.”
And if there had been any doubt left about whether or not Marion would turn out to be Indy’s match, it’s all cleared up during their first scene together in Raiders: Marion seems pretty cool and calm while first greeting Indy as he enters the bar where she’s a bartender, so Indy’s caught completely off-guard when Marion punches him in the face. “I was a child! I was in love!” she goes on to chastise him, destroying any hope Indy might have had that their failed relationship was long forgiven and forgotten, and that Marion would make things easy for him.
8. Still feisty, twenty years later
In Crystal Skull Indy finds Marion in Peru where she’s been captured by Russians, and it’s been 20 years since he’s seen her. When he first sees her, Indy walks up to her incredulous, and he does this wonderfully goofy grin, obviously expecting to have a warm, tearful reunion with Marion. He really ought to have known better. Because the last time Marion saw Indy, he practically left her standing at the altar, and she’s not about to let him forget about that. The goofy grin is quickly wiped off of Indy’s face as Marion brushes past him unimpressed. Shortly after the following conversation ensues:
“Indy (confused, to Mutt): Marion Ravenwood is your mother?!
Marion: Oh, for God’s sake, Indy, it’s not that hard!
Indy: Well, I know, I just thought-
Marion: That I would never have a life after you left!
Indy: Well, that’s fine…
Marion: A damn good, really good life!
Indy: Well, so have I!
Marion: Really? Still leaving a trail of human wreckage behind you, or have you retired?
Indy: Why, you looking for a date?
Marion: With anyone but you!”
7. Drinking Belloq under the table
Belloq, the chief villain in Raiders, is such a smug bastard. Constantly outmatching Indy using foul play and teaming up with Nazis while wearing a flimsy straw hat that doesn’t hold a candle to Indy’s rugged, brown fedora, he also manages to kidnap Marion and sneaks a very un-gentleman-like peek at her as she slips into a fancy dress that he’s forcing her to wear. Sleazeball. But as has been established early on in Raiders, Marion has a knack for drinking people under the table, and she puts this ability (plus her ability to sex men up) to good use in the scene…
A fellow Marion fan has put up the scene on youtube:
6. Marion and the frying pan
While being chased at the Cairo bazaar in Raiders, Marion manages to outsmart a villain by running into a house, hiding behind the doorframe, and then hitting the guy over the head as he tries to follow her into the house. We don’t actually see her hitting him, we just see her going in, the guy following her, the sound of a frying pan hitting a human head, and then, promptly, the guy falling out of the doorframe, unconscious. It’s a wonderfully slap-stick moment that has even earned the action figure!Marion Ravenwood a frying pan as her attribute:
5. Whac-a-Mole Marion
A little earlier in the bazaar scene, we see Marion and Indy fighting the villains together. While Indy’s doing some heavy fist-fighting, you can see Marion in the background, hitting some of the bad guys over the head with some boxes found in the bazaar. The scene goes on for quite some time, and Marion just keeps at it as if she were a kid at a Whac-A-Mole, going in for the big prize.
4. “Mutt… I mean, his name is Henry… He’s your son.”
See, this is what’s so nice about Marion. She’s feisty, but she still has a big heart, and obviously loves Indy more than she’d care to admit. In Crystal Skull when she believes that she and Indy are seconds away from perishing in drysand, she’s not about to let Indy die without letting him know the truth about her son Mutt, who’s served as Indy’s young partner during the first half of the film: Indy is his father – he fathered the kid unwittingly before he left Marion in 1937. A warm and fuzzy, and also funny moment, nicely played by both Allen and Ford.
3. “We can never seem to get a break, can we, Indy?”
It’s only natural that in the real love scene between Indy and Marion in Raiders, it’s Marion who initiates things, feisty girl that she is. Indy is in bed, and Marion’s next to him, and you can tell that things are heating up between them. Except Indy’s all bruised and battered from having performed a series of impressive stunts in the previous scene, and he whimpers every time Marion tries to touch him. She loses patience with him, and in a scene slightly reminiscent of the scene between Zerlina and Masetto in Don Giovanni ( “Ahi, ahi! La testa mia!” ) Marion asks him to just point out to her the places where he’s not hurting. He starts off innocently, by pointing to his forehead and such, which she kisses, but he keeps getting bolder, and eventually Marion leans down to kiss Indy deeply on the lips. It’s Marion, too, who wants things to go further after this kiss – only to find that the exhausted Indy has fallen a sleep while kissing her and is unable to deliver. Too bad! But then she got her chance later on, as Mutt is living proof to.
2. The Well of Souls
See, this is the difference between Marion and Willie: Marion only screams when she has just cause for it. And she certainly does in the Well of Souls scene. Snakes everywhere, and dried-up dead bodies falling down on her all over the place! So she does a fair amount of screaming in this scene, but she still has the energy to clutch her stiletto-heel shoe, yell at Indy, and curse at Belloq (“You bastard! I’ll get you for this!”). Classy! And awesome.
You can see the whole scene here:
1. “They weren’t you, honey”
There’s a nice bit of conversation in Crystal Skull where Indy and Marion discuss the time that’s gone by since they last saw each other:
Marion: “I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to go on with my life. There must have been plenty of women for you over the years.”
Indy: “There were a few. But they all had the same problem.”
Marion: “Yeah, what’s that?”
Indy: “They weren’t you, honey.”
I swear, half the audience when “Awww!” at this line when I saw the movie in the theatre. Arguably it’s mostly Indy being awesome in this little bit of dialogue, but I like to see the line as a nod to Indy fans – an apology for having replaced Marion’s character with tedious “Indy” girls in Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade.