I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 17

Day 17: Indiana Jones and the Maybe Magnetic Skull

As if Cate's spotty psychic powers weren't bad enough, there's another intermittently present supernatural power in the film, the Crystal Skull's SuperMagnetism.

The audience is first introduced to the Crystal Skull's amazing power right at the beginning of the film when, faced with the prospect of searching through the entire gigantic warehouse for the alien corpse from the Roswell crash, Indy remembers that the 'item' is incredibly magnetic. So magnetic, in fact, that he's able to toss gunpowder into the air, where the trace metals pull it in the direction of the corpse. When he gets close enough, Indy switches to ball bearings, which he throws into a row of crates, assured that the magnetic corpse will pull them in, revealing in which crate the body is contained.

The problems start almost immediately with the reveal of the crate. There's a few nice moments when pulling the crate out of the stack causes light fixtures to bend, and the crowbars that were used to pry the crate open stick to the sides of the coffin. Logic problems abound almost immediately if one pauses to think about the situation. If it's that magnetic, why hadn't it pulled the nails out of surrounding crates over the years? Why don't the lights swing when the corpse is being driven around in the back of a truck during the chase? Most importantly, why do guns work around it?

Yeah, it's science-fiction, so to a certain extent the filmmakers get to make their own rules up, but in a later scene it's established that a smaller skull is so amazingly, magically magnetic that it even attracts processed gold, which is normally a non-magnetic metal. Even if the smelting process had left traces of iron in there to explain the attraction, it would still have to be an absurdly powerful magnet to attract gold coins. There's any number of ways they could have explained this effect on guns, from hammers refusing to pull back and fall, to springs refusing to uncoil, right down to chemical reactions not taking place. It all would have been plausible to the audience after that first scene, so long as a character theorized that 'the skull's doing it!'

Given Spielberg's fetish for not having useful guns in his action films, the incredibly magnetic skull would have been a perfect escape hatch to use in the film. This would explain why Indy and company keep not getting shot during the jungle chase despite the thousands of rounds being fired at them at point-blank range, and why it's necessary for Shia LaBoeuf to swordfight Cate Blanchett, rather than just shooting her, as Indiana Jones would have done.

Sadly, it was not to be, since the film's continuity is so poor that the skull and corpse simply aren't magnetic in any scene that doesn't specifically require them to be. There's one scene where both the Crystal Skull and the Magnetic Corpse are lugged into the same small tent, a tent full of lighting and metal furniture and radio equipment. Nothing so much as tilts towards the super-magnets.

I know it's hard to keep track of these things when making a film as big as this one, but putting in that extra measure of care is what separates good filmmakers from great ones. This is the kind of lazy annoyance that's indicative of just how little care was put into making this film great.

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