Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull part 3

As with Raiders and Temple, once the third act of Kingdom comes, the concerns of the movie turn largely physical — how do we get the thing from the bad guys, how do we get to the sacred temple before them, how do we get a car-boat into a river, etc.

But first, Indy has a piece of important personal information revealed to him.hitcounter

Mutt, acting very Indy-like, facilitates an escape from Spalko’s camp, leading Indy, Marion and Oxley into the jungle. They don’t get far before Indy and Marion stumble into some quicksand. Mutt goes off to find something to extract them and Indy sends Oxley for “help.” Neither of these motions makes any sense — it’s a jungle, and there are vines shown covering every tree and rock in sight, why should Mutt need to go off to find anything, and Indy expects Oxley to go off and get help from who, exactly?

The answer is, of course, that the screenplay needs to have Indy and Marion alone for a moment so that Marion can tell Indy that Mutt is his son. The path to the scene may be hastily constructed, but the resulting moment is sweet, comic and thematically important. Indy, headstrong master of improvised action, suddenly finds himself stuck in encroaching old age, with an old girlfriend, no less, and now, out of nowhere, a new son, new responsibilities and a whole new set of priorities. What better way to express the protagonist’s new situation than putting him in a pit of quicksand? And what do he and Marion discuss? Mutt’s education, of course, tying the scene to the theme of knowledge and experience. This is the scene the whole movie pivots on: in the second half of Kingdom, Indy finds himself shifting in his role from lone adventurer to responsible patriarch.

Spielberg has explored this notion before, that in a world where nothing makes sense any more, people turn to the family unit for answers about how to live one’s life. It is the opposite of the young Spielberg, where his protagonists could not wait to get out of the family unit in order to pursue their various obsessions.

In any case, Mutt returns to help his mother and father out of the quicksand — an example, perhaps, of the child bringing the parents together, and Oxley returns with Spalko and her goons, creating a situation rare in Spielberg, where the characters, after a set piece, find themselves in the same position they were in before. What makes this dramaturgical no-no permissible is that Indy is, literally, not the same person he was when he entered the quicksand. Now a father with a wife and a child and a friend, he can no longer afford to tell the bad guys to piss off — he has to play ball or else his family will be destroyed. What father could not identify with this situation? Mostly a father these days just needs to worry about pleasing an unqualified boss, not capitulating to the demands of a wild-eyed Soviet dominatrix.

What is Indy thinking at this point? Well, speaking as a Hollywood screenwriter, I would say that Indy’s thinking: a) I must protect my family, b) I must help my friend recover his sanity, c) maybe the way to do those things is by doing the thing I’m good at, and d) maybe that means that I can pull it all together — gain knowledge and protect my family and friend at the same time.

Which catapults the narrative into the “drive through the jungle” sequence. Indy and Mutt stage a family fight (about, what else, the acquisition of knowledge) in the back of a truck carrying them to their final destination. (The rather fantastical jungle-cutting vehicle at the front of the procession prompted Sam to exclaim “Hey! Just like Speed Racer!”) Indy, working with Mutt and, eventually, Marion (who does not seem to have been in on the plan, but is certainly up for improvising) turns the dynamic of the drive through the jungle, hijacking both the antagonist’s agenda and the artifact driving the pursuit — the crystal skull. So, while Indy and Mutt pretend to debate education, they are, in fact, creating education’s antithesis, experience. No college course could instruct Mutt how to swordfight with a psychic Russian in a Lulu bob during a high-speed pursuit through the Amazonian jungle.

During the sequence, of course, Mac reveals himself to be a “good guy” after all, another reminder that, if you need to have an expository speech, the middle of a dynamic chase scene is a good place to put it.

