Since it's Indiana Jones week, I wanted to do something Indy-themed for my column this week, perhaps something along the line of "Indy indies," but I kept coming back to an idea that has been gnawing at me for some time: a recently re-discovered appreciation for Steven Spielberg, flaws and all. As a kid, I was treated to Spielberg's childlike fantasies, including E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and, to a lesser extent Poltergeist and The Goonies. He, along with George Lucas, seemed to be able to tap directly into the universal fantasies of boys (and some girls, too) everywhere, thereby discovering a gold mine.
But he eventually felt the need to grow up, not because he wanted to, but because he yearned for the acclaim that goes with making more grown-up movies. His first attempt, The Color Purple, was oddly, almost uncomfortably childlike, but he eventually made the leap with Schindler's List. At least three times he has jumped back and forth between childhood and adulthood in a single year: 1993 (Jurassic Park and Schindler's List), 1997 (The Lost World and Amistad) and 2005 (War of the Worlds and Munich). It's only natural, then, that fans and critics began to see this as a kind of betrayal, or worse, inconsistency. Not to mention that his gargantuan success, both financial and critical, tends to breed contempt in others.