Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which opens Thursday, is the fourth film in a franchise whose previous title was released the year I was born. (That would be 1989.) Indiana Jones was thought to be a trilogy until George Lucas and Steven Spielberg announced the new film, again starring Harrison Ford, who is now 65. You might think that for a teen, the thought of seeing a movie that is set in the 1950s and features a protagonist who is a gray-haired professor isn't very appealing.
You'd be wrong.
I didn't see any of the movies in theaters, but I got to watch all of them over and over at home. The Indiana Jones movies inspired not only me, but my brother: He asked for a bullwhip for his birthday every year, and he finally got one when he was 11 or 12. Even though it broke when we tried to swing on it — just as Indy always does — that whip made us really get to be Indiana Jones for a whole afternoon.
The movies also are a connection with my dad, who was a history major in college. He says that among his favorite things about the movies were the powerful artifacts that are being sought. He's curious to see what sort of supernatural powers the eponymous crystal skull might have. A friend of mine is interested in history, so he will approach the movie for its setting during the Cold War.
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But all that semi-educational stuff is only part of the equation.
So why was I excited when I heard news of the franchise being revived? It's because Indiana Jones is the ultimate adventurer. He spends his time traveling across multiple continents searching for legendary items while battling Nazis and other evil-doers.
Audiences have followed Dr. Jones through jungles and deserts, from India to Italy, all in the years preceding World War II. Now we have moved up to the mid-1950s, and Indy fights Soviets, mimicking the Red Scare of the time.
But all the spectacular adventures in the world wouldn't be half as good without Indiana Jones at the helm.
There is a reason that the fedora-wearing hero is among Harrison Ford's most popular roles. He plays it to perfection and makes the role so much fun. I challenge anyone to watch an Indiana Jones movie without cracking a smile.
The movies are a perfect blend of action, adventure and comedy. Now, after 19 years, I will be sitting in a theater to watch the tale unfold on the big screen.
I'm nostalgic for something created before I was born.