Adventure films have been part of American cinema from the beginning, but what about them makes them endure through the ages.
In a previous article I discussed why they should bring "Adventure" films back as a genre, only to have my pleas answered a few months later with the release of Disney's "Jungle Cruise". While I haven't seen it yet, the trailers make it feel like an old fashion throwback to the "Adventure" films of the 50s and 80s, with some modern adventure staples thrown into the story for good measure. This had me thinking about the genre. What elements of the "Adventure" genre have we enjoyed throughout the decades and why has the genre, for the most part, endured.
The answer to the former question seems obvious to me, its the exciting combination of exploration and danger. These movies often feature the titular heroes exploring exotic locations, such as lost cities from long gone civilizations, hunting for treasure in ancient temples, and discovering pyramids in the harsh deserts. That brings me to the next appealing aspect, the danger. These lost cities and temples are often filled with booby traps, they are often located in harsh environments, such as jungles or deserts, that feature extreme climates and ferocious wildlife, and the heroes are often being chased by nasty and murderous villains, usually Nazis. All of these aspects lead to films that take place in beautiful and exotic locations, while the danger thrills audiences. In many ways it's like an amusement ride.
However, an aspect about "Adventure" films that many people over look is that the best ones are timeless. Most "Adventure" films take place between the early 1900s to about the 1950s. These were the days when explorers and archaeologists began traveling to these ancient sites to study them. By having this set time period for the genre, most of these films seem old fashion while simultaneously being timeless. They're stuck in their own little period of time, but that period was so long ago and feels so far removed from modern audiences that it almost feels like a fantasy world. Middle Earth would have been the same world, whether the "Lord of the Rings" films were made in the 70s or the 2000s. The same principle applies to "Adventure" films. The fedora wearing, Nazi infested 1930s world of "Indiana Jones" would have felt the same if those movies came out in the 1980s or today.
There's almost this level of nostalgia when it comes to these movies. As kids, we watch films like "Indiana Jones", "The Mummy", "Pirates of the Caribbean", and "Jungle Cruise". We then go into our back yards and pretend that we're running from bad guys or barely escaping a booby trapped temple. When we grow up we make our own adventure films that pay tribute to the ones from the past. People have even pointed out that "Jungle Cruise" even looks like a mashup between "The Mummy" film from the 90s and "The African Queen" an old "Adventure" film from the 1950s. These films have endured because they spark imagination and excitement in both adults and children. They are colorful and exciting thrill rides that all ages can enjoy; something that defines the best Hollywood blockbusters.