I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 58

Day 58: Indiana Jones and the Reason They Invented Seatbelts

Many people point to the atomic fridge as a dealbreaker in the film, and have no doubt, it is a remarkably retarded turn of events, but it's not the point at which the film completely lost touch with the relatably realistic action of the previous films. How could it be, when the filmmakers had already thrown out all pretense of obeying the laws of physics in a prior scene?

Just a few minutes earlier, Indiana Jones is racing around the Ark warehouse, being chased by commies. Racing down a row of crates in an army truck, going somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty miles an hour, he sees Cate Blanchett's car racing towards him at a similar speed. Fully aware that an impact at this speed would lead to a disastrous result, Harrison Ford climbs out onto the hood of the truck and uses his whip to swing out of danger (one of three whip uses in the film!). Naturally, the three vehicles (Indy's truck, the jeep following, and Blanchett's car) all slam into each other at once.

And then everyone's fine. Despite the complete lack of seatbelts, no one is ejected from their suddenly-stopped vehicle. Neither are any spines snapped or heads dashed open. No, everyone is able to crawl out of the wreck fundamentally undamaged.

I suppose I shouldn't have been entirely shocked by this turn of events, after all, Harrison commandeered the truck in the first place by swinging in through the windshield backwards at a combined speed of something like forty miles an hour. This impact doesn't injure him in the least, or even daze him long enough to keep him from making a quip about his failure to the two Commies he's just landed in between.

Frankly, I'm baffled by the way the filmmakers seem to have decided that Indy is invlunerable. Tough? Sure. Tenacious? Absolutely. But he's damn far from invulnerable. In fact, going back to Raiders of the Lost Ark, we find him getting beaten up regularly enough and effectively enough that film actually takes a scene to pause and consider just how frail he actually is. There isn't a like scene in either of the subsequent films, but the effect of the scene echoes through them. This is a real world where the injuries Indy recieves have real consequences. By extension, all of his enemies must be considered human as well, with the physical limitations that suggests.

So what's the harm of turning Indiana Jones into an invulnerable Schwarzeneggerian superman? Let's set aside the idea that it goes against everything the character stands for, and look at its practical effect on the film. Suddenly Indy doesn't have to anything clever or amazing to get out of a bad situation, he just has to endure it. Oh no! Harrison's going to get hit by a truck! How's he going to get out of this one? Oh, he didn't. It just didn't hurt very much. Huh.

Extrapolate this to Raiders. Indy's clinging to the front of the truck, and it's speeding towards the staff car holding Belloq and friends. What if, instead of climbing under the truck and being dragged underneath, he just hung there until the acr slammed into him, discovered that being pinned between two vehicles wasn't all that painful, then climbed back up and stole the truck?

That's the real problem with transforming Harrison and all the other characters into invulnerable supermen whenever the plot requires it. It's a crutch that keeps the filmmakers from having to come up with any interesting ways of Indy to get out of bad situations, they can just let the bad situation resolve itself, and then move onto the next scene without comment, assuming that everyone in the audience won't question Indy's insane survival because, after all, he's the main character. And how do the villains survive? Well, they need to stick around until the last reel, so what's a horrible car accident, more or less?

Like so many of the film's problems, it's indicative more of laziness than anything else.

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