Monday, May 19, 2008

What Shall We Talk About?

I'm assuming this is old news so let's just consider this a self-revelation: With the return of Indiana Jones in theaters, the trilogy has been on television since last week and inevitably I'll tune in and end up watching most of it until the credits. But over the weekend it finally occurred to me: It is at best unclear that Indiana Jones has actually saved the world from the forces of darkness. If anything, the archaeologist has brought evildoers closer to their objective than they would've been had he not joined the adventure.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazis were digging in the wrong place. It is Jones who actually excavates the Well of Souls and hands the Ark over to the Germans. And despite Jones's heroic pursuit of the Ark while on horseback, the prize is ultimately returned to the Germans when they board the ship. But even if Belloq did ultimately find the Well of Souls and the Ark, it would have remained on that Mediterranean island, having wiped out all present (who didn't close their eyes). Even better, had Dietrich insisted they return the Ark immediately to Berlin to be opened for the first time, it would have been Hitler's face melted off (or exploded).

In the Temple of Doom, Indiana does save a village and, one assumes, the world from the spread of the Thuggee cult. The bad guys did have possession of the stones and were able to successfully tear into men's chests to pull out their hearts. As Jones and Mola Ram struggle on the bridge, Jones says to Mola Ram that he "betrayed Shiva" just as the Hot Rocks start to ignite in the high priest's hand. In this case, Indiana Jones makes a difference by uttering in Sanskrit, apparently, the magic words.

Finally, in The Last Crusade, the Nazis cannot get their hands on the Holy Grail without the diary, which Jones brings to them in the castle (with the noble intention of rescuing his father). And even when the expedition arrives at the site, no one can actually retrieve the grail without getting beheaded. Jones again leads the way. But there is no bringing back the cup past the seal anyway.

This is not to say the movies are not enjoyable. Far from it. Raiders still remains in my top ten. But it will be interesting to see if this latest film follows a similar path. Does Indiana Jones inadvertently connect the Russians with the crystal skull before its powers destroy all those with bad intentions? Or does he actually make a difference? Variety's Todd McCarthy gives the movie a mostly positive review (particularly the first 20 minutes) and only hints at an extraterrestrial ending. With Lucas onboard, I imagine Indiana Jones will be spirited away in a flying saucer, surrounded by furry creatures from the Far Moon of Endor.

(And speaking of Belloq, have you seen the actor Paul Freeman, looking older and wiser, in the new Travelers Insurance ad?)


jjv said...

Hey, what is this, a companion piece to Last's "the Empire is the Good Guys piece?" The Ark of the Covenant would have been in Nazi hands for study. They could learn to harness its power. In fact, they could have fanatical SS officers use it as a suicide squad. Simply, have them waiting at Normandy and when the invasion begins open that sucker up! You underestimate Nazi cunning. Also, the Holy Grail is useful to whoever controls its middle east hiding place. Without Indy they might have pushed harder against the British there so as to have permanent access to the cup and thus keep hitler alive forever!

Ralphie said...

Um, didn't none of any of that actually ever happen?

Dave S. said...

Ralphie, forget it, he's rolling.

However, I suspect Hitler would have also chosen poorly.