Romancing The Stone
Out of all the movies made to cash in on the Indiana Jones phenomenon after "Raiders of the Lost Ark," there’s really only one that wasn’t awful. In fact it was quite memorable and remarkable in its own right.
Trying to remember all the other movies that tried to cash in on the Tour-de-force from Lucas, Spielberg, Ford and Williams, is like trying to remember the names of all the girls who I had casually dated in almost 20 years ago. They were really super important back then and I anticipated the moment when I would see those girls, but now I can't recall a single fact or image of them almost 20 years later. "Romancing The Stone," on the other hand is like the moment I met my wife: I remember the exact moment when my heart first raced and my expectations were exceeded. This movie is a better knock-off then most of us fans deserve.
It’s kind of funny, seeing how “Romancing The Stone” was homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark, while Raiders was homage to Republic serials and other films such as David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” and John Huston’s “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” The original source material was good, but somehow these movies just make it better.
Released the same year as “Temple of Doom”, “Romancing The Stone” perhaps captures just as much of the original feel of Raiders. Kathleen Turner’s Joan Wilder is a romance novelists lives vicariously through the characters she writes about in her books. Her life is turned around one day after gets a treasure map from her recently murdered brother-in-law which was sent just before he was abducted.
Meanwhile her sister’s held hostage by American grave-robbers in Columbia. The grave robbing brothers, Ira and Ralph (Zack Norman and Danny DeVito ,) simply want the map to the final treasure they want before they retire. Reluctantly, Joan Wilder leaves her comfortable shell in New York City with the map after a neighbor was murdered and her apartment is ransacked. In an attempt to deliver the map as ransom for her sisters life and in a series of comedic errors, she finds her self lost and abandoned in the jungles of Columbia, far from her final destination. She's also at the mercy of mercenary Jack T. Colton played by Michael Douglas, whom she hires to bring her to her original destination. Colton is best described as being the type of character Lucas and Spielberg had originally envisioned Indiana Jones to be, a scoundrel mercenary with few scruples with a perpetual reluctance to take on charity cases.
As a side note… this type of scenario was the topic of conversation in the forum section of IndyGear.com, after one of the fellow members was stuck in a South American City that was over-run with rebels. When I learned of his predicament, I desperately wanted to get on a plane with a few maps and plenty of firearms in an attempt to rescue him... which was a moot point after he rescued him self. Weeks afterwards when he was home and safe- I started a thread asking our fellow members what would we do and bring with us in the event we were thrust into a situation that was similar to what Turners character goes through or if our fellow member still needed rescuing. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who would have joined me in a rescue effort if needed, and how the scenes in "Romancing The Stone" illustrated what NOT to bring or how not to prepare yourself for such an occasion.
Much of the fun is the chase through the jungle, ramshackle villages, chaises through dirt roads and down rivers, the search for buried treasure… all of which has been done well in Raiders and Temple. What makes “Romancing The Stone” unique is how everything that was done in Raiders is done differently. All the action is with modern equivalences; while highlighted with the developing relationship between Turner and Douglas. Not lost in the fun is the desperation of Joan Wilders plight through Turner’s performance and the cinematography, the sense of being lost in the jungles and the fear factor from the multiple brushes with death in every other scene.
The end of the movie is pure cliché, leaving the door open for other adventures and sequels After seeing Joan and Jack grow as people and as a couple, the audience is enthusiastic to see them again. (The Follow-up to “Romancing The Stone” was “Jewel of the Nile.” Good movie; this time Jack and Joan set out to find the “Jewel” while trying to foil an Arabian would-be tyrant. Not nearly as good as the first, and probably killed off the plans for more “Romancing” movies.)
Directed by Steven Spielberg’s friend and frequent collaborator Robert Zemeckis, later collaborated with Spielberg to make “Back to the Future” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Zemeckis later went on to film other great movies such as “Cast-Away”, “Forrest Gump” and “Contact”, many of these films could be considered as other “Films to hold you over”. But "Romancing The Stone" is still the best of the bunch.
Updated June 2008
Thank God for my wife, our two kids, and the people on The Fedora Chronicles forum: The Electric Speakeasy. With out you folks, I don't know what I would do know that I've lost one of my reasons to live. I hate remakes. I hate them, Jock - I hate them!
And by now you've guessed that "they" [whom ever at 20th Century Fox are] are going ahead with a remake of "Romancing The Stone." Don't ask me to post any links to stories about this news item, because I'm sure that other fans have already shot the messengers and burned their facilities down.
There are a long list of movies that should never be remade. "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca" being two of them off the top of my head. Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is another. "Romancing The Stone" should be one of them for my own reasons.
There's a reason why it's dated. I'm not too sure that if it was remade that the plot would still work. If Joan Wilder had her own Garmin, she would have found her way to Cartagena (her Columbian destination) with out Jack Colton. The scoundrel Colton wouldn't have enticed her to find the treasure on the map... and so on.
Granted, I'm sure you can work around this by having Joan lose the Garmin... but that's not my point.
"Romancing The Stone" is a piece of Eighties pop-culture. It's fine just the way it is. Sure, it's dated; that's part of its charm. If someone wanted to do another movie with a cleaver twist on the plot (say, a blogger goes to South America to rescue his brother and needs the help of a Soldier Of Fortune... who happens to be a woman) I would stand in line to see that. "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" was a variation of the "Treasure Hunter/Thrill Seeker" sub-genre, this is too. Just make another movie along those same lines with
In the off chance that anyone involved in the remake is reading this, please take my advice. Please don't remake this flick.