All right, first of all, spoiler alert. And I ain’t talkin’ about cars.
It struck me today why I enjoyed the new Indiana Jones movie so much. The ending, while superficially ludicrous, is nearly identical, point-for-point, to the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Let me take you through it:
- Mythical object of immense power. In Raiders, this was the Ark of the Covenant. In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the object was, of course, a jade hockey mask. Just kidding. In both movies, the objects were of uncertain origin and nature, and their power was virtually unlimited. And in both movies, that power was lusted after by a dark power from the bowels of history. (Apologies to any Russian readers.)
- Indy’s instinct for avoiding trouble. Throughout most of both movies, Indy seems to run headlong into danger rather than avoiding it, but at the end, he instinctively knows not to entangle himself with the artifact’s power. In Raiders, he knew not to look into the Ark as it was opened. In Crystal Skull, he knew instinctively to get away from the interdimensional portal. In neither film is he at all tempted by the power of the object, and so in both films he is delivered from it.
- Face-melting fun. Watching Nazis’ faces melt was perhaps the best part of Raiders. Similarly, it was hard not to cheer in campy delight when Cate Blanchett’s eyes exploded just before she melted into dust. Take-home lesson: if you mess with the black arts, you won’t be pretty no more.
- Wide-open ending. We were told very little about the Ark. Was it really a conduit to God, or just an object of great material power? What happened to it after it was sealed in that warehouse? (That question, for good or ill, was answered somewhat in Crystal Skull) Similarly, we learn very little of the aliens who left their shiny skeletons behind. Much is left to the imagination.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was a truly great adventure movie, with a breathtaking climax of an ending. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull perhaps doesn’t reach the same height, but it follows the same path, and is better off for it.
I promise this will be the last post about it!