One upon a time, Hollywood showed respect to its greatest movie heroes. They deserved it, after all. We never had to see what became of Rick Blaine as he battled the Nazis. We never had to watch Scarlet chase Rhett. Nobody made as watch the plucky Hickory High School basketball team try to hold on to its title the next year after its miracle triumph. Hollywood got greedy (greedier), though, as imaginations ran out and audiences looked elsewhere for their entertainment. And thus the sublime ending of “Rocky” (“There ain’t gonna be no rematch!” “Don’t want one!”) was eroded and superseded by endless inferior sequels. “Star Wars” ended with a jubilant celebration of victory over the Empire and the characters happy, safe, and young, but studio finances dictated that it all had to be diluted with inferior and derivative prequels and sequels, with audiences being tortured by aging husks of Leia, Luke and Han Solo, instead of allowing them to be preserved in our memories as immortal, like legends should.
Now it’s Indiana Jones’ turn. Spielberg and Lucas already set up the perfect farewell for Indy in the third of the original trilogy, flawed as it was. We saw him ride off with his father and Marcus Brody into the sunset after drinking from the Holy Grail, which should have conferred eternal youth. Perfect!
They couldn’t let it go, though, or the studio couldn’t, or Spielberg’s alimony, or something. So we had to watch, many years later, an over-the-hill Indy in a jumping-the-shark fourth film that George Lucas signaled would stretch out the franchise ad infinitum by symbolically passing The Hat on to Indiana’s newly discovered son, the then young and promising Shia LaBeouf.