The Indiana Jones Phenomenon

Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 21, 2008; 1:00 PM

Post feature writer Hank Stuever will be online Wednesday, May 21, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his recent article, " Indiana Jones and the Meaningless Void." The essay argues that, unlike movie franchises like the "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" sagas, the Indy films lack a solid mythology.

As the world prepares for the opening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" on Thursday, join Stuever to discuss his thoughts on Indy.

A transcript follows.


Hank Stuever: Hello everyone. It's Indy Eve. Thanks for joining the chat today, or at least toggling between this room and the probably far more jittery-in-a-good-way "American Idol" chat going on with Lisa D next door.

We're here to talk about all things Indiana. I wrote a piece Sunday's Style & Arts section -- "Indiana Jones and the Meaningless Void" -- that can serve as a conversation starter (and for some, I can serve as your personal pinata, since you did NOT like it, think I'm a pseudo-intellectual turd, etc. It's all in my job description; I am here to serve you, the very important and elusive and time-strapped and discerning customer)

ANYWAY, Indiana Jones! Does he stand for anything? Is it a great thing to just represent FUN, THRILL, MOVIEMAKING?

Do you have things to say about Lucas, Spielberg?

Have you SEEEEEEEN it yet? (There was a press screening on Sunday night in DC, but no other advance peeks that I know of, unless you're at Cannes, and if you are, cannes you write in and tell us what you thought?) I have NOT seen the movie. That's a big caveat to this chat. But I've read tons of spoilers (hey, I don't care) and I'll be posting spoiler alerts throughout to warn you off. Don't look if you can't take it. I'll also be sharing some of the feedback my piece got on the nasty comments board, AND I'll be sharing some of the reviews I've seen online. (I got a peek at Steve Hunter's review tomorrow, but I can't share that yet, not safely. Steve's a gun nut, you know.)

Let's get our Indy on.


New York, N.Y.: Let me ask you this: What do you like about the Indiana Jones movies? Did you enjoy them as kid?

Hank Stuever: Yes. I also want to hear from people today who have great memories of when they first saw it ... though I don't hear as many stories about "waiting for Indy" the way you hear about, for example, people camping out for Star Wars, etc.

(Has anybody driven by the Uptown on Connecticut today? Are there campers?)

Anyway, to answer your question, New York, YES, I do like these movies. WHAT do I like about them? Well, for one thing, one of the best memories I have of my dad (who died last October, and to make a long story short, he and I were quite estranged) is when he, my mother and I went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, on a July night in 1981. My dad, a huge John Wayne fan and one of those guys who imagined himself quite larger than life, got the biggest kick out of Raiders. Laughed his head off when Indy shoots the swordsman in the Cairo market. Pure, pure joy, and I felt it too, and I never forgot it. I even remember the theater -- NorthPark 4, Oklahoma City. A good memory, thanks to Spielberg, et al.


Anonymous: I really do not want to see it. A remake of films last done 20 years ago. "Hero" over 60 now (sure, stunts will make him look young -- but just imagine him accepting a leading lady his age, which would really show his age). When asked why they made this film, Spielberg and others mention the desire of fans and the thrill of getting together with old friends -- all valid enough -- but no one, I mean no one, mentions money (it's okay folks, you're in the movie biz to make money). And the new star (LeBeouf?) was on David Letterman recently, and he came across as a real egotistical jerk.

Hank Stuever: They will miss your $10.50.


Chicago, Ill.: Whatever interest I had in Indy 4 dissipated once I read that George Lucas pushed to give it a 50's B-movie sci-fi influence. What is with that guy's obsession with dumb old serials? Can he ruin anything else?

Hank Stuever: People have a real lack of faith in George Lucas, after the Star Wars prequels. I think they HAD to push the story into the 1950s, because there's no getting around the fact that their star is AARP-plus. I like the idea of moving it to the Cold War. My initial thought was that he should pursue Nazis who are hiding in South America, maybe even Hitler himself? Too much.

My friend Mike Schaffer had a brilliant idea: His nemesis now would be Short Round, a Maoist baddie in Cultural Revolution China!!


