Indiana Jones and the Hole-y Plot (Part 3)
There are certain types of plot holes that originate from laziness or lack of attention, plot holes that generate from desperate writers needing to twist and yes sometimes even alter reality itself in order to get all the pieces of their story where they need them to be. Then there are plot holes like today’s mistake, the kind that originate from the filmmakers’ complete lack of imagination. Either an inability to or disinterest in thinking through the ramifications of the situations they've created. This time we're speaking specifically about the time that Indiana Jones was actually in the spaceship of the crystal skeletons.
After Indiana Jones’ long quest to find the valley of the decrepit pyramid (not actually a long quest - look for that in day 72: Indiana Jones and the accidental trailblazer), he finds himself in the treasure room where he offers evidence that he doesn't actually know what an archaeologist is. It's around this time that Indiana Jones discovers concrete proof of what the audience has known for literally two and half hours, namely that suddenly he’s living in a sci-fi adventure movie rather than a mystical one. Where does this prove come from? He opens a big stone door, and behind it is the cockpit of an alien spaceship.
And of course opening that door is the easiest thing in the world, and why shouldn’t it be? After all this is where the aliens decided to sleep for thouasnds of years after going into duodecafurcation hibernation mode. Naturally they wouldn’t want to make that place hard to get in to. They go so far as to make the only way of opening the door to put a crystal skull in the big crystal skull-shaped dent in the middle of it.
So, faced with a keyhole that’s shaped exactly like the thing he’s been dragging around the last few hours, Harrison Ford does the logical thing and puts the crystal in the door, which allows the psychic alien brain trapped inside the crystal of the skull to say “hey, open this door”.
Now, obviously back when the alien was just one guy made of flesh rather than 12 skeletons the door wouldn't have needed to skull to open it. He probably just would have thought in the general direction of the door, and had it swing open. It’s obivious that they were planning for the possibility of one of the skulls being stolen, though, since they made the door’s psychic-detection mechanisms sensitive enough that they can pick up the thoughts of an alien even in its barely functioning ‘I am a skull’ phase of its existence.
But this whole sequence raises one hell of a question and creates a pretty epic plot hole: if using an alien’s psychic power is the only way to open the door into the spaceship, how did the conquistadors get into the spaceship to steal the Crystal skull in the first place?
You know, as I write these little articles about Indiana Jones and the valley of the plastic skull I have a habit of trying to do the filmmakers’ work for them, thinking out plot holes explaining away inconsistencies, offering better solutions to the problem as a way of saying “hey, this film didn't have to be a complete disaster - it was just 50,000 or so honest mistakes”. This kind of mistake defies any attempt to rationalize it away. The idea that the question of how the skull got out of the spaceship in the first place never occurred to anyone during the entire proccess – from writing to editing to casting to set building to rehearsals to filming – speaks pretty terribly of every single person who worked on the movie.
The only possible explanation is that when the conquistadors arrived some 500 years earlier the door to the spaceship was not closed. Although that’s not really much of an explanation. Say you’re the alien and you’ve spent some time flying around the world collecting treasure and kidnapping a bunch of natives who you force to worship you, then have them build a pyramid on top of your spaceship for some reason – once all of that was done and you decided to go into the hibernation mode that causes you to split from one flesh-covered alien into 12 distinct skeletons, why would you leave the door to your spaceship open? Or if you did, why would you have the door or set to close only after someone did come in and severed one of your heads? Isn’t that like developing a barn security system designed to close the door only after the horse has left?
Is there a way all of these actions can possibly be interpreted to make the slightest bit of sense anyone? The absolute, bottom of the barrel half-explanation they could have offeres is to stick a half-crushed Conquistadore skeleton in between the stone doors. Even though we've would've been left with all of the same questions about why the door was opened in the first place or how the Conquistadores got into the spaceship, at least it would have made clear the idea that taking the head had somehow correlated with closing that door and it happened quickly enough that not everyone made it out alive.
Which also would have established just the slightest bit of threat around the aliens, which nothing else in the film managed to do.