Movie Matters IV

Movie Matters the 4th

"Indiana Jones" Edition

At the end of my column on the new Indiana Jones movie, I jokingly invited readers to buy me an Indiana Jones hat. I didn't think about it again. Well, I wake up last night and there is a box sitting on the dining room table. I was completely mystified, and a little scared. However, I eventually cracked open the box to find this:


Since then I've been going around like I'm Indiana Hypey (with an extension cord for a make-shift) bullwhip, cracking wise and punching people squarely in the face. (Not really, but I wanted to.)

Combine my awesome new hat with all the emails I have gotten on Indy, and I decided to write an entire Movie Matters column related to all things Jones.
[Movie Matters is a recurring feature I started last year where I answer any question you might have on movies. You can catch up on the Movie Matters section of Movie Hype.]

Without further ado, let's get to those Indiana Jones Questions!

So now that you have had time to think about it, where does CRYSTAL SKULL rank in the Indiana Jones series?

I have seen CRYSTAL SKULL twice now, but I am still hesitant to give it an official placement, mostly because I have seen the other films so many more times, and (more importantly), I have had those movies with me for so long. However, gun to my head, I would say that my order is probably similar to most people's:

1. Raiders
2. Last Crusade

3. Crystal Skull

4. Temple of Doom

…with the caveat that ten years from now I might actually like CRYSTAL SKULL more than LAST CRUSADE. It is that good, and I enjoyed the second time more than the first.

The real question is, why this order? What makes RAIDERS the best and TEMPLE OF DOOM the worst?
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK comes first. Almost all of us saw it first, and we can never have quite the same magical feeling with any other Indy movie. That is the way it goes for all series.

Secondly, it is very difficult to make a sequel that is better than a great original. Why? The audience has expectations now, and that means everything has to be ramped up; the action, the volume, the violence; everything.

As for TEMPLE OF DOOM placing last, it comes down to: the silliness of Willie (especially when compared to Marion or that super hot German chick), the slightly gimmicky feel of Short Round (as if he were there to ensure little kids had someone to watch), and the startling overt violence. I don't have a problem with violence, but this movie was much closer to R than PG, and it is unconscionable to let kids younger than Jr. High see it. (It is because of this film that Spielberg and others helped get a PG-13 rating established.)

More importantly, the violence in the middle is not only graphic but pulls us out of the flow of the story for too long.
That said, the action in TEMPLE OF DOOM is arguably the best of the series. There is some serious awesomeness to the plane/raft sequence, and of course the mine shaft.

Were those snakes real in RAIDERS? Also, how could that ball have continued to roll?

Not all the snakes were real (if you look closely, you can tell some of them are segmented pieces of hose), but many of them were. In fact, they had to put up a glass screen between Harrison Ford and that cobra, which actually spit venom on the glass. Scary stuff.

As for the ball, it has to be the most iconic image of the series. I have long pondered the physics and logistics of such a trap. If you watch the sequence (available on You Tube if you don't wan to rent the movie), you see that when the giant ball springs into action it comes from a high place to a low place. After that, the path is just slightly down hill, but by then it is not really important.
A rock like that would have to weigh eight tons easy. Once you got something that heavy moving, the hard part would not be keeping it moving, but ever making it stop.

This leads us to the real question: what happens to the rock? Indiana outraces it (actually, Harrison Ford literally outraced it too; ten different times), and crashes out of the maze to be surrounded by Belloq and the natives. Virtual silence. What happened to the quickly moving sixteen thousand pound object? Why didn't it roll right on out into the forest, and if it did not, where was the Richter scale crash?

Two more points to ponder on this rock: it appears relatively smooth, which means the natives carved it that way. How on earth did they manage that?
Even more fascinating, was this trap meant to be reset? If so, how many people did it take to do so? Was maze reconstruction involved, or was this a one shot deal? (I mean, think about it: if the ball and the other falling rocks crush everything in its path, no one would ever see that statue again. I get protecting it, but wouldn't you want your own people to see it again?)

Actually, now that I think about it, when Belloq holds up the statue the natives bow down, which implies they had heard of but not seen the statue themselves, so maybe it truly was a one-time maze.

I was reading where originally George Lucas wanted to call it "Indiana Smith." I think Jones is so much better, but it got me to thinking, what if they had picked a different last name, or a different state for the first name?

