I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 40

Day 40: Indiana Jones and the Idiotic Archaeologist

Throughout these entries concerning Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Plastic Skull, you may have noticed certain themes beginning to crop again and again. Some of these are the normal kinds of things you'd seen in any bad film, such as incompetence at basic filmmaking skills, or contempt for the audience. The most stunning thing I've come across while recapping the film is that the filmmakers seem to be bound and determined to make Indiana Jones look like as much of an idiot as possible.

I can't begin to imagine the motives behind these choices, they could run anywhere from the filmmakers genuinely thinking that their audience were idiots, all the way to assuming that if they made Indiana Jones look terrible it would make new (hopefully franchise) character Mutt Williams look better without actually having to make him interesting or likable. It's even slightly possible that they had some kind of crazed grudge against the character. Whatever the motive that lay behind their actions, it's undeniable that through those actions they took a mallet to a character beloved by millions and turned him into a moron who likely should not be allowed outdoors without supervision.

A perfect example of this are Indiana Jones' actions just after arriving in the secret Conquistador graveyard. Finding that all of the conquistadors have been mummified so well that they're looking surprisingly good a full half-millennium after their deaths. Harrison Ford asks Shia Laboeuf for a knife and then uses it to cut open one of the mummy's wrapping, revealing a conquistador's face. After doing this the audience is treated to a gruesome CGI image of a preserved corpse instantly withering away to dust upon being exposed to oxygen. It's an utterly disgusting scene that seems to exist only to give the audience a bit of a jump scare, and it succeeds. The audience is left with a larger question, though. Why on earth did Indiana Jones cut the mummy open?

As an archaeologist familiar with the way ancient corpses react when suddenly exposed to open air, Harrison Ford knew that he was risking destroying the contents of the mummy by opening it, when taking more care with the body would have been so much of a better idea for any number of reasons, from showing the slightest amount of respect to the corpse, to preserving the remains for archaeological study of mythical foreign methods of mummification. Of course these considerations can be set aside had been opening up the mummy for any practical reason, i.e. helping him find a more important cultural artifact, or a clue pointing in its direction. In Last Crusade when Indiana Jones defiled a Crusader's resting place, an archaeological find of incalculable importance, it's acceptable because he's looking for a far more important artifact, in that case the Cup of Christ.

This time there's no such justification, or even possible reason for cutting open the wrappings. At this point in the film Harrison Ford and Shia Laboeuf are operating under the theory, the correct theory, in point of fact, that John Hurt had gotten to the tomb before them, found the crystal skull, went off and did something, then brought the crystal skull back to the graveyard for some reason. They don't know why he did any of this, but they're pretty sure that he had in fact done it. If that's the case, which, again, it is, how could the crystal skull or even a clue to its whereabouts be inside a mummy whose pristine wrappings demonstrates that Hurt never touched it?

I can almost understand this action if it had been the last-ditch attempt at finding the skull after searching every other nook and cranny in the cave, but he doesn't do any of that. No, cutting open a mummy is the absolute first thing he tries before even investigating the single thing he know about the skull, which is that it's probably super magnetic. In fact, he goes on to use that very super magnetism to discover it just moments after defiling the mummy for no reason, but the fact that he figures it out right after doing something intensely stupid doesn't make up for having not thought of it in the first place.

1 comment:

terpsichory said...

It took me until this post, but halfway through it I had to dig out my DVD-Box and rewatch Raiders. These movies have always been among my favourites but reading your passionate punditry somehow makes me appreciate them even more.
Thanks for that!

I like your way of dealing with the Trauma of the Crystal Skull. I left the cinema in silence and pretended the movie never happened. Now, that can't be healthy...