Baltimore, Md.: Why the fuss over Jungle Jim serials?: As someone old enough to remember the tail end of the movie serial era, I am amazed that people look for larger meanings in the Indiana Jones films (or "Star Wars," for that matter). Lucas and Spielberg, for both franchises, seized upon a simple premise: what if you remade the old Saturday matinee movie serials as big budget extravaganzas? So they did, and the results were mildly diverting -- especially to those who remember the originals -- but to invest them with anything beyond pop entertainment value is a bit like asking my cats to discuss Wittgenstein; i.e. pointless.

Hank Stuever: Your cats have lots to say about Weingarten, but you just aren't hearing them.

I think, to get to your question (why the fuss) is that these movies are more than serials simply for their economic heft. They cost a lot to make and have reaped billions and do wind up meaning a lot to the people who grew up with them and overthought their impact. Also, blockbusters are THE American export now. Not grain, not cars but CGI, icons, entertainment. Blockbusters are our pyramids, our mythology a little bit -- the largest expression of what we were as a society, what we revered, so someone might be deeply interested a couple thousand years from now. It's a theory.


What does it mean?: Don't forget the whole good vs. evil thing -- not "good wins," just reaffirming that there actually is a "good." How many folks nowadays really believe in the stories of the Bible, really believe that God not only exists, but that He will go so far as to create a big, giant box o'smiting just in case He happens to be distracted at a bad time? Or that Jesus not only came and died for our sins, but that he was so magic that his mere touch transformed this little cup into an eternal life-giver? And, oh, yeah, that THAT's the guy who's looking out for little old me?

Sure we enjoy fun and adventures, but we want it all to be FOR something. We want life to mean something, but we're afraid that it doesn't -- that this is all there is. Just pure adventure is a nice distraction, but then you walk out of the theater realizing that, yes, you're still going to die, and that's all she wrote.

Hot macho/tender guy, rollicking adventures, race against time to defeat the big bad -- that's your basic Clive Cussler: a nice fling, but nothing lasting. But sprinkle in references to things that we recognize/want but don't really believe, and then have the big denouement confirm that it's all true, in the best of all possible ways -- now THAT resonates (well, as long as it's "our" mythos, and not, say, Indy 2). That's when you move into the realm of hero story and cultural icon.

Plus, you know, there's the hat.

Hank Stuever: Brilliant, thank you.


Boston, Mass.: Hey there!

As a 22-year-old female, I enjoy Indiana Jones' adventures for one reason: They make me happy. The movies are just plain old fun. From the first time I saw them as a little girl, I keep coming back for more. The movies never tried to be more than just a good ole adventure/serial.

Hank Stuever: Nice, thank you. I disagree with one part of your comment -- they were only meant to be good ole adventure serials. Good ole adventure serials were made much more cheaply, and more frequently. "Lost" is a good ole adventure serial. Indy is a major, major production that took three years, then three years, then five years, then 16 years to make ... four episodes in a serial. (Of course, you can throw in the TV show, "Young Indy" if you want...)


Brookland, Washington, D.C.: Couldn't Indiana Jones be seen as a derivative of U.S. heroes like Lewis and Clark, or the Old West cowboys or lawmen?

Hank Stuever: Indy can be derivative of a lot, but that's a good start. In fact, it's ALL derivative. That irritated critics, until they gave in. All the original reviews of Star Wars were like, hello, Flash Gordon? (And everything else!) By "Raiders," in 1981, critics got the memo: Derivative, good. We likey. We want to ride again and again.


Washington, D.C.: I understand your premise, but you're trying to make a case that doesn't need to be made, and an arguement that really doesn't have much basis.

Why DOES a film like Indiana Jones need a deeper meaning? Can't a film exist for pure entertainment, wonder, amazement, awe, or just pure enjoyment? The Indiana Jones saga (one that extends FAR beyond the soon-to-be four theatrical releases in the form of comics and the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television show) is about a nerdy hero; a guy who goes out and has a lot of fun doing his job, and finds ways to get himself into and out of serious troubles. The character is an icon, as much as Michael Corleone, Hannibal Lecter, Moses, or Batman.

