Life is still worth living

The title may seem a touch melodramatic, but it isn’t. It was touch and go for a while there. It all hinged on one outcome, which, had it gone ill, would set all worth and meaning spinning down the drain. The chain was taut, and the plug slipping. What would happen?

All is well. The new Indiana Jones movie is oh so good.

It opens as every good Indy movie does: with danger. Guns are raised, bullets are loosed, and good men fall beneath the colors they swore to defend. Despair falls.

Then, the hat, and we are saved.

The new film has all the action sequences, all the exotic setpieces, all the pseudo-mystical babble of the previous films, and all of it is executed with a breathless, swashbuckling glory. Indy bludgeons himself against one impossible situation after another, all while the familiar refrain washes over him. The wisecracking supporting characters, the unsettling villain, they’re all there. This is an Indy film through and through.

There is much that is new to the series here as well. It takes place in the 1950’s rather than the 1930’s, and appropriately is peppered with Elvis Presley, diners, atomic weapons tests, and full-on Red Scare hysteria. When Cate Blanchett’s femme fatale describes her dream of a weapon that will turn Americans over to the Soviet mindset from within, without their even knowing it, she captures the hysterical fear of those days that anyone, any neighbor, teacher, co-worker or passerby, could be a godless Commie. All these references give the movie a solid sense of time and place, just as the Nazi threat did for the first and second films.

There is much silliness to be had, of course. The final act is a billowing crescendo of silliness, building to a climax so powerfully silly that it requires conscious effort not to wonder what “interdimensional” could possibly mean. But even through the improbability and bewilderment of it, Indy is there, grounding us in his calm reality and letting us share in his awe, and his triumph.

My fears were allayed, my hopes were rekindled. It isn’t so much that Indy is back. It’s that he is back, and back in proper form. The alternative to that would be unspeakable.

In other words, it’s good. Go see it.

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