(And let’s remember that Mac, like Oxley, are not really “characters” at all — they are reflections of the protagonist. Oxley is the pure academic, who has gone crazy from his pursuit of knowledge, Mac is the wayfaring capitalist whose virtue can be bought for a sack of gold. Mutt, in addition to being Indy’s son, is also Indy’s reckless, driving intuition. People have been complaining that Indy doesn’t have enough to “do” during the last half of Kingdom, but overlook the fact that Indy is, dramatically, the bulk of the cast at this point.)

(The drive through the jungle pauses for a fight among some Army Ants. I would like to say that this sequence is a reference to Antz, but that is probably in my imagination. Although let me also add that, in the one Antz story meeting Spielberg attended, he interrupted a conversation between myself, Nina Jacobson and Jeffrey Katzenberg to pitch a “battle with the army ants” scene — so apparently army ants have been on his mind for quite a while. Army ants, of course, owe their success as a species to their possession of a hive-mind, which becomes important later in Kingdom.)

(Mutt gets cut off from the main chase and employs a Tarzan move to rejoin the group, a reference that even my 5-year-old daughter got, although she probably did not also stop to consider Tarzan’s innocence/experience dichotomy. Mutt, lacking in education, is taught by a bunch of monkeys to swing on vines. The story of Tarzan, of course, hinges on the protagonist’s conflicting feelings on the “purity” of his animal innocence vs. the pull of civilization, “where he belongs.” Mutt feels a similar conflict, and the Tarzan moment, cheesy as it may seem to some, is thematically resonant.)

Once the maguffin is in Oxley’s hands, Marion drives their car-boat off a cliff and into a tree, a situation the protagonist of Jurassic Park would be familiar with, only this time, of course, Spielberg stands the stunt on its head, making it intentional and beneficial. The plunge into the river leads to some waterfalls and the final drive into Act IV.

Indy takes the skull from Oxley, prepared to take it to wherever it needs to go by himself. Why? “Because it told me to” : this is, apparently, what the skull imparted to Indy during their little tete-a-tete. This adds yet another wrinkle to Indy’s priorities: he must protect his family and friends, he must pursue his desire for knowledge, and now he must do what the higher power instructs. This last makes the elderly Indy a cousin to Close Encounters‘ Roy Neary, the implications of which will become clear shortly.

Indy and his family make it through the waterfall and to the temple-thing, pursued by Spalko and her surviving goons. Indy and his family are chased by Indians, whom they subdue with the power of the skull. Indy subdues the natives through religion, while Spalko subdues them the old-fashioned way — with sub-machine-gun fire.

(The subduing of the natives plot-point led to this after-movie exchange: KRIOTA WILLBERG: “So wait, the skull works on army ants — and natives?” JACKSON PUBLICK: “Well, but come on — the skull is central to the natives’ entire belief system!” Mr. Publick may have been disappointed with Kingdom, but he wasn’t going to stand by and let some choreographer needlessly nitpick over issues of logic — that would lead to questions about, like, how a carload of people survive plunges over three waterfalls, and don’t drop their skull-bag.)

We get to the “throne room,” where it becomes clear what needs to happen — the skull must be put back on the head of one of 13 alien skeletons arrayed in a circle of thrones. Indy, for the first time in his career, is hesitant to take this final step, and this is, in a way, his cumulative moment. Presented with the goal, he backs off, reluctant to take his journey to its logical conclusion. The reason being, he has experienced enough of the skull’s power and knows that pursuit of ultimate knowledge can only lead to insanity (that is, Oxley) and maybe something much worse.

And maybe it’s just a coincidence, but maybe the bulk of Kingdom takes place in a jungle in reference to the original jungle, the Garden of Eden. The reference is never explicit (ie, nobody reaches out and takes a big healthy bite from a juicy red apple), but the crystal skull is, essentially, the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Gazing into the skull (that is, biting into the apple) will give you knowledge, but you will also become a different person because of it. The younger Indy may have taken the risk (as Oxley did) but the older Indy has too much to lose. On the other hand, Indy was wise enough in Raiders to close his eyes to the fury of the Ark — whether out of a sense of responsibility to Marion or for his own self-preservation.