I wonder if you really understand the movies and television show, or if you're just trying to draw attention to yourself by taking a devil's advocate position. Regardless, you fail to make a convincing argument.

Hank Stuever: I think my argument gets better (a widdle bit) if you check out the sidebar. (Can we link to it?) "What We Talk About When Talk About ..." Star Wars, Star Trek, the Matrix, Harry Potter etc.

My premise, and I stand by it: For movies that are so expensive to make, reaped so much box office, Indy movies seem to have never created a large community of further talk. (I'm excluding "fan fiction" and self-made fan films, etc., though that's an important angle, and I included it in the piece.) Whereas so many other big franchises are built around (arguably) big ideas, the biggest idea here is Wheeeee. I didn't answer it, because the answer is Shut Up Hank.


re: Short Round LOL: ShortRound: "Indy! Why you leave me with crazy woman in India? You dead to me."

As someone of Indian descent, I appreciated that they brought some of India into the series. I just wish it hadn't been done so ham-handedly or inappropriately. (No Indian I know has ever eaten monkey brains. Thanks to Hanuman that would be considered a major no-no.) Having said that, I love the Indiana Jones franchise even up to reading all the books, including the one on which the current release is based. It's been decades though and I don't know how it will translate to film. So, I'm keeping my expectations low and hoping for a pleasant surprise.

Hank Stuever: There's a two-hour chat to be had where some of raise all the hamhanded stereotyping issues and the rest of us shout "get a life it's only a movie" ... so I sympathize. The first two movies especially have a real vibe of "all brown people are alike, and most importantly, they are Not Indy." Lucas says all his MacGuffins (the ark, the Sankara stones, the crystal skull) are rooted in real lore. But yeah, not the monkey brains.


St. Mary's City, Md.: The franchise is devoid of meaning because its goal is simply action and special effects for their own sake. Except for the third movie's relationship between Jones and his father, there was little character development. As much as I enjoy the films, I recognize that they are cinematic fast food. I hear from many younger moviegoers who rate movies based on the CGI, like they're comparing thrill rides at Kings Dominion. Can you think of franchises that emphasize special effects while still telling stories about people? There is some of that in "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter," but the character development seems somewhat shallow.

Hank Stuever: You said it, St. Mary's City.

_______________________ Here is that mythology sidebar Hank mentioned: What We Talk About When We Talk About Box Office Icons


Boston, Mass.: I find it interesting that, when making your case for the void in Indiana Jones, you contrast it with "Star Wars." I always found "Star Wars" thematically empty, even more so when the second trilogy came out. To me, the scene that summed up Lucas's approach to movie-making was when the droids walk past the giant sandworm skeleton. It's Lucas saying, "Oh, look, there's something interesting from someone else's world. Let's grab it and throw it into the pot." Lucas's world is a mishmash of icons and symbols from other places and other times, stripped of their meaning. He creates the skeleton of a mythology, just the way Joseph Campbell told him to, without any content. Episode 1 reeked of racism, not, I think, because Lucas is a racist, but because when he stole iconography from World War II movies he also brought along some of the anti-Japanese propaganda and unconscious assumptions of his sources.

The copying of form without the addition of substance goes all the way back to "THX-1138," where one of the new embryos being developed is numbered 666, in what feels like an attempt at Twilight-Zone-level spookiness. It carries over into the Indiana Jones franchise as well, which are masterful grab bags of old movie tropes.

Hank Stuever: Great post, Boston, thanks.

Plus, I would like to point out again, Lucas, who drafts all his mishmash imagery on yellow legal pads with pencils, draws circles for the dots of his i's. Who besides 12-year-old girls does that? Am I alone in being skeeved out by that? I encountered it in a total geeking-out moment when I read the reproudctions of his legal pads pencil scratches for "The Star Wars" in the early '70s. Has anybody ever really read those? Oh my gaw, you would not recognize SW. What a mess it started out as. Here's to legal pads and Number 4 pencils -- and ERASERS.


Alexandria, Va.: So what if Indy is derivative ... Name me one thing original in Hollywood!

Filmmakers are given WAY too much money to take chances on original ideas or concepts, so of course studios are only willing to bet on proven concepts. As human beings we look for familiarity, and that's what sequels offer.

