One non-obvious reason to be excited about this is that Lucas and Spielberg have suggested more than once that the complete Young Indiana Jones DVD set won’t be released until Indy IV is. Young Indy was one of my favourite tv shows (incidentally very libertarian and antiwar) and surely the most nuanced work Lucas has ever done. A few years ago a random scattering of Young Indy episodes (in the studio’s ineffable wisdom, nos. 6, 8, 10-13, 15-18, 20, and 22) were released on VHS, but the long-awaited DVDs are supposed to be the full deal, including footage never actually broadcast and lots of bonus features.
Although I’m glad they’re getting rid of the pathetic-old-coot-Indy framing device – the tv series’ equivalent of Jar Jar – I don’t care for the way that Lucas has been re-editing the series, jamming what were originally disparate one-hour episodes together into broken-backed two-hour episodes. But we all know Lucas can’t let past work be; I sometimes expect hovercars to be edited into the director’s cut of American Graffiti.
Heretically, I actually like Young Indy better than the Indy movies, with which it has only tenuous connections anyway; both the character and his world seem radically different between the tv and movie versions, and trying mentally to put the two together is like learning that Hilary Swank’s character in Million Dollar Baby got resurrected and changed her name to Lara Croft. I think this disparity hurt the success of the tv series; viewers tuned in expecting something similar to the movies and were disappointed by the (usually) slower pace, greater realism, darker mood, and more thoughtful scripts, while many viewers who would have liked the series didn’t think to tune in, expecting a low-budget Raiders for kiddies. (Insanely erratic scheduling didn’t help much either.)
Admittedly Young Indy at its worst could be pretty cheesy – hey kids, here’s another famous historic event or personage to be oversimplified and crammed implausibly into Indy’s life story – but at its best it was stunningly good. And it was at its best fairly often – particularly the World War I arc, and most particularly episodes 9 and 11, which deserve a place of honour at libertarian/antiwar film festivals. (In the interest of full disclosure: I also liked the second American Graffiti movie – another film with strong libertarian and antiwar themes – more than the first. I may be the only person on earth of whom this is true. So caveat lector.)
Don’t get me wrong – I love the Indy movies too, and I’m looking forward to Indy IV for its own sake. But I worship the tv series (again, at its best); so the promised advent of Indy IV is doubly good news for me.
So what’s Indy IV going to be about? Here’s a clue:
For the moment, the title of the new film as well as its story line are being kept under wraps. In August, however, Lucas told Empireonline.com, “I discovered a McGuffin. I told the guys about it and they were a little dubious about it, but it’s the best one we’ve ever found. … Unfortunately, it was a little too ‘connected’ for the others. They were afraid of what the critics would think. They said, ‘Can’t we do it with a different McGuffin? Can’t we do this?’ and I said ‘No.’ So we pottered around with that for a couple of years. And then Harrison really wanted to do it and Steve said, ‘Okay.’ I said, ‘We’ll have to go back to that original McGuffin and take out the offending parts of it and we’ll still use that area of the supernatural to deal with it.’”
Any guesses as to what this controversial, potentially offensive McGuffin (= object on which the plot turns) might be? My first thought was the spear that was used to stab Jesus during his crucifixion.