Long live the dream

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am

After 19 years away from the screen, Indiana Jones is back, but how many new plots can Spielberg come up with?

Hats off to Steven Spielberg: it takes a lot of courage for a man to relive the dreams of his youth. In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Spielberg revives the 27-year-old franchise - homage to the adventure films of the 1930s - with the daring recklessness of a young man.

The film, which portrays Dr Jones (Harrison Ford) venturing into South America in search of a magical crystal skull, takes the viewer on a roller-coaster ride.

The action is incessant as Dr Jones fends off one enemy after another - from native Indians with poisonous darts and fire ants, to a sword-wielding KGB agent (Cate Blanchett).

So after 19 years away from Dr Jones, how did Spielberg and Ford, both in their 60s, do it?

Digital technology helped a lot, particularly in the scene where Indy and his mates fall over a waterfall in a boat-shaped truck, and in another involving a nuclear test blast, early in the film.

It was, however, Spielberg's youthful spirit that contributed most to the making of the film; the director apparently still daydreams about aliens and UFOs, despite making films on more serious topics such as the holocaust and terrorism.

The fact that many of Spielberg's blockbusters, such as Jaws and E.T., have been translated into popular Disney rides tells us something about the man and his globe-trotting hero Dr Jones. To Spielberg, the world - even the universe - is one big, exciting amusement park ride.

From the Peruvian jungle in the famous opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the terrifying Indian palace in The Temple of Doom to wartime Europe in The Last Crusade, each location serves as a playground for the hero, who seems more interested in chasing down sacred relics than actually getting his hands on them. The booby traps and KGB (or Nazi) villains are not hurdles but part of the atmosphere, like a fast-paced video game.

Spielberg's exuberance is what makes Jones an ageless hero despite all the changes in Ford's ageing body.

You could call it another piece of formulaic entertainment, but who can resist the thrill of such an exciting roller-coaster ride? Spielberg really is a master at turning cliches into magic.

So will there be another Indiana Jones movie? As long as Ford can move, it's a safe bet that Spielberg will make another one, some day.

There will always be another historical legend to investigate, exotic regions to explore and whips to be cracked.