Indy mood for more Dr Jones

Actor Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones

Legend has it that on the eve of Star Wars' release in 1977, filmmaker George Lucas shuttled off to Hawaii to de-stress, where he was joined by director Steven Spielberg.

It was there that the pair – while discussing the dynamics of making the perfect sand castle – happened to conjure up one of the most popular film franchises ever. Spielberg was allegedly leaning towards directing a James Bond film, but fell for a concept that became Raiders of The Lost Ark, which launched one of cinema's biggest heroes, Indiana Jones.

 In the 80s, Indy's magic conjured up three hit films that have grossed over $1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn) in box-office revenue alone. Fans, and reportedly even the filmmakers, had assumed the sun had set on the franchise when Dr Jones and his crew galloped off screen in 1989 in The Last Crusade. Clearly, that was not to be the case.

Now 19 years later, almost to the day, Indy returns – complete with trademark whip and fedora – in Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull, which premieres tomorrow at the Cannes Film Festival.

Harrison Ford revives his role as the tomb raider with a penchant for trouble, only this time he's facing the Russians. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is a Russian operative who is after the Crystal Skull of Akator, an ancient artefact that could help the Soviet Union dominate the world. Shia LaBeouf plays Indy's new sidekick, Mutt Williams, and Ray Winstone is cast as a new Indy ally.

Best of all, Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood, Indy's sassy love interest who disappeared after Raiders. Resurrecting Indy took more than a decade of debate, disagreement and compromise among the film's three principals – Spielberg and Ford disliked a way-out-there initial idea by Lucas.

 "It’s hard for the three of us, Steven, George and I … coming to agreement on the central notion of it all," Ford has said. "I think the original idea is still a large piece of it in the movie, but it's been developed and worked on in ways that made it a lot more palatable to Steven and I."

Though everyone's generally been tight-lipped on plot details, a trailer's image of a crate marked "Roswell, New Mexico, 1947," implies aliens are involved. Roswell is where UFO buffs claim an alien spaceship crashed.

And just as the first three films were inspired by the supernatural B-movies of the '30s, Lucas takes his cue this time from the equivalent '50s B-movies, which centred on extraterrestrial life. Just how far Crystal Skull ventures into E.T. territory will be revealed on Thursday, but early spolier reviews on the web say you can expect a predictable plot, cheesy special effects and sequences that hark back to the series' earlier instalments. It's about time.

 

Indiana's onscreen adventures

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

It's 1936 and archaeology professor Dr Indiana Jones is hunting for a biblical artefact, The Ark of the Covenant. But the evil Dr Renee Belloq and a band of Nazis are also after it.

The bad guy: Dr Belloq (Paul Freeman) is Indy's nemesis and an archeaologist. It's clear that both were previously acquainted but that's never revealed in the film.

Did you know: Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indy, but due to his TV commitments, he turned it down.

THE TEMPLE OF DOOM

This prequel is set in 1935 and sees Indy in India in search of Hindu god Shiva's lost Sankara stones.

The bad guy: The late Amrish Puri plays Mola Ram, a priest with mystical powers that allow him to rip out a person's heart with his bare hands.

Did you know: The film's opening sequence sees Indy run out of a club with thugs hot on his heels. If you look closely, the club is called Obi Wan, named after the character in George Lucas' Star Wars.

THE LAST CRUSADE

It's 1939 and Hitler, the Nazis and Indy are after the Holy Grail. But this time Indy's dad (Sean Connery) is joining them.

The bad guys: Julian Glover is Walter Donovan, the businessman who is secretly in cahoots with the Nazis. Baddie number two is Dr Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) who seduces both the Jones' but is a Nazi spy.

Did you know: The senior Jones reveals that Indiana's real name is Henry Jones Jr. 'Indiana' is actually the family dog.

 

Indy business

If there was a character that could take on the dark forces in Star Wars, then Indiana Jones was it; of course, it was only a coincidence that both these franchises were the brainchild of filmmaker George Lucas.

However, after grossing over $1.2 billion at the worldwide box office – and making it one of the most successful trilogies ever – Indiana Jones also emerged as a winner in a lucrative merchandising blitzkrieg.

In the '90s, thanks to its tie-up with Disney, theme parks dedicated to Indiana Jones starting cropping up across the globe. In 1993, the Temple Du Peril debuted at Euro Disney, Paris. And even though the amusement park faced a tough sell to the French, this high-speed backwards-moving rollercoaster turned into a star attraction.

Hot on its heels came The Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland, California in 1995. Built at an estimated $100m, the 'ride' takes you inside an ancient jungle temple. The adventure became the most successful theme park attraction ever, and paved the way for Indiana Jones: Temple of the Crystal Skull at the Tokyo DisneySea Park.

However, the new millennium brought with it the new age of computer gaming and Indy was not to be left behind in this race. In 1999, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine debuted for Nintendo 64, Microsoft Windows and Game Boy. This was soon followed up by 2003's Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, available on PlayStation 2, Xbox, Macintosh and Windows.

A third game is currently under development by LucasArts for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Although not confirmed, externally developed versions are expected be released for the Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, Playstation 2 and Wii.

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