on August 18, 2008
After seeing the new "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" movie, I got on a kick to read some of the older Indiana Jones books that had been released in previous years. These consisted of mainly the movie novelizations, as well as the 14 book series from writers like Rob MacGregor, Max McCoy, etc.
This book basically collects the first three Indiana Jones movies adaptions, which I'd actually read as a young teenager back when they first came out. It was neat to reread them again, and here's my thoughts on each.
1. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - There's something about this one, and I don't know if it's the way Campbell Black writes or just the fact that the original Indiana Jones story was so memorable that it's hard to screw it up, but I liked reading this adaption. The closest I can come to describing it is that it was like watching a "Special Edition" dvd of one of your favorite movies, only in book form. You get to read all of the "deleted scenes", as well have have certain things added. For instance, we get to see a bit more of the rivalry between Indy and Belloq, or at least their thoughts about the rivalry. We get to find out how Marion survived her father's, (Abner's), death in Tibet and Nepal, and how she came to own the Raven's Nest bar. You'll also see how it came to be that Belloq was hired by the Nazi's. Some of the action scenes are shortened, like the truck chase, yet still feel fast paced and interesting. We also get surprises, like the fact that Toht doesn't live to see the Ark opened like in the movie, he's one of the guys that get snuffed when a car goes over the cliff during the truck chase. We also get to see how it was that Indy survived the submarine ride to the Nazi island base. (Which is something this novel and the Marvel Comics adaption explained, but that otherwise we were left guessing at!)
2. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM - A lot of people think of this movie as the weakest of the original trilogy. If you're one of those, reading the novel probably won't persuade you to think more highly of it. I enjoyed the fast pace of the movie and still like it today. However, the book really doesn't add a whole lot to the reading experience like "Raiders" did. We don't know much more about Short Round other than we do get to see how he kills a little bit of time before meeting up Indy at the Club Obi Wan. Something that got annoying to me was that Shorty constantly mentions Chinese deities in his thoughts, sometimes the same one more than once. It doesn't add much to his character or purpose. It's enough for me to know he's an oriental street kid who's a part time thief hanging around Indy now. It's almost like the author, James Kahn, researched Chinese lore and then tried too hard to fit in certain things he learned. Once or twice would've made the point. Also, one of the things I've never understood was how a small kid could "karate kick" and knock out some Thuggee guard who was pretty oblivious to pain due to being under the influence of the "blood of Kali". The book doesn't help this any either. Other irks: No background is given on Wu-han, Indy's friend who bites the dust early. Willie Scott is supposed to be a knockout, however all you'll see is Kate Capshaw in your head and she's far from a knockout in my opinion. Willie's just as annyoying in the book as she is in the movie as well, so you tend to not sympathize with her character. The way the author writes and describes Indy when he under the influence of the "blood of Kali" is kind of strange and could've been done differently I thought. Some good things: We get to see how Short Round came to find out that fire would "wake up" Indy. We also get to see how it came to be that Willie got captured and made the next sacrifice. Mola Ram is even more disgusting to look at than in the movie, so he's amped up a little as a bad guy. Other than that, the book overall stuck pretty close to what you see in the film. If anything, it felt slower paced, which isn't a good thing to me.
3. INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE - This one sticks very closely to the original screenplay and what we see on film. Not much pro or con either way for me. It took me awhile to really appreciate "Last Crusade", because to me it was a bit more family friendly and commercialized by the time it was made. The book plays up a little bit more of Indy's background and relationship with his dad, which plays up better in print than the limited time on screen, so that was nice. The way Rob MacGregor writes Indy, (as well as some of those who have written Indy for the Dark Horse comic series for that matter), is a mixed bag. He seems to understand what makes a good Indy story, the pacing, etc., but his Indy tends to cuss a little too much for my taste, as well as comes off kind of arrogant sometimes. With any hero, you want to be on his side through whatever he/she goes through. This Indy's not necessarily "fun" to hang out with, yet interesting enough to want to see what he gets into. Not much as far as "deleted scenes" or added material go. A good story though.
Bottom line, if you want to read each of the novelizations, you may be able to find them individually for less in a used bookstore or something. I wouldn't pay more than 2 or 3 bucks apiece for them, being movie adaptions. If you want to collect them, then I'd get them all in one nice volume like this one here.