- No Forced Continuity
This is a big one for me, because it’s an essential part of the series that happens to run totally counter to the current trend in blockbuster filmmaking. Indiana Jones, very much in the style of the James Bond films that inspired it, is a series of one-off adventures. There’s no grand, overarching narrative, there’s no interlocking continuity. Each movie is a complete adventure with a beginning, a middle, and an end. What happened to Mutt Williams after the last movie? How does Indy manage to balance a life of adventure with the responsibilities of marriage? It doesn’t matter! It’s ten years later, Indy’s off on a new adventure, and we’re good to go.
Temple of Doom is technically a prequel to Raiders, but if not for the date at the beginning of each film, there would be almost no indication as to the chronology of the series, and that’s the joy of it! As similar as they are, each film has a different feel in terms of its setting, its tone, its supporting cast, and even the demeanor of Indiana Jones himself. Yeah, people have tried to track the arc of the character from one film to the next, but that’s kind of spoiling the fun. The fact that our hero can slip right into whatever role that particular story demands of him is what makes this loose serialization so appealing. Bond faced off against Blofeld in You Only Live Twice movie, but On Your Majesty’s Secret Service needs them to be unfamiliar with each other? No problem, just go for it! Connery’s sick to death of playing the role and is making absurd demands? We have an audition with a Mr. Lazenby at noon!
The issue is that, thanks to the precedent set by Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Marvel movies, people have come to expect longform storytelling as the default for any major movie being released. It’s gotten to be such a problem that even Bond – the quintessential example of a laissez faire approach to serialization – had a whole bunch of dunderheaded retroactive continuity crammed into his new movie. Don’t get me wrong, I like elaborate, interwoven stories as much as the next person, but there’s a time and a place for it, and Indiana Jones is not that place. That’s not to say elements like the supporting cast or villains can’t carry over across entries, but the story of the film should be wholly self-contained.
But while we’re on the subject of cast…