Hank Stuever: That's a good challenge. People, name one thing original in Hollywood, recently.


Silver Spring, Md.: I read that article and realized you were right: its about FUN and ENTERTAINMENT, and not some deeper meaning. And after steaming about it for, oh, 30 seconds, I remembered that's why I love "Raiders." My favorite movie-going experience, without a doubt, was spending an afternoon at the AFI Silver a couple of summers ago when they showed it on the big screen. Two hours of delightfully fun summer entertainment that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Of course, sharing it with a theater full of people all whispering "Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?" didn't hurt!

Hank Stuever: Plus, don't forget: Popcorn, air-conditioning.

I have a funny "snakes why'd it have to be snakes" thing to share from our comments board:

Stuever.....with a thesaurus.

Why did it have to be Stuever with a thesaurus?

I hate Stuever.

I hate the thesaurus.

Don't look, Marianne!

Don't read Stuever!

It will kill you!


Alexandria, Va.: My dad took me (and my brother, for the third) to see all three movies. We both loved them - just total entertainment. Considering that he's never forgiven me for being forced to watch "The Dark Crystal," I love the fact that the Jones series is entertaining. Great lines, great action, just a fun time.

Hank Stuever: After the divorce, my dad and I had a regular night out, and we went to practically every movie made between about 1982 and 1985. Every drama, every blockbuster, every teen comedy. We saw it. All the Indy movies, and probably the Dark Crystal. (I get it confused with Labyrinth...)

We saw Flashdance three times! THREE times. With entirely different appreciations for it.


Washington, D.C.: Okay, so this isn't about Indiana Jones, but you were GREAT as the President Race announcer on Sunday. If I had realized who it was I would have asked for an autograph.

Hank Stuever: Thanks! (This is referring to my bit part at the Post Hunt, which was a blast.) Glad you were there. It was not easy to get those presidents to finish in the "correct" order every time. We had a great crew at that site. I love my big heads! (Waiting for Guffman ref.)


Washington, D.C.: Two Questions:

1. Care to comment on Shia LaBeouf's hair?

2. Do you think River Phoenix would have taken Ford's place, had he not OD'd?

Hank Stuever:1. Not ducktail-y enough?

2. No. I don't think so. I'm not sure what River Phoenix would be doing now. I think about it and I don't get any clear pictures. He might be on television, in something like "Lost" or "Grey's Anatomy." ...


Arlington, Va.: See, I would make the counter-argument to your original premise -- i.e., that "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" both LACK a solid mythology.

Some may call me blasphemous to include "Star Wars," but let's face it -- George Lucas is his own (and his fans') worst enemy. And for many Harry Potter purists, the big-screen adaptations don't hold up anywhere to the depth captured in the books.

Hank Stuever: Harry Potter fans are tough critics. Imagine how hard it is to decided to cut 50 pp. or so of novel and realize you've only saved 5 minutes of screen time.

Speaking of Harry, another Harry ...


We called the dog Indiana: I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it, but it's interesting that Indy never gets the treasure he goes after. He gives the Shankara stone back to the village. He loses the Ark to the bureaucratic storage. He leaves the Holy Grail behind in the cave. So we need to look at what he does get instead. He gets to bring life and children back to the village, and gets the girl. He gets to put a crimp in Hitler's world domination plan, defeat the evil archaeologist, and gets the girl. He gets to rekindle his relationship with his father (no girl, this time, but she was a Nazi anyway).

I'll need time to develop this thesis further, but I'm thinking of something along the lines of giving up the shiny bobble for a greater moral good.

Hank Stuever: Yes, let me know what you come with -- you have another 25 minutes or so. Or we all die!! Save us, Indy!


Washington, D.C.: One thing original in Hollywood: Okay, it's within the last 10 years, so I nominate "Being John Malkovich." Can anyone possibly tell me that was derivative of anything?

Hank Stuever: I was thinking of Charlie Kaufman too. ("Adaptation" as well, although that's a movie about derivativeness!)