Anyway, Mac is revealed to be a straight-up amoral capitalist, the “grave robber” Indy denied being in Act II. He brings Spalko to the throne room and takes the opportunity to go loot whatever he can out of the rest of the temple.

Spalko takes the skull from the reluctant Indy and replaces it on the alien-skeletons’s neck, setting a big whirling thing in motion. The temple, we find, is a huge, buried spacecraft — science interpreted by humans as God — and, like the aliens in Close Encounters, their only desire is to “go home,” which they apparently cannot do until their missing skull is returned.

An inter-dimensional portal opens in the ceiling, carrying debris and Soviets to who-knows-where. Roy Neary would have jumped at the chance to pursue this ultimate knowledge, that is, to know God, but the older, wiser, Indy knows that one does not, cannot come back from that particular undiscovered country. Seeing the portal open, Indy grabs his family and runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction. This direct, conscious repudiation of the thesis of Close Encounters is the most striking of Kingdom‘s conceits and the thing that puts it into a higher realm of “importance” in the Spielberg canon.

(I’ve seen several people complain that Kingdom steals its central plot-points from Stargate, but I put the theft much earlier: Eric Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods?.)

Spalko, of course, receives what she has come for, which is, essentially, what Dave Bowman gets at the end of 2001: all the knowledge in the universe. Dave survives the process of education, and returns to Earth to do who-know-what. Spalko does not survive, although perhaps she gains some measure of godhood in whatever plane of existence the acquisition of all knowledge she achieves.

Indy, on the other hand, would rather be a simple husband and father in this world than a maybe-god in another. Having been uprooted from his own life, he has re-discovered his identity. By replacing the thing that was stolen, he regains what was stolen from himself.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to let Mutt wear his hat.


30 Responses to “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull part 3”
  1. moroccomole says:

    I’ve seen several people complain that Kingdom steals its central plot-points from Stargate…

    Not to mention The Abyss.

  2. greyaenigma says:

    “I would like to say that this sequence is a reference to Antz, but that is probably in my imagination.”

    Well, the ants do build a ladder out of their own bodies in order to reach their goal, but then that would also mean that Cate Blanchett crushed Woody Allen in her thighs. So I can see why you might not want to think that.

    “No college course could instruct Mutt how to swordfight with a psychic Russian in a Lulu bob during a high-speed pursuit through the Amazonian jungle.”

    I don’t know, Hampshire is pretty good at letting people build their own curricula. i just wish I’d thought of that one.

    • Todd says:

      “That would mean that Cate Blanchett crushed Woody Allen in her thighs.”

      That would not be my fantasy, and probably not Spielberg’s, but Allen is another story.

      • rjwhite says:

        After seeing that, the first thing I thought was- there will probably be someone on the internet enjoying that clip over and over again.

  3. curt_holman says:

    “I like big Mutts and I cannot lie…”

    I have no doubt that you noticed that Mutt said something to the effect that he gave himself the name “Mutt,” an echo of the fact that Henry Jones Jr. gave himself the name “Indiana” after the family dog. (Which was supposedly the name of George Lucas’ dog.)

    I’m having trouble imagining what they’ll call Mutt-based sequels: Mutt Williams and the Final Resting Place of Fonzie’s Jacket?

  4. mr_noy says:

    As always, I’m enjoying your analysis and the feedback from your readers. In spite of its flaws I enjoyed Indy 4 and enjoyed it slightly more the second time. Certain things still didn’t work for me and I tend to agree with Mr. Publick; on the page these scenes might have worked like gangbusters but something seems to have been lost in the execution. While there’s too many things to list I’ll limit myself to a few key points –

    Indy’s reaction to seeing Marion for the first time in 20 years. Ford emotes more in those two seconds than he has in the past dozen films he’s acted in combined. Lately, his constantly furrowed brow and frozen scowl seem less like acting and more like the look of a man who knows he’s acting in films beneath his talent.

