The Indiana Jones franchise set the framework for the quintessential action adventure movie. With a charismatic, swashbuckling protagonist and fast-paced, globetrotting stories filled with mystery and intrigue, it’s one of the most beloved franchises in the world. However, the Indiana Jones franchise also carries a hidden meaning within its stories, and it’s much darker than one might expect.
The first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, followed Indy as he raced a team of Nazis to locate the lost Ark of the Covenant. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom saw Indy recovering the sacred Sankara Stones for an Indian Tribe, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade followed Indy and his father on a quest to find the Holy Grail. Two more films, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dial of Destiny, followed Indy on similar adventures.
One of the common threads of the franchise has been the eponymous archaeologist’s continued search for remarkable artifacts. However, looking deeper than that, there’s always been an element of the supernatural or fantastical about the artifacts, which is where the franchise’s dark subtext comes in. Examine the stories closely enough and they all boil down to different people seeking to obtain unimaginable power.
Indiana Jones Has Always Been About Striving For Unattainable Power
The initial trilogy of films concern artifacts with more religious power. Raiders and Last Crusade follow Christian relics, while Temple of Doom is about stones sacred to the local population. This fact paints the franchise as an examination of conflicting religious dogmas and humanity’s complex relationship with both history and faith.
Each of the initial trilogy of films sees those seeking to use the sacred power of the artifacts being corrupted by that power, effectively asserting that it’s not for mankind to wield. In this, Indy is the hero who only wants to recover the relics, rather than use their power. However, the Indiana Jones franchise’s hidden meaning takes on a far darker aspect with its fourth and fifth instalments.
Indiana Jones 4 & 5 Make The Franchise’s Hidden Meaning Pretty Fascist
Where the first three films concern the power of gods, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny take on a more sci-fi aspect. Crystal Skull‘s aliens and Dial of Destiny‘s time travel are each advanced technology rather than religious artifacts, although much of the other themes remain the same: average people aren’t fit to wield such incredible power. Science being part of the question grounds the narrative in a way that transforms the subtext in an unfortunate way.
By asserting that the power of advanced science is not for the masses, the Indiana Jones franchise establishes its hidden meaning as one in which people should be grateful for those above them capable of controlling it. This is a distinctly fascist message for an outwardly anti-fascist franchise (after all, Indy is constantly killing Nazis), but it holds: power isn’t for any person who stumbles across it, and it’s not something the average person should strive for. Though it effectively bastardized the original trilogy’s common theme, the latter sequels transformed the Indiana Jones franchise’s hidden meaning into a rather unfortunate social commentary.