WDC: I found your article interesting in that you seem to want to have some kind of deeper meaning attached to the Indiana Jones franchise. I think with this character, the point is not to say something, but to simply show how fun movies can be. I recall reading somewhere Spielberg or Lucas saying the film was a tribute to the old adventure movies. We need to look at them through that lens, and not try to psychoanalyze it. There's nothing wrong with just sitting back and enjoying the ride. "Star Wars" has plenty of mythology, if that's your sort of thing.

Hank Stuever: Well, how come if the filmmakers say "don't overanalyze it" that means we can't? Lucas falls back on this when he gets miffed at Star Wars fans: "They're thinking about it too much." But he is only too happy to stage traveling museum exhibits on the Meaning of Star Wars, etc., and sell his fans more and more written material on the Significance etc.

I still maintain that Indy has made way too much money to get a bye on cultural analysis. But there isn't any. He's not interesting enough to analyze; our reactions to him are ... lacking.


Dotting i's with circles: It could be worse - imagine if Lucas used smiles, hearts, or daisies.

Hank Stuever: Maybe the dots are planets.


Jacksonville, Fla.:"...the Indy films lack a solid mythology."

Oh good grief, lighten up. The Indy films are fun. Have you forgotten about fun or has your life really gotten that boring?!

Hank Stuever: If you knew me, you would not be telling me to lighten up. I'm pretty dang light.


Raiders Fan:"Raiders of the Lost Ark" was a great action movie. In this age of "let CGI do the acting" and "how many rear speakers again?", it's refreshing to see Indy back on the screen. Let's hope there isn't too much computerized special effects...

Hank Stuever: Yes, and my fedora's off to Spielberg for insisting (I'm told) on a minimum of CGI in this new one. I long for a return to old-school in these big movies. "Aliens" was on the other night (the James Cameron sequel, 1986) and I once again marvelled at how well it hold up, especially Mama Alien. She was a puppet! A giant, slimy puppet. What craftsmanship.


Bethesda, Md.: Bah, I can't buy any of the good-vs-evil stuff -- God stepping in. Yeah, God sleeps through the holocaust -- what's a few million people dying?-- but open his special box and there's hell to pay.

Hank Stuever: Hey, yeah.


Hank Stuever: Harry Knowles of Aint It Cool News has answered What Does Indy Mean in his review of the new movie... Here he is:

"I also believe that each of the Indiana Jones films are about different things at their core. Raiders is about BELIEVING. Temple Of Doom is about TRUST. Last Crusade is about abandoning obsessions and choosing to live. And that leads us to The Crystal Skulls What is it about? Well, that I'm literally just 40 minutes from having seen it at this point - I'm going to say I feel the film is about letting go of the past and choosing a happy future. It's LIFE."

Whaddya think? He's the ultimate fanboy. He saw a sneak preview and then the next day went in for gastric lapband surgery. (He divulges that he got up to 417 lbs, and a size 62 waist. That's a lotta fanboy.)


First encounter with Indy: I saw the first Indy movie when I was living in Brussels, Belgium when I was about twelve. My friend Claire (who was British) went with me. The movie was shown in this tiny movie theater. Claire practically took my hand off during Indy's escape from the rolling stone, but we both loved the movie. Our favorite character was Marian because she was spunky and didn't scream unnecessarily (unlike the blonde bimbo in the second movie).

I think the movies do a good job of portraying what we think certain countries were like at a certain period of time (if that makes sense). Beyond that, I'm not sure they represent much more than really good entertainment.

Hank Stuever: I think you're right: The Indy movies' foray into stereotypes of All Brown People and Their Funny Foods and Languages can actually be forgiven if you view through a prism of ... retroactive irony? As in, THIS is how people thought back in the 30s? I wonder how the brown people fare in the new one -- 1957 isn't much more enlightened.

It's all sort of a moot argument. There were never protests, and these films are beloved worldwide.


RE:Yeah, God sleeps through the holocaust -- what's a few million people dying?-- but open his special box and there's hell to pay.: OK. But remember, in the movie we - the U-S-of-A - we got the box full of God in 1935, and stored it in a warehouse....