This is an excellent question, although impossible to answer. We have heard "Indiana Jones" for so long, it is difficult to imagine anything else. However, with how well they made this picture, I think Indiana Smith probably would have worked, as would any number of other last names.
The trick would be coming up with a last name that was A) fairly common and B) short, so the name could flow off the tongue. In other words, Indiana McGonnagal would not fly.

Off the top of my head, these names might have worked:

Indiana Black (that's actually pretty cool)

Indiana Brown

Indiana Wolf

Indiana Jack (Jack as a last name would have worked awesomely. Admit it.)

Indiana Shatenstien

As for the state, that's a trickier concept. You may recall I wrote a piece several years ago looking at girls' names when it came to states. Not sure about guys'. (In case you were wondering, the name "Indiana" literally came from George Lucas's dog, just like in the movie.)

Again, off the top of my head, these might have worked:

Colorado Jones

Alabama Jones

Montana Jones

Minnesota Jones

Nevada Jones

Oklahoma Jones

Tennessee Jones

Puerto Rico Jones

I was watching RAIDERS the other night, that scene where Indiana is trying to teach archeology and all the coeds are swooning. (Especially the girl with the words written on her eyelashes. How creepy was that? Do girls really do that?)
Anyway, here's my real question: do you think Indiana was nailing any of those infatuated girls? That would make him even more of The Man!

This has to be my favorite Movie Matters question of all time, at least so far. (Except for the part about the eyelids. I too am always creeped out. You girls cannot possibly think a guy would be attracted by this, right? Well, maybe a Goth.)

Anyway, since we're all about integrity here, let's let us logically look at the “Indy the Pimp” theory.

On the one hand, male kickassery aside, we think of Indiana as a hero, on the side of Right and Justice. For him to take advantage of some dopey girls would sully his image a bit. Secondly, all three women Indiana hooks up with in the series are older, all of them are fiercely independent, and two of them or voraciously intelligent. If we take it that Indiana likes him a real woman, can he be satisfied with a fawning coed who would never challenge him intellectually or in spirit?

On the other hand…..
Indiana is nothing if not a profligate rule-breaker. Right and Wrong aside, Indiana proves time and time again to be remarkably….morally flexible when it comes to society's laws and mores. He "appropriates" indigenous treasure, manhandles consecrated human remains, and generally treats the world as if it is there for his (morally justified) leisure.

Secondly, in Crystal Skull we learn that Indy and Marion ended badly after RAIDERS. He left; they didn't speak for 20 years. I don't know the whole story, but it's a sure bet that after he left Marion Indy was feeling upset at the world, with something to prove. And how do men prove to the world they are still worth loving? (You know.)

But here’s the clincher: In RAIDERS, Indy tracks down Marion in Nepal. She is upset at his return. Here is the exchange:

                     I'll tell you something Indy.  I've
learned to hate you in the last ten
years. But somehow, no matter how
much I hated you, I always knew that
someday you'd come through that door.
I never doubted that. Something made
is inevitable.
Why are you

Indy takes a long time to answer.

I need one of the pieces your father

Marion's eyes go icy. She swings at him again with her
right, but this time he catches her at the wrist. Then
he stops her left, which she has brought up to slap him.

You son-of-a-bitch! You know what
you did to me, to my life? This
is your handiwork.

I never meant to hurt you.

I was a child!

You knew what you were doing.

I was in love.

I guess that depends on your

It was wrong. You knew it.

Indy releases her arms.

Look, I did what I did. I don't
expect you to be happy about it.
But maybe we can do each other
some good.

We are never told the details (and looking over the exchange again, one wonders what on earth happened?), but the operant word here is “child”. If we read between the lines, Marion is saying that she had a torrid love affair with Indiana when she was a VERY young woman, all while Indy was working with her father. You can’t get much more out of bounds than that.

I’m not judging (who hasn’t deflowered their mentor’s virginal daughter?), but clearly a threshold of behavior has been set. We cannot say for sure, but it seems very likely that “professor” Jones might have helped some young ladies get out in the field and, ahem, “collect a few bones.”

This segues beautifully to out last question...

Don’t you think Indiana Jones just cries out for the Porn treatment?

Indubitably. If fact, I’m sure it has already happened. The Indiana Jones saga is just perfect for a porn version. You have the swashbuckling adventurer, ruggedly handsome, dark stubble and shadowed eyes under that fedora. He “searches” for buried treasure. He doesn’t mind digging down below, and like any good archeologist, he can take his time.