    The return of Karen Allen even though she’s given relatively little to do apart from driving and grinning like a mad woman. I recently rewatched Raiders and was impressed (again) by how many colors she was able to bring to what could have been a generic ‘damsel in distress’ role. It’s also nice, for once, to see a Hollywood leading man in an age appropriate romance.

    The fact that Indy has become older and wiser. Not only that, like his father, he’s become a bit pedantic. The old Indy couldn’t be bothered to give a lecture on the science behind quicksand nor would he have had the patience and tact to gently calm down a hot-headed young man he had just met. Then of course there’s the beat on the motorcycle where Mutt’s self-satisfied grin is met with Indy’s look of disapproval which, as you also noted, is a lovely echo of the same beat in Last Crusade.

    THE BAD:
    Mutt’s The Wild One’s era get up. Shia Leboeuf is no Brando and rather than looking cool and iconic he just looked like a ridiculous poseur. That being said, I’m not one of the legion of Leboeuf hating fanboys and once the hat makes its exit he holds himself well against Ford.

    A little too much CGI for my taste – but thankfully less than there could have been. Doubtlessly wires and harnesses were digitally removed but look at that moment when Ford climbs back onto the motorcycle, his feet scraping the pavement. I’ve seen the film twice now and neither large audience was particularly responsive yet the moment I just described is the only one that elicited gasps of amazement from both audiences. That relatively simple, earth-bound stunt was more awe inspiring than all of the CG temples, Jeeps roaring through digital jungles and alien vortexes the film has to offer.

    Indy is, like all archetypes, resistant to change but after having witnessed first hand the powers of the Old Testament God, the Hindi God of Death, and the New Testament God you’d think he wouldn’t bat an eye when it comes to aliens. By now he should be like a deist Fox Mulder with a whip but he remains ever skeptical – that is until disbelief is no longer an option. Aliens shouldn’t be more implausible than virtually every belief system in the world turning out to be true but for some reason I can’t quite buy extraterrestrials existing in the Indy universe; although I admit it does resonate with the 50’s setting.

    The cute critter/alien/droid gags and reaction shots which have been popping up in Lucas’ films since at least Return of the Jedi.

    Mac’s multiple switching of allegiances didn’t really bother me but his final exchange with Indy seemed forced. One minute he’s a greedy, backstabber willing to let his friends die then he’s suddenly resigned to his fate, almost at peace with himself. Mac’s redemption might have worked if only it didn’t feel as though some moment between he and Indy was left on the cutting room floor.

    • marcochacon says:

      I watched the movie checking off your style of analysis in my head. You’ve made me watch movies differently–perhaps better–and I’d analyzed the heck out of them anyway.

      Well done. Keep doing it.


  5. the_stalwart says:

    Hi, Mr. Alcott. Love your blog.

    We just got back from our 2nd viewing and the film goes down a lot smoother the 2nd time. My wife cleverly pointed out that the Mutt-and-the-monkeys scene is also a sly allusion to Raiders, where Marion jokingly calls the assassin-monkey “our son” who has Indy’s looks.

    As for the natives, Belloq already showed us that holding a skull-idol over your head can cause any South American native warrior to grovel.

    The most interesting thing I noticed is that the tomb where they find the conquistadores and the crystal skull has the exact same locking mechanism as the bug-infested chamber in Temple of Doom. Who knew locksmiths made housecalls from Peru to India?