Hank Stuever: Beisdes the big rolling ball, this seems to be the defining image, the only cultural reference, that everyone gleaned from Raiders: the damn bureaucrats stored away the Ark beneath layers of red tape. You see references to this all the time. It's sort of a Hollywood metaphor as a FOIA request. The government knows, they just won't tell us, X-Files, etc. Always a deep well to return to for screenwriters.


Princeton, N.J.: A long time ago I went out on a date to see Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" (did I spell it right?). After the movie, my date started talking about Kurosawa's brilliant use of the "crucifixion image", about how Kurosawa was trying to be deliberately avant garde, yada, yada. 23 years have passed, and I have no idea what happened to that girl. But I still wonder what the heck she was talking about. I enjoyed the movie for its brilliant use of color. The visuals were spectacular. Beyond that I didn't need any more analysis. And every time I see someone forcing deeper meaning onto movies (or TV shows) I think of that girl. Guys, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. (By the way, if anyone out there knows what the heck she was talking about, I would appreciate a little enlightenment).

Hank Stuever: A cigar is just a cigar, but what is a big rolling rock? Just ONE big rolling rock. Were they trying to tell us that Indy is missing a testicle?

I keed, I keed.


Indians Eating Monkey Brains and snakes ...: That scene and a few stereotypes resulted in the movie being banned in India.

Hank Stuever: Really? DO you have a reference, a news clip? I'll post...


Washington: Don't you think it's a postmodern kind of thing, to expect your entertainment to come with "meaning" these days? You mentioned your dad and John Wayne (great story, by the way). Do you think people of your dad's generation expected there to be deeper meaning behind their John Wayne films? Or did they just enjoy the films? That's what I love about Indy -- I don't WANT to look for any deeper meaning.

Are we all just too smart and overly analytical for our own damn good these days?

Hank Stuever: You're onto something. I remember sitting there looking over and seeing pure joy in my father during Raiders. It probably should have been the other way around. We of a certain media-saturated generation, with liberal arts degrees and quickly typing figners, are certainly caught up in our post-modern selves.


The 80s: Maybe the movies are a reflection of their era, 1980s America, when a B-movie actor was president, Greed was Good, and it was Morning in America. It was all about Michelob Light and arbitrageurs driving Beemers. Shiny, bubbling, vacuous. Feel good. Don't think hard.

Hank Stuever: Sure, sounds right.


Washington, D.C.: I believe that Spielberg and to a greater extent, George Lucas, have gotten a free ride for some very poorly written films. I found the first Indy film and the first "Star Wars" films to be amazing, but the other five "Star Wars" films had terrible dialogue, and the other two Indy films were borderline racist and made me uncomfortable as a kid. Spielberg's string of flops have started to expose the man behind the curtain, but not soon enough for me. I mean, watch "Jaws" again, the dialogue is terrible.

Hank Stuever: Just posting...


The Importance of Being Harrison Ford: I also think these movies would not have been nearly as successful without Harrison Ford. The guy has a sort of "aw, shucks" quality to him which is really appealing, what with the broken nose, the scar on his chin, and that lop-sided smile. He's just endearing.

Hank Stuever: And what about sexy? An editor here now wonders what she was thinking back then ...

I did come across some excellent writing about how women fare in Indy's world. It's nice to see Marion back, but I hear she's not as tough this time out, a tad more damsely... I can't know til I see it.


Alexandria: The rolling rock was a metaphor for alcohol, and its deletrious effects on those who did not conform to an accepted standard of God-fearing manhood. This is further confirmed by the use of alcohol later in the film to destroy a traditional native habitat.

Pseudo-intellectual literary criticism is fun!

Hank Stuever: And you're so good at it.


I haven't graded all the papers yet.


Alexandria, Va.: Indy films fall in with H. Rider Haggard, Tarzan, Lost Horizon, and Terry and the Pirates. They are entirely self-contained with their setting in the actual world (which Harry Potter and Star Wars both don't have). Plus, almost all of the characters are real. The foes are Nazis and cult members, not five-mouthed beasts, and they shoot machine guns, not beams of light. It's not even a comic-book universe - Indy has no special powers.

Sagas like this reduce the ability of fanboys, since you aren't doing the Millenium Falcon but rather a zeppelin, which has been built and has plans that can be copied.

