Don’t try to pretend that you’re not checking for the next Indy movie. We all are.
Vanity Fair has a long and interesting chronicle of the process that has led to the filming of the fourth “Indiana Jones” movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, due out in the coming year. If you like cinema, there’s alot to chew on–and the photos are gorgeous–but the aspect of the article I found most interesting was a discussion of the evolving nature of action films. Here’s what the writer, Jim Windolf, has to say about this matter:
“At the same time, action movies went through a major evolution. A bald monk flew. So did Keanu. Jackie Chan chopped necks while moving like Astaire. Travolta wiped blood off a windshield. Spidey killed baddies between bouts of emo-boy angst. Batman got the Christian Bale treatment (thin, dark, intense), and a computer-generated Yoda battled Palpatine. Jason Bourne crunched the bones of his pursuers in films that came out great despite looking as if they had been edited in a Cuisinart. In this atmosphere, can Indy compete?”
The reason I find this interesting is because action movies relate closely to masculinity, as it is most often men who are the protagonists of action movies. To study action movies, then, is to study men–both in terms of character depiction and audience reaction. As noted in the above quotation, the last few years have marked a major shift in action movies as the Jason Bourne films have proven wildly popular. I’ve blogged about them before, but I want to note quickly that Bourne’s ascendance marked the fall of the fantastically empowered superhero (excepting fantasy action movies). Bourne is lethally strong and agile, but he is still a man. He bleeds. He fights human criminals, not ghosts and demons. We thus observe something going on in the culture. Action-film devotees are not as intrigued by ghoulish mystery as they used to be. The films they like seem to be shifting in tone, such that grimness, sobriety, and struggle characterize the standard action film nowadays, or at least the blockbusters. I Am Legend certainly fits this bill, for example. We don’t seem to want our action heroes to beat up the bad guys and then crack wise about them. We want them to take their actions seriously, to question themselves, to turn a bit spiritual in the midst of it all.
What does all this mean, then? I’m not exactly sure. I can say that our age seems to be a little less convinced of the omnipotence of man, and a little less prone to hubris relative to our foes. Perhaps we’ll see amidst the action and comedy of the fourth Indiana Jones movie a recognition of the limits of man. Perhaps with this shift in cinematic anthropology we’ll see pockets of openness in the culture to discuss the limits of humanity and the limitation-destroying person and work of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Perhaps not, but we should look for the opportunity just the same.