And let’s not forget that whip....

In fact, the only real question is what we would call Porno Indy?
I’m sure you can do better (and feel free to leave a comment if you can), but here are my suggestions:

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Poon

Indiana Jones and the Search for the “Hole in Gail” (holy grail)

Sindiana Jones

In Diana Jones

and if they ever make a Gay Cockney version....

Raiders of the Lost Arse


June 13, 2008


Anonymous said...

I have no qualms with your overall Indiana Jones hierarchy, and most of your criticisms of Temple of Doom are valid, but do you really think Temple of Doom had "startling overt violence"? I mean, at least compared to Raiders? Is the human sacrifice scene in Doom really that much more violent than the ending of Raiders when everyone's faces melt and some people explode? Is the scene in Doom where the large guy gets killed by the stone crusher more violent than the part in Raiders where the bald-headed nazi gets shredded by the airplane propeller?

Sea Hag said...

Meh, I didn't like Crystal Skull that much. I think it tried too hard to push the son idea and it just didn't have that sense of fun and adventure that the others did.

My question is, when Jones is teaching his classes in the 1930s-40s, were that many women attending college at that time?

Hyperion said...

Bear - Those scenes in RAIDERS are punctuating violent moments (one more reason why NO PARENT SHOULD LET HIS/HER KID WATCH THESE MOVIES!); however, the violence in TEMPLE OF DOOM lasts for a long time, and is atmospheric. From the moment that Indy and co. spy the ritual sacrifice, we are drawn into a long extended scene of torture and mutilation, culminating with the heart thing and the lava sacrifice. The scene takes something like 8 minutes. It's incredible.

Another factor: in DOOM, there are children enslaved. Children, which look like the kids I I don't think should be watching. Scientists tells us that children's brains are made up differently, and they are unable to tell the difference between fiction and reality. When you couple the length of the torture scene with the enslaved children, yes, I think DOOM is demonstrably more violent, especially vis a vis potential kid viewers.

Sea Hag - You have to go back to why Lucas and Spielberg make each film. In DOOM, both just got out of relationships, so they purposely made the film darker. As for SKULL, Spielberg said he got motivated to make the film because he was asked by his son when it was coming out. At this point in their lives, it's only natural they are thinking along other lines. The question is whether it worked. I thought Mutt fit in very well. And, he was having lots of fun. remember: at this point Indy is in his mid 60s. It's not supposed to be as fun for him. (Maybe you meant fun to you, and for that, I don't know what to tell you. Both times I rocked out.)

As for your woman question, plenty of women went to college then. The numbers are surprising. However, you inadvertently bring up a GREAT point. Marshall College is supposed to be Yale-type of institution. Yale did not go coed until 1969. (Before then the women went to all girls' schools.) Other New England universities had similar time arcs for coeds. So, you spotted an anachronism. Ten points for you!

Anonymous said...

I didn't care for Crystal Skull. I was initally completely put off by the ridiculousness of the title, but as time went by, and plot points emerged (Indy vs. the Commies, the return of Marion Ravenwood, Shia LaBeouf's involvement) I started warming up to it. Then I went... and was suddenly glad that Sean Connery had stuck to his guns and remained retired, rather than doing a cameo as he was asked to by Lucas and Speilberg.

Crystal Skull feels like Lucas really wanted to do another Star Wars, but had to content himself by turning Indiana Jones into a sci-fi vehicle. In my opinion, the fundamentally mundane nature of Jones and his travelling companions was a large part of the appeal. Fantastic elements were largely kept in reserve for spectacular effect at the very end. Jones and Co. would just have to get by on brains and muscle until then.

Spoiler Alert!!!!!

Crystal Skull introduces aliens at about the fifteen minute mark. And surviving at ground zero of a nuclear bomb test thanks to sturdy American appliances at about half an hour. Sigh.

I remember Indy's response to Marcus Brody's concern about the nature of the Ark of the Covenant from the beginning of Raiders:
I'm talking about an artifact of tremendous historical significance, you're talking about the Boogey Man. Besides (Indy tosses a pistol into his luggage), you know how careful I am.

This most eloquently epitomizes the Jonesian emphasis of the mundane over the fantastic. Which regretably was overwhelmingly lacking in Crystal Skull.

Rent it, or buy it with the rest of the set, because Skull isn't worth owning otherwise.