And as for a mythos, what about just good versus evil? Bad guys die at the end, good guys win.

Hank Stuever: This is brilliant too.

Wow all the good stuff is coming in with only seven minutes to spare.


I've missed you, Mr. S: Are you responsible for the great headline that went with your great article?

Hank Stuever: I did write it.


Silver Spring, MD: Actually I lost all interest, respect, whatever, in Lucas after "Revenge/Return of the Jedi" --the movie, or he, lost all the courage of his convictions, starting with the early change of title from "Revenge.." to "Return..." "ooh, revenge is tooo negative" --please. Partly, I suppose, it was that "The Empire Strikes Back" was so brilliant -- and I suspect that was mostly Irvin Kershner's work. But Lucas has no sense of visual style -- when things should be obscured, everything is too well lit and in-focus -- and you can only realize that you're looking at chunks of plastic. And don't even get me started on the prequels!

Couldn't Lucas have invested a few of his millions in someone to write some reasonable dialogue? Honestly Carrie Fisher has written better stuff when she was drug-impaired.

Hank Stuever: What I sense about Lucas is that very few people around him will tell him no when it comes to his writing. Spielberg would be the only one powerful enough to veto him, and it sounds like they argue a lot, which is nice to hear. One of the reasons Indy 4 took so long (Lucas and others have said in interviews) is that the story never got off the ground. Many a screenwriter had a whack at different concepts. Lucas won out on the Crystal Skull plot (including B-movie type aliens from outer space references...)


Original Hollywood: The most original thing I can think of that came out of Hollywood recently was "Sin City." It had its own look, and the pervasive sense of menace really left me wondering about whether the characters were going to make it to the end or not.

Hank Stuever: Okay...


Boulder, Col.: I agree with Washington in that nowadays we can't enjoy watching something for the sake of enjoyment and have to over-analyze every single frame. For example, I love the TV show "Lost" but some of the theories about the show's meaning, etc., make my poor little head hurt.

Why do I love the Indy franchise? Harrison Ford. He's hot. He used to be in my top 5 but got kicked off when he pierced his ear and started dating Calista Flockhart.

Hank Stuever: I don't see how you can watch "Lost" and not need a little post-mortem discussion at minimum. It seems built around that idea that there is always MORE than met the eye.

Who's your top five now?


Rockville, Md.: Hank. You are so full of beans - you must be a perfect fit for the other Style writers. Don't let me slow you down.

Hank Stuever: The musical fruit, the more you eat, the better you feel, full of beans at every meal...


I'm good vs. evil girl, again: Ok, I think Bethesda actually just made my point. The Holocaust is reality -- my husband's family lost a lot of aunts and uncles, so you're preaching to the choir. Heck, every day we see horrible stuff that happens to innocent, vulnerable people, and think, there just can't be a God -- or worse, maybe there is and He just doesn't care.

But, see, I WANT, more than anything else, to be wrong -- for that whole "God works in mysterious ways" thing to be true instead of just a line when there's no possible other way to explain something horrible. That's what Indy offers. It's, quite literally, suspension of disbelief.

Think about it: why are we so fixated on vampires, werewolves, etc.? We want evil to exist -- because if supernatural evil exists, then supernatural good must, too.

Hank Stuever: Yes.


Re: Alexandria: Just want to tip my hat to Alexandria for referencing H. Rider Haggard. For anyone not familiar, his stories, including "King Solomon's Mine" (repeatedly turned into film), and "She", were the literary forerunners of Indiana Jones, and are well worth the effort of finding them. They are of a time and written from the perspective of a European, but are still fun.

Hank Stuever: Cool.


Here's one thing the movies gave us: I think it's a patented Spielberg move. It's where the camera zooms in on someone's face as they turn, look over their right shoulder, and realize "Something's Coming!" I hope there's one of those in the new movie.

Hank Stuever: Probably more like 10 in the movie.

Okay, everyone, guess what? Our time is up. Thank you for an enlightening chat about a meaningless void. I enjoyed it. Enjoy the popcorn, enjoy the bigness, enjoy the freezing air-conditioning. It's summer and Indy is almost here.



Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company