Lara Croft learns the trade from a very old Indiana Jones
Most Hollywood blockbusters spawn their share of low-budget ripoffs, but only a few really successful movies are influential enough to be followed by big-budget copycats. Usually these followers get media-infused taglines such as "Die Hard on a ... " or "Aliens in a ... ", with the labels likely originating at the studio pitch stage.
Though Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels were already derivative and referential works, the Indiana Jones franchise also inspired derivatives of its own, some that were exploitive, some that paid homage and some that are only linked through minor elements. So, in celebration of the latest Indy movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, here's a look back at all the "Indiana Jones as a ... " knock-offs that Hollywood has delivered in the last few decades:
1. Indiana Jones as a woman: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
The real source of this and its 2003 sequel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, were the Tomb Raider video games, which were clearly inspired by the Indiana Jones films. In the movie we have an archaeologist who seeks a mystical object, which she must keep out of the hands of an evil society. There's an Asian temple, a reunion with a disappeared estranged father and a finale involving the crumbling self-destruction of an elaborate set piece. It's like all the initial three Indiana Jones films wrapped up in one, with added sex appeal in casting Angelina Jolie in the Harrison Ford role. Yet Jolie as Croft is too serious to be the female counterpart to Ford's Indy. Also, while the Indiana Jones films deal with some level of magically religious fantasy, they're at least grounded by "real" or familiar artifacts such as the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. And they tend to remain just realistic enough to avoid things like giant six-armed statues that come to life.
2. Indiana Jones as secondary to the spectacle: The Mummy (1999)
In the Mummy movies, which continue this summer in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Brendan Fraser's adventurer, Rick O'Connell, is just barely a redo of Indiana Jones. Obviously, there were cinematic depictions of Egyptian tomb raiders long before Raiders of the Lost Ark, but apparently writer-director Stephen Sommers pitched his first Mummy movie "as a kind of Indiana Jones or Jason and the Argonauts with the mummy as the creature giving the hero a hard time." Yet while Indy is always the center of his films, in The Mummy the focus is on the title creature, which, like the lame Brahman statue in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, is an ugly display of cheap-looking CG.
3. Indiana Jones as all-American: National Treasure (2004)
While Indy sometimes hunted for treasures in his own backyard, he is mostly known as a globe-trotting adventurer. So, in an era marred by outsourcing and foreign pilfering, it was important to show that the U.S. has great value of its own. Or, more simply, Disney merely wanted a version of Indiana Jones that stuck to domestic treasures. Besides the loss of foreign exoticism and the interest of uncertainty regarding ancient history and religion found in the Indy franchise, National Treasure and its sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, comes across as a silly load of nationalist narcissism based in an historically inaccurate self-importance fantasy.
4. Indiana Jones as more general pulp fiction hero: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Like The Mummy, Sky Captain reaches much farther back than the Indiana Jones films for its main inspirations, but due to the enormous popularity and success of Indy, there's no denying that much pulp fiction influences are only retrospectively viewable in Hollywood with Raiders of the Lost Ark functioning as a filter. Indeed Sky Captain's relatively young filmmaker, Kerry Conran, would have likely seen Raiders prior to any of its forerunners, and Conran has not shied away from admitting thinking about Indy while developing his own pulp hero. Again, its lack of a proper amount of realism, which the Indy films contain just enough of, may have been Sky Captain's downfall.
5. Indiana Jones as Asian: Armour of God (1986) and Bulletproof Monk (2003)
This Jackie Chan vehicle casts the Hong Kong action star as an Indiana Jones-like adventurer, a likeness that was brought up in most reviews of the original Armour of God and its sequel, Armour of God II: Operation Condor. The second installment is even more akin to the Indy films, though, as Chan's "Asian Hawk" battles a Nazi villain. In her recent Cinematical Seven on alternative Indy casting choices, Jette has more to say on Chan's character's similarities to Dr. Jones. Meanwhile, the more recent Bulletproof Monk is less an adventure flick, but it does involve a mystical object that is sought by Nazi villains, an obvious parallel to the Indiana Jones movies.
6. Indiana Jones as kids: The Goonies (1985)
Never mind the fact that The Goonies co-stars Temple of Doom sidekick Jonathan Ke Quan, the family-friendly adventure film is also somewhat like the Indiana Jones films in its dealing with booby traps and lost treasures. Of course, there are other more prominent intertextual nods to pirate movies and James Bond, but the one sequence involving giant, dangling boulders, which come crashing down when accidentally triggered by a Rube Goldberg device, is certainly reminiscent of the opening scenes from Raiders.
7. Indiana Jones as his own inspiration: King Solomon's Mines (1985)
Although Indiana Jones was partially inspired by H. Rider Haggard's 19th century pulp hero, Allan Quatermain, this adaptation of the original Quatermain novel was clearly made to capitalize on the success of the first two Indiana Jones movies. Right down to the casting of Sharon Stone, who at the time reminded me of Temple of Doom's obnoxious blond, Wilie Scott, played by Kate Capshaw. The film's 1987 sequel, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold even had a title and poster meant to obviously copy those of Temple of Doom. Interestingly enough, in the more recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, an incarnation of Haggard's Quatermain was portrayed by Sean Connery, who of course played Indy's father in Last Crusade.