DVD Review: The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones Volume 2: The War Years

Sean Patrick Flanery as Indiana Jones running on top of a train and using his trademark bullwhip for the first time. This is my only vague memory of watching Young Indiana Jones on T.V. My recollection is so cloudy that I forget that the scene came not from the show but a flashback from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Not a good start for a review of a series chronicling the hard boiled archaeologist’s youth.

The DVD set is the first part of marketing blitz for Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull. This is a review of Volume 2: The War Years. Young teenagers probably will love this. Adult fans like me will want something closer to old school Indiana Jones action. While Indiana gets into mature predicaments as a WWI soldier/spy, the action and writing aren’t good. Like in Volume 1 Lucas gives us a beautiful looking box set packed with historical documentaries. I just don’t think the package is worth the expensive price.

The War Years follows 17 year old Indy (Sean Patrick Flanery) as he experiences the major events of World War I. It’s 1916 and America refuses to get tangled up in the mess in Europe. So Indy enlists in the Belgian Army with its lax recruiting standards. Posing as Corporal Defence, he suffers the trenches then quickly enters the French Secret Service. Each episode has Indy embarking on a risky mission, getting into some kind of trouble, and meeting a famous historical figure.

I don’t much care for the series. I dislike how the show ties Indiana Jones’s childhood with historical events. It limits the number of creative plots. Though, it does have some good parts. Sorry River Phoenix, Sean Patrick Flanery is forever Young Indiana Jones. He looks the part and plays him as reckless kid thirsty for adventure. Production values are high for T.V. The episodes are big scale and were shot location around the world.

Some episodes like Daredevils of the Desert engage in George Lucas style swashbuckling and horseriding. As spy, Indy helps the Allies capture Beersheba in Palestine. To accomplish this, he partners with fellow spy Maya (Catherine Zeta Jones). Posing as a sleazy manager and his belly dancer, they sneak into the town which resembles Mos Eisley from Star Wars. Once the army arrives, fist-fights and gunfire erupt everywhere.

My main problem with the series so far, is that these early adventures don’t have a lot in common with Indiana Jones. Granted, Indy’s father Henry Jones is mentioned a couple times over 720 minutes. Ian McDiarmid plays a teacher friend of the family for an episode. More often Young Indiana Jones involves Indy in every major event of WWI. I don’t feel the show is Indiana’s backstory as much as an adaptation of a history textbook.

The show is a mixed bag but the special features are a boon for teachers. Full length history documentaries accompany each feature. Place the bonus disk into a computer for a historical timeline, a “Special Delivery” game, and a lecture titled “War and Revolution.” This is perfect for a middle/high school teacher to explain history to students without boring them to death. It comes with a great box which resembles an old book. But, movie fans will still feel neglected by the filmmakers who didn’t care to put commentaries or production featurettes. Having no chapter selection menu is confusing. To jump to another chapter, you’ll have to dig through your DVD player options.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones Volume 2 can’t compare to the Indiana Jones Trilogy. Starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark, it depicted an alternate version of history where famous people and groups sought artifacts with real magical properties. Indiana makes a good spy, but the show is not continuously exciting enough. The Indy franchise’s trademark cheesy humor is often forgotten. Instead characters sometimes say overly serious and obvious lines. Volume 3 comes out soon and hopefully WWI ends. I’m growing impatient waiting for Flanery’s Indy to slowly grow into the Harrison Ford version we love. So far, he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere but back to school, a place I think the real Indy would avoid.

The Upside: Sorry, Sean Patrick Flanery, you’ll always be Young Indiana Jones. Keeps most of the production values from the films.

The Downside: The horrible dialogue and drama foreshadows the Star Wars prequels. Indy doesn’t seem like Indiana Jones yet, just any old reckless kid.

On The Side: Only 30 of 70 outlines written by George Lucas became scripts before the series was cancelled. Naturally the unfilmed ones featured important characters like Abner Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Grade: C+

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