In 1984, in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ford, along with a wisecracking Vietnamese boy and a shrieking night-club floozie played by Kate Capshaw (the future Mrs. Spielberg), sailed from a crashing plane in an inflated life raft into the Himalayas, where they slid down a ski slope and plunged over a gigantic waterfall. They came upon a village that beseeched Indy to find their lost children and the luminescent stones that gave the village its fertility. While in India, Indy and his cohorts were feted to a feast of snakes, eels, and eyeballs before they fell into a mine shaft, where they raced runaway trains. In the film's climax, they wrecked the temple where the fertility rocks were being displayed, but neither the sets nor the plot had sufficient reality to coax us into suspending disbelief.
In 1989, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade found Indy coming to the rescue of his father—Dr. Jones Sr., played by Sean Connery in an inspired bit of age-inappropriate casting. (At 59, he was only 12 years older than Ford.) The repartee between the Jones boys kept The Last Crusade alive, as Dad repeatedly insulted Junior and sat around waiting to be rescued by his undaunted son.
The end of Last Crusade was shot in the spectacular city of Petra in the Jordanian desert. But much of it took place inside an artificial "cave of dangers." These set pieces were so expensive they had to be used up slowly, which made the movie drag. The adventure sequences were spectacular and nail biting, but the interludes when the cast stood around talking awkwardly seemed undirected. As a director, Spielberg has always seen life and movies through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy. Here he gave the kids the thrills they wanted to see, but without the connecting plot for the expendable adult contingent.
The latest film in the Indy franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, has opened to great fanfare. Gray-haired Harrison Ford is in fabulous shape, belying his 65 years—scampering up and down cliffs with abandon, outrunning an atomic-bomb test, and beating up armies of steroidal Russians. He can even stand up to a commie witch, the ubiquitous and mysteriously beautiful Cate Blanchett.