I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 19

Day 19: Indiana Jones and the Superfluous Sidekick (Part 2)

I'm a fan of John Hurt. Obviously as a lover of sci-fi, the actor who played Kane will always hold a special place in my heart. Beyond that single, iconic performance, however, is an entire lifetime of wonderful roles. He was the Elephant Man, The Storyteller, Giles De'Ath, he had memorable cameos in two of the best Westerns of the past fifteen years, Dead Man and The Proposition, and who could forget his career-defining performance as Kane in Spaceballs?

This film is beneath him.

That's not a huge surprise, I suppose. I mean, there are very few members of the all-star cast that this isn't beneath, but John Hurt's case is especially sad, because he isn't actually given any part to play or anything especially interesting to do. In fact, the only purpose he serves to the film is to keep Indiana Jones from having to figure anything out.

In the role of Harold "Ox" Oxley, Hurt spends most of the film sitting in a corner, gibbering incoherently while all the other characters are busy recapping the plot to one another. He's been driven mad by his exposure to the Crystal Skull, which he found first, and through his mad blabbering Indy has to decipher clues that will lead him to the Valley of the Crystal Skull.

For those playing along at home, this means that John Hurt plays basically the same role in this film that Sean Connery's Grail Diary played in Last Crusade. Just a series of clues to move the heroes along the correct path. Sadly, this removes all sense of discovery and robs the film of any possible wonder, since it's made abundantly clear that Indy isn't discovering anything that's been untouched for hundreds or thousands of years. No, he's just following the guy who did all of the discovering, back to where the discovery happens.

All Indy does is try to get a clear answer out of Hurt, whose madness makes conversation very difficult. In another film, this role might have been played by a dog. You know the kind of scene I'm talking about. A dog comes running out of the woods carrying an important plot-related clue, and then the heroes try to convince the dog to take them to where the plot was, but, being as it's a dog, it's confused by their questions and generally runs around aimlessly.

This film relegates one of the great English actors of the day to a role that could have easily been played by a book or a dog.

Great work, filmmakers.

P.S. - John Hurt does have a tiny bit of dialogue at the end, when he announces, out of left field that the Alien they met wasn't one of those outer-space aliens, but actually an alien from another dimension. This is played like it's a major revelation, but it really doesn't affect or change anything, because wherever it's from, it's still from somewhere else. The revelation that they're a parallel-evolving species native to earth? That's a twist. But to the audience, the distinction between something coming from a different planet and a different dimension isn't an important one.

That's right, even John Hurt's single big moment is nothing but a waste of film.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

though his mad blabbering Indy has to decipher clues that will lead him to the Valley of the Crystal Skull.

This really needs to be made into a book!