  6. catwalk says:

    No college course could instruct Mutt how to swordfight with a psychic Russian in a Lulu bob during a high-speed pursuit through the Amazonian jungle.

    that should be in every advanced level swordfighting class.
    101: saluting. fencing.
    201: mercifully allowing your opponent to live in the shame of his defeat. that wrist-flippy thing that disarms your opponent.
    301: two swords.
    graduate level: how to swordfight with a psychic Russian in a Lulu bob during a high-speed pursuit through the Amazonian jungle (see also immortals, clock towers, thunderstorms, and double-ended light sabers)

  7. mimitabu says:

    i just got back from seeing kingdom, having put off reading your analyses until now, and i loved it. loved it. all the content you’re talking about here resonates with me, and the action was great as well. but most of all, as you wrote in your first entry on the topic, it *was an indiana jones movie*. like phantom menace was *not* a star wars movie.

    jackson’s criticisms resonate with me to some degree as well… but the pacing was (for me) involving even if it diminished some of the emotional gravity. i do think that there was a definite lack of chemistry between the actors, but honestly i didn’t care.

    i thought of this blog during the movie actually, during a few of the “oh come on,” movie-logic moments (i think the “get help!” one). it reminded me of discussions about indiana jones movies being so compelling that the viewer (or at least viewer) ends up very forgiving; because really, whenever i noticed a logic flaw–e.g. “so wait, this guy came all the way to the temple, then came back, put the skull away, and wandered into town? nonono…”–i didn’t care. and the “get help!” moment was so outrageous/character-stupid as to be utterly conspicuous, but i was like “so what.”

    also, i think some of the… lack of emotional gravity (i guess one would call it; i mean the lack of extreme emotional reaction) comes from where indy is in this movie. he’s calming down, and finally incorporating the humility that averts his eyes from the ark into his entire life. crucially, he hasn’t repudiated anything from earlier movies, he’s just made his choices and learned his lessons. i thought it was very beautiful.

    • mimitabu says:

      “it reminded me of discussions about indiana jones movies being so compelling that the viewer (or at least viewer) ends up very forgiving;”

      at least *this* viewer i mean. orz

  8. (And let’s remember that Mac, like Oxley, are not really “characters” at all — they are reflections of the protagonist.
    Is that why they don’t seem to be fully developed?! I was looking in the wrong place!

    Tarzan? I was thinking George of the Jungle…

    Thelma and Louise over the edge, but also a Last Crusade reference in the step out onto the ledge into the unknown?

    I appreciate the Antz reference but am guessing you are not going to buy into the idea that they may be referencing other films that they inspired (Romancing the Stone and (dare I say it) The Mummy (with teeming hoardes of scarab beetles)

    And a Kubrick reference to finish off!

    Thanks for your take on it, Todd. I like your take on the theme, which I think is accurate. It will be good to see if, like a lot of other films, I like it better the second time.

    • Here in the pudding…

      In what film does the girl save the guy by driving the car into the water, it floats like a boat and then they go over a waterfall and survive?

      Romancing the Stone!

  9. ninebelow says:

    Indy is, literally, not the same person he was when he entered the quicksand. Now a father with a wife and a child and a friend, he can no longer afford to tell the bad guys to piss off

    I’m not sure how much of a change this is because Indy was never going to tell the bad guys to piss off. His plan is always to go along with them and then nick off with the treasure at the last minute. At the beginning in Area 51 he doesn’t tell the Russians to go to hell and thereby risk death or torture as you might expect an US Army colonel to do. Instead he is quick to apply his practical knowledge to gain the greater knowledge. Later on he is almost indecently quick to complicity with the Russian – “Get me a map!”, he wants to sole the puzzle – in the run up to the quicksand. There are several shots of Mutt looking on slightly appalled by this before he facilitates the escape.

  10. jawastew says:

    Great analysis! I’m glad I read it all.

    EDIT: Thanks for giving input on the monkey-boy scene. The spaceship scene I was able to understand (albeit still goofy to me, I like it). The Tarzan scene, I didn’t have any clue on and thought it was a bit ridiculous. I still think it’s a bit goofy, but rather like your take on it. 🙂

  11. hollywdliz says:

    Hi! I got here via and am very glad I did. I enjoyed the movie on my first viewing but didn’t love it. I have a feeling I will enjoy the second viewing much more because of your analysis. Thanks so much for your insightful and entertaining commentary!

