How Spielberg and Lucas saved the Indiana Jones franchise


George, Harry and Steven have added some much needed polish, shine and sugar-laced spit to the somewhat [recently] tarnished ‘Indiana Jones’ quadrilogy.

A couple of years back, the series evoked growns and nightmares of CGI Space-ships dancing over hovering Skull-casing mountains. This weekend? the title alone drums up fist-thumping excitement and mad dashes to IMAX theaters.

So how was the polish applied?

Bloody simply, actually. And it’s a wonder nobody thought of it earlier – like, a week after “Crystal Skull” opened earlier. By simply re-issuing the first – and some might argue the best – of the series, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (screw the knee-lickers that have added “Indiana Jones and the…” to the front-end of the title, it’s “Raiders”, just “Raiders”!) the main trio behind the “Jones” series, and Paramount, have reminded audiences that this is – OR WAS; before Shia grabbed a vine – one of the most entertaining film franchises of all time.

“Raiders of the Lost Ark”, in particular, is still an absolutely fedoraistic good time. The effects may have dated a little, but the film still plays as well – if not better -than it did when it opened to intrigued cinemagoers in the Summer of 1982. From Harrison Ford’s sublimely cheeky performance as “Dr Jones” to Spielberg’s expert direction, and a screenplay doused in fun, “Raiders” was and is still one of the best times you’ll have watching a flick (well, outside of getting an erotic massage at the same time as the DVD player spins something). And the millions that have dashed out to see the re-issued classic at IMAX cinemas – a week out from it’s Blu-ray premiere, too! – will attest to that.

But what the return of “Raiders” to cinemas has proved, and what we can likely also thank Spielberg and Lucas for, is the seemingly sudden shock interest from Hollywood in bringing back the classics to the multiplex. Now I’m not talking remakes (it’s clear, after the failure of a certain recent Schwarzenegger reboot that audiences have well and truly tired of those), I’m referring to the original films – prettied up and put back in theaters. Yes, some have been slapped with a 3D overlay, and others, like “Raiders”, are only playing in IMAX, but the fact of the matter is… studios seem to be realizing that audiences don’t care to see new interpretations of the films they love… they want to see the original. Again. For the hundredth time. And will pay for the privilege, particularly if it means getting that beloved classic back on the big screen.

“Back to the Future” and “Ghostbusters” did well when they were re-issued recently, as we speak, “Halloween” – John Carpenter’s original and the best – is being prepped for it’s Halloween re-issue at cinemas, and if you scan the newspapers this weekend you’ll also spot the return of such gems as “Edward Scissorhands”, “Ghost” and “Sixteen Candles” in the cinema listings. And coming up, re-issues of “Jurassic Park”, “Top Gun” and “Independence Day”. And I’m betting, after the success of “Raiders”, we’re going to hear about some more old classics being restored in the coming weeks (“Aliens”, please? “Die Hard!, oh, how about “Poltergeist”!?).

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was the big money-maker at the box-office last weekend. Not too bad, hey…. considering the movie is 30-odd years old!
The newly-produced releases that were competing against Jones last weekend were no match. That says a lot. It says that not only do audiences have more faith and more interest in the films of yesteryear, but they have become increasingly tired but also aware of most studio output these days. “Raiders” was guaranteed to give them a good time where “The Possession” and “The Words”, both out last week, were more questionable.
As a result of it’s success, and despite the fact the film will hit Blu-ray in a few days, Paramount has decided to extend the theatrical run of “Raiders”. What’s interesting is that Paramount really only released “Raiders” at cinemas to promote the Blu-ray set of all four “Jones” films; they didn’t actually expect it to be the smash it has been. Not only will that Blu-ray set likely sell bigger than expected, but the studio are going to make a pretty penny on their decision to re-open the Ark of the Covenant at cinemas too.

And this weekend, it’s predicted that the re-issue of Disney’s “Finding Nemo” – in the states (it’s already out in Australia where it’s done great business) – will follow suit, and put the newbies to shame. “Raiders” is also expected to go great guns too though, in it’s extended run.

So, we may finally have something to thank George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for again. They’ve not only helped us rediscover our love for the “Indiana Jones” series (after somewhat breaking our thumpers with the nauseatingly-average “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”) but they’ve got Hollywood rethinking their future product plans – instead of just punching out quickly-produced rubbish, they might just start putting back in cinemas quickly-restored classics. If they can’t beat ’em, return ’em. Sounds good to me.

Here’s some pics of Harrison, Steven and Paramount’s Brad Grey at a special screening and Q&A of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” this weekend in La la land.