Sam Alcott and the Theological Struggle of Doom


SAM (7) and DAD watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the fourth or fifth time together. In the movie, late in Act I, Indy and Bald Village Priest converse. BVP tells Indy that Shiva has sent him to recover the village’s magic rock. Indy corrects him, saying that nobody “sent” him, his plane stats

Sam, alarmed, sits up.

SAM. Wait! Run it back!

Sam grabs the remote and reverses the movie for a minute. He plays the scene back, then freezes the playback.

SAM. Who’s “Shiva?”
DAD. Shiva? Shiva is the Indian guy’s god.
SAM. He said Shiva “sent” him.
DAD. Yeah?
SAM. Why did he say that?
DAD. Well that’s what he thinks.
SAM. Why does he think that?
DAD. Well, he’s a priest, Shiva’s his god, he was praying to Shiva to send help and Indy fell out of the sky. So the Indian guy thinks —
SAM. But did he?
DAD. Did who what?
SAM. Did Shiva send him?
DAD. Did Shiva send Indy? To find the Sankara Stone?
SAM. Did Shiva send him?
DAD. Well, that’s what the Indian guy —
SAM. But did he?
DAD. Well, what do you think?
SAM. I’m asking you. Did Shiva send Indy?
DAD. Well, that’s a good question, and that’s kind of what the movie’s about. Indy goes to Pankot to get the rock, right? But he doesn’t really believe the legends, he just thinks it’s superstition. He doesn’t think Shiva is real or anything, he’s in it for the “fortune and glory.” And he goes through the whole movie that way. But then, remember, at the end, when he’s hanging from the bridge with Mola Ram, it looks like he’s going to lose and then he says “You betrayed Shiva!” And he says the magic words and the rocks catch on fire and fall out of the backpack. So you could say that it isn’t until Indy believes that Shiva is real and the rocks are really magic that he’s able to beat Mola Ram.
SAM. So Shiva did send him.
DAD. Well, sure, if you want to look at it —
SAM. Did he? It soundslike he did.
DAD. Well, maybe he did.
SAM. So, did Shiva make those guys jump out of the plane, and make the plane crash, and the whole thing in Shanghai, with the gangsters and the nightclub and the dance number and the car chase? Did Shiva make all that happen?
DAD. Well, you know what they say dude, gods work in mysterious ways.


18 Responses to “Sam Alcott and the Theological Struggle of Doom”
  1. lupa says:

    I love Sam.

    But then again, the ending, where Indy finally believes in Shiva and the mysticism of the traditional Indy cycle is complete, is the reason why this film works for me at all.

  2. johnnycrulez says:

    I had a very similar conversation with my mom when she watched that movie with me when I was a kid.

  3. autodidactic says:

    The first stirrings of the free will versus predestination argument in a child’s soul are always a little alarming to the kid in question. My friend’s kid went through similar during All Dogs Go To Heaven

  4. emeraldsedai says:

    Sam is, apparently, at that Deterministic Age.

    Great dialog.

  5. popebuck1 says:

    If Shiva caused the bravura opening sequence and the thrilling closing act in the temple, then which god or demon is responsible for all the Kate Capshaw whining and sub-Tracy/Hepburn “witty byplay” in between?

  6. greyaenigma says:

    Of course not. Jehovah made it all happen.

  7. pirateman says:

    Sorry for the long comment, but I’m just realizing something just now.

    I cold be talking out of my ass here, but one of the (many) reasons that The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn’t work for me was that (SPOILERS) in all the other Indy movies; Raiders, Doom, and The Grail, the “Gods” are never seen. I mean, the Gods aren’t actually characters… These relics and artifacts that Indy seeks might be just artifacts at first, but then there is belief and that belief makes them something more. In the Crystal Skull, we actually SEE the alien – he’s there, in person, as a character who does something. And whether they believe it or not, the skull is clearly something special – there is no chance that it’s just a golden box full of sand, a bunch of dumb stones, or a regular cup made by a carpenter.

    But what really took all of the mysticism out of it for me, more than the fact that it was an alien artifact, it was the fact that the alien was actually there that I found corny and stupid. It would be akin to God – in all of his stereotypical white bearded toga wearing glory – showing up in Raiders and being like “gimme my ark back” or Shiva actually showing up to retrieve the stones. The Crystal Skull just went one step too far, I guess.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Sorry for the long comment, but I’m just realizing something just now.

      There are a lot of indicators in Crystal Skull that this adventure has a different slant to it. It’s almost like the post-WWII, post-atomic era brings with it a death of the old gods and the birth of a new one. It may have upset you and other fans, but I think it was intentional.

      • pirateman says:

        Re: Sorry for the long comment, but I’m just realizing something just now.

        Maybe the birth of the “God of Technology”? I could definitely see that. You make a good point!

      • Re: Sorry for the long comment, but I’m just realizing something just now.

        Except all the gods in Crystal Skull are von Daniken ancient astronauts–not new gods at all, just old gods with a different name for their mojo.

  8. ndgmtlcd says:

    My bets are on Devi.

  9. Do you think Sam, at his age, understands ambiguity at all? It’s really interesting how unsatisfied he seems with “maybe” as your answer. I think kids generally are like this but I wonder when you can start to appreciate some things being open-ended.

    • Todd says:

      Sam is going through an objectivist phase — he’s currently obsessed with whether something is true or not, regardless of whether “truth” is a cogent issue in the discussion. If you ask him if the sun is shining, the first thing he will think is that for someone, somewhere, the sun is not shining, and he doesn’t want to get caught in a lie. Until he passes through this phase, he will ask a question ten different ways in order to arrive at the answer he needs to hear.