    (I need more Indy icons now…)

  12. I think it’s also Spielberg giving a massive “F*ck you” to everyone who thought he couldn’t do something serious–and what better way to do that than juxtapose the image of a ridiculous goddamn flying saucer with two people who are getting married for no other reason than love (they already have a kid and they’re old)?

    • Todd says:

      I can think of many ways for Spielberg to convince an audience that he is capable of doing something serious (Munich springs to mind), but ending an adventure with a wedding is a comic beat, not a dramatic one.

      • Didn’t mean to imply that Kingdom is a dramatic film, just that putting a wedding in an action film seems to fly against convention, and the effect is compounded by the preceding scene of a sensational flying saucer taking off. You have high adventure, ancient ruins, and alien technology soaring through the clouds and then cut to a wedding. You have Indy passing up all the knowledge of the universe and saying, “Screw it, the only thing I’m searching for is right here.” In the words of a pretentious dilettante of film junkie: It’s like Spielberg’s saying, “Yeah, I can still do all that action stuff, but I’m more interested in people now.”

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think once Mutt (I kept hearing his name as “Mudd” all the way through the movie, so I’m glad to find out here that it’s “Mutt” and it ties into the “get our true adventure names from dogs” ongoing bit) is revealed to Indy as his son, the movie is very much about Indy retiring and his son taking over the family business. Yes, that theme was evident earlier too — in many ways the entire business in the warehouse was a fond goodbye to the Indy films, as well as being a goodbye to the old world order. And since Indy is now an obsolite throwback to the new modern world, as his son comes into his own, Mutt becomes even more of a throwback — more of a historical adventure hero figure than his dad. Indy’s signature weapon is his whip (only using a gun at rare times) which is a cowboy era and later weapon. But Mutt’s is a sword, which is even more ancient. Then Mutt literally becomes Tarzan, the iconic primate hero, which even Indy at his prime only flirted with here and there (swinging from his whip from time to time). Someday Mutt is going to be more Indy than Indy.

    That’s why it’s okay for Indy to be sitting in the back seat during the falls over the falls — from here on he’s constantly handing off his leader role to Marion and his son, and then taking it back again, because “don’t count the old man out yet, son.” I loved this part of the film. Indy giving (or losing) his role over to his son (or others), and then grabbing it back again, perfectly mirrored the losing the skull to the bad guys, and getting it back, and losing it again (which also happened with the arc in the first film).

    And that makes the wedding at the end the most vital statement of the film. It’s Indy’s retirement ceremony. And then we have Mutt take up Indy’s hat (which is how he puts on his power [which is why the scene at the beginning is so wonderful, as powerless Indy is taken from the trunk, but then we see him put on his hat and know what the bad guys don’t know, that they’re about to be in a lot of trouble]). But Mutt doesn’t quite get the hat on. Indy takes it away from him (with a sly smile) in an act that says: “Ceremony or not, I may not quite be ready to retire yet, so wait your turn, Junior” — a perfect capstone to the story.

    Bill Willingham

  14. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and one more observation. I didn’t get Cate Blanchett as dying at the end. I thought she did what Indy couldn’t do — take that last step through the portal (the looking glass) — just like Roy Neary going into the mother ship — becoming godlike with knowlege, while Indy chose to save his family and remain human.

    Am I reading too much into this? Did we see her die onscreen and I’m misremembering it?

    Bill Willingham (again)

    • Todd says:

      Well, she becomes discorporate — flames out, as it were — but sure, I suppose she could reasonably keep existing on some other plane.

  15. In Part 1 you wrote:
    “Once he “knows” what’s in the box, his intent becomes “to put it back where it belongs.” This is a marked change for Indiana Jones, who up until now was content to trash temples, grab the idol, and put it in a museum (or hand it over to a gangster, as he does at the beginning of Temple of Doom). “To put it back where it belongs,” which we can shorten to “to set things right” for our purposes, is Indy’s motivation throughout Kingdom.”

