Day 29: Indiana Jones and the (Far-Too) Lucky Escape (Part 2)
And now for the final entry in my series of articles about Indiana Jones and the Endless Jungle Chase. Today I'm going to cover the last section of the chase, Harrisn Ford & Co.'s miraculous escape from the Communists who, when we last left them, had cornered our heroes at the edge of a cliff.
Well, that's not entirely accurate. If you'll recall yesterday's article, although by all rights the Commies should have had Harrison Ford and Family trapped, instead they made the questionable decision to put away their guns and start climbing down the cliff before Indiana Jones had gotten anywhere near it. As a result, when Karen Allen drives up in her amphibious jeep and encourages Harrison Ford to hop in so they can make a quick getaway, eight assault rifles don't open up at all at once and cut them all to tiny pieces.
Of course not being shot is just one aspect of a daring escape. Other aspects include having an escape plan so idiotic that it should be described less as a "plan" and more as an attempted suicide. The problem is twofold: Jones and company have to escape from the Commies and make it down to a river 100 feet below. Luckily, Karen Allen has a plan. Well, again, not a plan, but rather an incredibly stupid idea. That idea? To drive off the cliff at full speed, ramming the jeep into a tree that happens to be growing off the side of the cliff, then having the tree, rather than just break, bend down a ridiculous amount until it's deposited them safely in the waters below.
Indiana Jones has made some pretty close escapes in his life, but something that all of them (save the Atomic Fridge) have in common is that they seem like they might have actually worked. I'm not talking about physics here, I'm once again discussing plausibility. Up until this point the most implausible escape in the first three Indiana Jones films was the time he, along with Short Round and Willie Scott, jumped out of a plane and then inflated a raft to slow their descent. A terrible plan to be sure, but it passed the most important test: the audience accepts it because it seems like it could have worked. Maybe if they hit a steep incline, or thick snow, or didn't fall that far, maybe, just maybe, it could have worked.
This sequence by comparison doesn't offer the audience the slightest thread of believability to grasp onto. Not only could this never work, it doesn't even seem the remotest bit plausible. There's just no way a character could see that situation, and imagine that that action would have that result. How ridiculously lucky is it? Remember in Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf escapes from the tower by jumping off it and landing on an Eagle? Now, suppose Gandalf had no idea the Eagle was going to be flying by, and his plan was to just jump off the tower and hope something happened to save him. That still would have been a better plan than Karen Allen's jeep/tree fiasco.
To give credit where credit is due however, Marion's escape "plan" does answer one of the gaping plot holes leftover from yesterday's entry: Why did all the Commies climb on the ropes and start descending a cliff when they should've been killing Harrison Ford and Family with their machine guns? It turns out they started climbing down the cliff so that they could be killed when Marion's Magic Bouncing Tree swung back and squished them against the rock.
I can almost imagine how this particular plot development came about:
Scene: a Hollywood office. Writer David Koepp sits at a desk working on a manual typewriter. Director Steven Spielberg hovers over his shoulder watching him type.
David Koepp: I'm stuck! I need the heroes to get down the cliff and at the same time thin out the ranks of the Russians a little for the big finale, but I don't know what to do! Any ideas?
Steven Spielberg: Have you considered using idiocy?
David Koepp: I don't know, Steven... I've been using idiocy an awful lot in the movie so far!
Steven Spielberg: Ah, go on. If anyone notices I'll just pretend it's a 'theme'!