Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones in Twilight

The very few reviews I have read try to treat Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as a stand-alone story and then complain about its lack of wonder, adventure, or originality. These really are problems with Skull, but I do not think they spring from the failure of Lucas and Spielberg to create a fresh action movie. They are, on the other hand, marks of success. Skull was nothing if not appropriate.

Indiana Jones is old. In his first appearance in Skull, Indy stumbles to his tossed-down hat. His gait is strained and his posture stiff. With hands raised, Indy’s companion mutters, “This isn’t going to be easy.” Indy replies, “Not as easy as it used to be.”

Indy lives in a different time and place. No longer the WWII era filled with Nazis and youth, the late ‘50’s are a time of fear. Suited FBI agents tell Indy he is a suspected Communist. The Board of Directors at Yale put him on an indefinite leave of absence. The once-open halls of academia breath the stale, narrow air of paranoia. Teaching always bored the Dr. Jones who wanted to be ‘in the field.’ But this is different somehow. Yale feels like a tomb.

Indy has wasted his life. Bouncing in the back of a Soviet truck through the Amazon, Marian and Indy argue about his lost life. “I’m sure you had plenty of women after you left me,” Marian spits. “Yeah,” Indy retorts, “They all shared one problem, though. They weren’t you, sweetheart.” His years of lying in his relationships’ wreckage have taken a silent toll on Indy which he only realizes when he is told that he has a son, Mutt Williams (played admirably by Shia LeBeouf).

Indy grows. “Do what you love and don’t let anybody tell you different,” Indiana says to Mutt in a wasted Peruvian city. Mutt had dropped out of college. When Indy finds out the truth about his son, he changes: “You’re going back to school!”

“What about ‘do what you love and don’t let anybody tell you different’!?!”

“That was before I was your father!”

What if they make a new movie starring Mutt? I myself am torn. This was Indiana’s twilight, but it would make sense if it were Mutt’s dawning, and the work done in Skull would allow a sequel to be made on the fresh and interesting level of Raiders and Crusade. I like how Skull ended with Mutt nearly, but not quite, donning the hat. I hope for two different things: the first is that they make a movie to explore the development of Henry Jones III. The second is that they never reopen these pages, allowing us to do what the Indiana Jones saga has always encouraged: dream of a time not so long ago, when a fedora, a whip, and some wit could throw open legend and make us believe. That’s what this movie did, and, for all its problems, it remained an Indiana Jones film from beginning to end.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

'Context happens'

[Disclaimer: You are about to read a polemic]

I've been thinking some about missions lately, and the idea of 'context' has come up repeatedly. Some say we need to 'contextualize the Gospel' in order to make it understandable to others. The problem is that the context or culture of any one person, much less an entire group of people, is infinitely removed from yours. There is no such thing as the "University context" or the "Nigerian context" or the "Palestinian context." There are only specific people, places, events, resemblances, and analogies. That's not to say we can't generalize, but we should always check and chuck our generalizations when they cease to describe well.

Instead of contextualizing the Gospel, let's just be mindful that context just happens. Be mindful and stop worrying so much.