Day 16: Indiana Jones and the Possible Psychic
The anonymous poster from yesterday brought up an interesting point about the film's various failures in re: The Villain. It's not just the introduction they botched, it's the entire character. Specifically, the special ability her entire character is based around. For the entire film, I kept wondering 'Wait, is she supposed to be actually psychic, or isn't she?' After the initial failure, I assumed that her supposed 'abilities' were going to be played for laughs, as she went on to not read other people's minds at key moments.
This didn't happen. Instead, the whole 'psychic' thing just didn't come up again for the rest of the film, raising the question of why I was supposed to think of the villain as special in the first place. For the rest of the film, there are a total of two instances where her possible psychic abilities come up. In the first, she communes with a crystal skull. This one's kind of a wash, though, as it's well established that the skulls themselves have psychic powers, and that they'll talk to pretty much anyone. The final time is when she announces, apropos of nothing, that the thirteen crystal skeletons act as a hive mind. It's a revelation that has no setup, no importance, and in another one of those 'show>tell' violations, a moment later the thirteen skeletons merge into a single alien.
The funny part is, Cate Blanchett's utter inability to have useful psychic abilities hurts the film more than a little. By this, I mean that if she'd actually been psychic, the film could have gotten rid of the useless 'Mac' character. Instead of a close friend betraying Indy to the Russians, the information they needed could have been plucked from Indy's head. Instead of using a radar setup to follow Indy to the Valley of the Crystal Skull, Cate could have just followed their psychic traces.
Sure, some might say that psychics are too preposterous for the Indiana Jones series, but I don't have any such prejudices. Heck, my favorite non-canonical Indiana Jones product was an choose-your-own-adventure book that featured him battling Dracula. What bugs me about Cate's psychic abilities is that the filmmakers seem to have no idea how to use them to improve her as a villain.
Once again, I'm going to go back to Raiders and Temple on this one. Belloq's special ability was just how well he knew Indy. this led to one of the greatest moments of the film, when he invites Indy to destroy the Ark and foil the Nazi's plans, knowing full well that Indy cares too much about antiquities to ever consider such a thing. And sure, it's a few measures of interest down, but the viewer never for a second fails to believe that Mola Ram is capable of using the power of psychic surgery to tear a heart from someone's chest. So when he and Indy are hanging from the bridge, and he puts his hand up to Indy's chest, the stakes are crystal clear.
Had the filmmakers bothered to establish Cate's psychic abilities at all somewhere in the film, then the audience could have dreaded the moment where she was going to use them in the tense final confrontation.
Oh, and for the record, she doesn't, and there wasn't one.