Hints from Steven Spielberg that there might be an Indiana Jones 5 quickly brought groans from the internet. It was yet another opportunity for people to complain about Indy surviving a nuclear blast in the fourth film. That grievance represents everything that’s wrong with today’s audiences.
The refrigerator scene in Crystal Skull is the least of the problems with that movie. Yes, it’s completely unrealistic and defies the laws of physics, but Indiana Jones exists in a universe where his hat rarely falls off his head, and when it does, it always finds its way back to him like a lost puppy.
It’s that kind of movie (wink-wink).
And let’s not forget everything with Hebrew ghosts killing Nazis, the Holy Grail healing bullet wounds, and Indy surviving a free-fall from a plane onto a mountain in a raft.
Audiences today demand that everything they see on screen in an action be seemingly plausible (or that there at least be some explanation so nothing feels like pure fantasy), and that movies tackle weighty themes.
As I’ve bemoaned before, a chief offender of this were the Christopher Nolan Batman movies where every gadget had a lengthy backstory.
It’s Batman movie — just tell me that the body armor is bullet proof and I’ll believe it. I don’t need to hear that it was part of some Pentagon project that was abandon because the price per unit was too expensive, and that’s why I shouldn’t think twice when Batman gets shot and doesn’t die
Even with the popular Marvel movies (especially Iron Man) there is often a surprising amount of technobabble to try and give some credence to the technology in the movies. It’s like the films are in denial about the fact that they’re basically fantasy.
And on top of this there is the issue of tone. Action movies have become so serious. Even with the presences of Nazis, Indiana Jones movies were always a bit lighthearted. They’re much closer in tone to Christopher Reeve’s Superman than Zack Snyder’s version where no one was allowed to smile. Even in Raiders there is a good bit of camp with the bad guys.
But the larger trend is that the days of mortal action heroes being able to inexplicably dodge 100 bullets without so much as a flesh wound have come to an end. You cannot have an invincible hero unless there is an explanation for what makes them invincible (even if the reason is that they’re a mutant). It’s no surprise that comic book hero movies now dominate the box office instead of the types of action movies by people like Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Gibson used to make.
And that’s the problem with Indiana Jones in 2015.
He defies death over and over again just because. A nuclear explosion is not going to kill him. But audiences no longer want that kind of a film.