Like father like son: Stars Wars compared to Raiders
In researching my latest parody film of Raiders, I began to notice patterns in the trilogy that brought to mind some of the elements I saw in the first trilogy of Star Wars starting with New Hope.
Some of the same themes are repeated in each film. Some of these are more significant than others, but all contribute to the perception that George Lucas appears to be working out some issues and fears.
In some ways, both films deal with a choice of good and evil, and the idea of purity. In Star Wars – this concept is presented in the idea of “the force” and whether the Jedi Knight can remain free of “the dark side.”
This concept is also very evident in the first Raiders movie where Indiana Jones meets his rival, the French archeologist, who tells him they are not so different as Jones believes.
It wouldn’t take much to make your turn, the French rival says.
In Star Wars, Darth Vader tries to make his son come over to the dark side in the same apparently reasonable manner.
In both cases, the manner becomes less and less reasonable.
Both Vader and the French guy are not totally evil – but become the tool of greater evil.
Each has allowed something good to get twisted and each lives with a sense of doubt. In some ways, Vader appears darker at the start and later finds a strange salvation that the French guy fails to find. While both are destroyed, Vader’s death has a tragic undertone that Shakespeare would have envied, while the French guy – despite a less vicious surface – falls into perdition for his refusal to relinquish his grip on the dark force.
Both in New Hope and The Ark, we are confronted by heroes that are on the verge, that can still go either way, and often dip their fingers into the dark ooze. In both films, the heroes are forced to make a choice between good and evil, and eventually, side with the use of power for a noble purpose, fighting for the collective – if only reluctantly.
Although less overt in the later Raider films, this theme is as pervasive.
In The Temple of Doom, Jones has no real double ganger, but is confronted with the choice nonetheless.
He can make a bundle of money from the acquisition of the power stone, and in the end after having seen how such dark forces twist those who use the power, he gives the stone up. In this case, the force or stone can be used for good or ill, just as in Star Wars, and that by choosing, you can bring great good or create great harm. The good use of the force makes things bloom, and makes people happy, the dark use of the form delves into death, fear, slavery and darkness.
Luke must choose in each of his three films, just as Indy must in his.
Luke blows up the death star to save the planet full of rebels, Indy returns with the stone to restore life to the village.
Ark and Temple echo each other in a number of critical points, but also echo important philosophical and plot line points from the Star Wars series. One small example should suffice to make the plot comparison. When Indy and the boy are trapped in the chamber with the descending roof, you can’t help but think of the trash scenes from New Hope. They are the same scene – except that it is a woman that saves them instead of a robot. Several other scenes also strongly resemble scenes in the New Hope trilogy. The motorcycle sequence of the third Raiders strongly resembles the wooded flight in the Return of the Jedi.
Yet the strongest comparison can be made with the third Raiders film, where the father and son motif is most evident.
In both Star Wars and Raiders, the father abandons the son in pursuit of power.
While in the Last Crusade, the father figure seems more gentile than in Star Wars, the guilt is the same.
Indy yells at his father to say “This is an obsession,” and he’s right.
Henry Jones spent his whole life in pursuit of power, just as much as Vader has, and in both cases, the sons suffered, if in differing ways.
Henry tells Indy that he taught the boy “self reliance,” although it is clear from the first movie, Indy also had instructors and guides who substituted for his father just as Luke did in the Star Wars series.
Both fathers become captive of their own desire for power and in both cases, their sons must rescue them, bringing them back to the proper side of the force.
In Star Wars, Vader is reformed but dies, in the other case, Henry is brought back to life because his son has made the proper choices and uses the force for its proper purpose.
Although this isn’t the proper space for use of imagery, one comparison needs to be made in this regard—such as when Darth Vader holds the hand of his son over the abyss in order to plead for Luke to come to the dark side. He falls to the physical void to avoid falling into the moral void. At the end of The Last Crusade we get two repeats of this: once with Indy holding the Austrian girl, who refuses to give up her quest for dark power, immediately followed by Indy being rescued by his father in the same Star Wars pose, and Henry pleading with Indy to let the power alone.
This is an ironic comparison to the same image: Vader grasping his son’s hand above the abyss seeking to draw Luke up into the dark side of the force, while Henry – the Vader character of the Last Crusade – in the same pose begging to bring Indy to the right side of the force.
In both Crusade and Star Wars we get odd relationship of son saving the father to have the father save the son.