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Indiana Jones and the Perils of a Stupid Script

This weekend, while sick yet again for New Year’s, I had the misfortune of revisiting Indiana Jones’ latest adventure:  The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Now, I knew what I was getting myself into.  I saw it when it opened, and subsequently ruined the fancy dinner my wife and I had planned afterwards.  Why did I ruin it?  Well, it wasn’t intentional but I was pissed!  Pissed at the Labeouf, the three waterfalls, the CG prairie dogs, the fridge nuking, the CG monkeys, the vine-swinging with said monkeys, the absolutely insipid climax, and some more Labeouf to boot.

It was dumb.  It was embarrassing.  I hated it.  This wasn’t the Indiana Jones I grew up with and I just couldn’t come to terms with it.  I focused on all the things listed above, and for good reason.  They are terrible.  But upon seeing the movie a second time, I realized that the true problem was hidden beneath this garbage.  I saw that there were flaws so inherent to the plot that even had those monkeys, aliens, and Labeoufs been fixed, the movie still wouldn’t have worked. 

The problem was with the story.  Let me explain:

1.  Mac

Unless you have seen this movie recently, you have probably forgotten about the new character named Mac.  He starts the movie off captured by the Russians with Indiana Jones at Area 51.  We discover that he’s a chum of Indy’s and they’ve worked together in the past.  Okay, I can go along with this.  No problem. 

But here’s where this character goes so wrong:  He betrays Indy about ten minutes into the film, revealing he’s working with the Russians.  Of course Indy escapes, but when he runs into Mac about halfway through the film, Mac claims to be back on Indy’s side.  They go through some adventures together until, near the end, we discover that, yes, he’s still working with the Russians.

So, what’s the tally here?  Two betrayals and one reversal, yes?  This is a huge mistake.  From the very beginning of the movie the filmgoer learns to mistrust Mac.  So, later, when Mac returns, we still don’t trust him (even though Indy does for some reason).  Then, we learn we were right all along not to trust him.  He was a bad guy after all.

Here’s what should have happened:  Mac should have betrayed Indy ONCE, near the end, at the most crucial of times.  This way the viewer would have learned to like Mac, as Indy does.  The betrayal would have so much more impact.  The whole film could turn on this one event.  Instead we know he’s a weasel from the get go and we’re left wondering why the hell Indy is helping him out later on.


2.  Mother and Son

Shia Labeouf is introduced as Mutt Williams, a biker youth with some anger issues.  He finds Indy and tells him about his mother (Mary, she’s called) who has been kidnapped.  This, along with other details about the skull and stuff, sets the movie into motion.  But that’s not the big problem with this. 

The big problem is that it is COMPLETELY obvious that Mutt is Indy’s son and “Mary” is none other than Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Look, we’re not stupid.  From the moment we knew the Labeouf was cast in this movie we guessed that he was Indy’s son.  Indy’s getting old…it just makes sense.  So, why try to cover this up in the story?  Why try to create a mystery around something that is so blatantly obvious to everyone watching?

Here’s what they should have done:  Mutt should have said from the beginning that he was Indy’s son.  This would have shocked Indy and would have set up an interesting dynamic for the two of them.  Then, Mutt should have said that his mother, Marion, is in danger (not already kidnapped, let’s give Indy a chance to rescue her, dammit!  But I digress…) and needs help.  This would have helped set the plot in motion with much more interest than as currently constituted.

Look, they’re in the movie to create an interesting dynamic, right?  So, just be upfront about it and let that dynamic play out!


3.  Cardboard Baddies

Indy movies have always had good villains.  Raiders had Belloq and the Nazi with the coat hanger.  Temple of Doom had the guy who pulled hearts out of peoples’ chests and that little brat kid (no, not Short Round, the other one).  The Last Crusade had Donovan and Elsa Schneider (a betrayal handled much more effectively than Mac).

Who does the new movie have?  A psychic Russian woman with a terrible haircut, a burly Russian guy, and Mac.  This would have been okay had these villains actually been in the least bit threatening.

With Cate Blanchett’s character we have a psychic who practically never uses her powers and a master swordsman who never uses her sword!  (At least not to kill people.  And she can’t even beat the Labeouf as his nads are getting slapped by passing vegetation!)  Shouldn’t the main villain actually kill someone?  Maybe?  This is just one totally underutilized character.  She just wants the skull.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  Boring!

And then there’s the burly Russian guy.  Here’s his character arc:  He punches Indy, gets punched back, punches some more, gets punched back, gets eaten by ants.  Ugh.


4.  The Missing FBI Plot Thread

After Indy (somehow) escapes a nuclear blast, the FBI shows up to question him.  You see, they don’t trust him after what happened with Mac and the Russians.  They threaten him and his job.  This sets up an interesting plot device, yes?  A dynamic not yet seen before in the series, right?

Well, what happens is that the movie proper begins and we never hear from the FBI ever again.  Never.  Not once! 

Do they follow him?  No.  Do they keep track of his movements at all?  No.  Do they even show up at the end of the movie to close this plot thread?  No!  It’s just dropped.  Completely.  How did this happen?  How did no one making this movie notice this or do something about it?


5.  Indy and the Skull

In all the previous movies, Indiana Jones has been chasing an artifact of interest (the Ark, the three stones, and the Holy Grail).  Either the bad guys have it or it’s hidden away in a place both parties are trying to access.  It’s a great way to use a macguffin and it’s been successful each time in the series thus far.  But in this installment Indy gets the skull with relative ease fairly early in the film.

And he has it with him, or his “crew”, for most of the rest of the story.

Um, how is this interesting?  Sure, the bad guys can still chase Indy and the skull, but doesn’t this ruin any motivation on the part of our heroes?  Instead of chasing after the skull, Indy is being chased, which only brings the bigger problem of motivation into the light.

You see, Indy never seems to really give a crap about the skull for the entire movie.  This isn’t an ancient artifact that he believes in or is even interested in.  He gets wrapped up in the quest for the skull due to the convoluted Mutt/Marion plotline instead.

This is a HUGE mistake.  Indiana Jones is a man of passion.  He is a man of want.  He wants to track down mysterious artifacts so that they can be properly examined by the scientific community.  In all the previous movies he either wanted the artifact due to a need (like the children in Temple of Doom) or because it’d be the discovery of a lifetime (Raiders and the Last Crusade).  In this one he has no desire for the skull and has no idea what to do with it once he gets it. 

If Indy doesn’t care about the skull, why should I?  Why should anyone?

The writers could have easily fixed this by simply granting Indy with a passion to find this skull!  Then, subsequently, they could have made it more difficult for Indy to obtain.  This would have made for a far more entertaining film.  Instead we have a limp dick of a motivation that just serves to make the entire thing a bore.


–Cap’n Blackjack

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. limejuiceboy7
    January 5, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    The musical score was good…

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