    During the interrogation scene we learn that Indy fought in WW2. Since he fought Nazi’s in two of the first films I guess many may tend to forget those stories take place before the war. It’s my belief that because of what Indy saw and went through in the war, like many he go to war, he’s forever changed.

    Perhaps after seeing the horrors and death of war the idea of taking what isn’t his (antiquities) even though it may be for a good cause (museum) seems so trivial and wrong now.

    Many moviegoers (and critics) seem to think that all we get is an older, in age, Indiana Jones. But we also get an older, more mature Indy, who’s life experiences in the past 19 years mean we have to see a new, different Indy.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Huge disappointment

    to say Indy 4 was a big disappointment for me would be an understatement. It was a disaster. In fact, I refuse to count this one as an Indiana Jones movie.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Huge disappointment

    to say Indy 4 was a big disappointment for me would be an understatement. It was a disaster. In fact, I refuse to count this one as an Indiana Jones movie.
    The film DOESN’T work on so many levels that I won’t bother counting them (of course, its main fault being the ridiculously poor screenplay! Not the story — the actual screenplay).
    the biggest offense I experienced — why on Earth would an Indy flick go AS LOW as to imitate the IMITATION?! Why?! Why channeling mindless kitsch-fests like The Mummy (heavily!), National Treasure, and god knows what else?!
    say whatever you want, THIS was not an Indy movie, no sir. An Indy movie is brilliant, it is fun, it is sparkling, it is entertaining as hell, it is exciting, it is mysterious, it is engaging.
    THIS disaster of a sequel is a mindless, TREMENDOUS BORE.
    And to think this was the movie I was the most anxious to see in my entire movie-going life…
    Now I will simply erase it from my memories and maybe watch raiders, or Temple to improve the bad taste in my mouth.
    RIP, Indy.

  18. samedietc says:

    I’ve very much enjoyed your analysis of the experience vs. knowledge thematic of the movie, which makes some sense of my big complaint, that the movie makes Indiana into two opposite caricatures: the ex-OSS action hero and the pedant. (Your “experience vs. knowledge” dichotomy does make more sense of that, though I would want to distinguish knowledge from pedantry; like, if you’re trapped in a sand pit, there’s some knowledge that will be important–keep your hands above your head–and some knowledge that won’t be, like what the definition of quicksand is. Maybe the fact that Indy is more a pedant than a teacher helps your argument about the themes, but in reducing a character to a set of thematic oppositions, I think this movie strains the character’s believability and/or the audience’s willingness to care.)

    Although, IIRC, his comment to the kids in the library isn’t just that they need to get into the field–he recommends one book that was written by a guy who spent time in the field. So, if I can get my experience by proxy, that seems to complicate the clean division that you’re arguing exists in much of the movie.

    I’m also not entirely clear on how experience vs. knowledge explains the wedding ending–that is, going with the aliens = knowledge (which might be why Oxley, who has been with them most, can offer the knowledgeable and boredom-inspiring lines describing them as interdimensional beings); but does that mean that getting married and returning to a deanship = experience? (That especially seems problematic if experience = getting out in the field, something that husband and dean Jones won’t be doing much of any more.)

    Also, one final comment about the structure of the film. While I really like your comment about Indy being pulled out of a trunk into a new world, structurally, I wasn’t thrilled by the fact that the prologue directly had to do with the main plot. (Although, how the recovery of the alien body affects anything in Spalko’s plan is beyond me. Recovering a MacGuffin at the beginning just kind of emphasizes how unimportant it is.) Maybe this is a change from 30s serials, where people could bounce around from episode to episode, to the less picaresque stories of the 50s, but I thought it failed to establish any exoticism or wonder in the Jones universe.

    (Also, my real final comment: if you’re doing an entry into a retro/nostalgia franchise, why update the timeline?)

  19. kornleaf says:

    Stargate the series? or the movie?