Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Alternate Movie Review - Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods

We in The Middle Room have long suspected that our universe is but the tip of the iceberg, that there are more worlds than this one, that reality is but a single possibility among a million others.

In most cases, this is merely a point of philosophical musing, nothing more. Indeed, we never thought we would ever be driven to venture beyond the walls we know to other lands and other worlds.

But then we saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As we noted before, while this wasn't an awful movie, it left us wanting more. Our expectations were not met - indeed, they were stood up.

Things escalated when we read this article. It is often the case that a major motion picture goes through many drafts by many different writers. In The Middle Room we keep a stack of such discarded drafts to remind us of Fate's fickle hand and, of course, the icosahedron, whose many faces always turn, opening new paths as others close forever.

And it was the icosahedron we found ourselves thinking about as we perused the pages of Frank Darabont's fascinating script. Here, there was no "Mutt Williams." Here, there was complexity and danger - the villains were more than comic relief: they were deadly. Like in the Crystal Skull, Indiana was betrayed by an old friend, but here he was Russian, not to mention competent, capable, and strong. The conclusion of the film included an alien, but this was a cruel being, more than willing to wear the mantle of a god and receive blood sacrifices to prolong its own life. And, unlike the movie we'd seen, Indy actually DID SOMETHING during this encounter.

It was, in short, a superior script.

And we asked ourselves, "What if the die had fallen differently? What if this were the script that had been filmed?"

It was around this time that we recalled that we do keep a working Cosmic Treadmill in a corner of The Middle Room. As we've other methods of time travel at out disposal, we tend to forget it entirely. But the Treadmill has another function, as well: with it one can vibrate through dimensions.

We realized that if we could activate it, we'd be able to travel to other worlds. We could visit an Earth where Darabont's script was realized. So we plugged it into a perpetual motion machine (we picked one up at a yard sales a few years back) and shifted it into overdrive.

This brings us, of course, to the first of many reviews of movies never filmed. Never filmed, that is, on your Earth, and we pity you, the residents of Earth Prime, who will never know the greener pastures on the other side of the multiverse.

But if you ever find yourself with a Cosmic Treadmill of your own, or, for that matter, any device capable of breaching the dimensional constraints of your world and bridging to alternate histories and realities - well then, we think it would be well worth the time to slide from world to world until you find one where Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods was made.

Until then, you may need to make do with tracking down and reading the script.

Without further ado, here is our take:

Movie Review - Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods

Wow. If computers must replace locations, sets, and matte painting, then this is the way to do it. Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods is pulp adventure at its finest. The movie does the impossible: paying homage to the first three films while expanding into a new era; an era of paranoia, atomic explosions, and fragile yet complex alliances.

Spielberg, in our opinion, overuses digital tools here, but this is a minor complaint if one at all. This film is one of action and adventure, fantasy and comedy. It is, indeed, zany at times, but that is all part of the fun. Under other circumstances some of the gags might grow tedious, but here they flow with the film.

This is a movie of character and tone. Indiana Jones has grown older, but he has refused to grow up. This is the Dr. Jones we've known, but, for the first time, we truly see his limitations. Sure, he's moved past his fear of snakes (at least until he's swallowed by one a hundred feet long), but commitment continues to terrify him.

Through the course of the movie, however, we see him confronted with a worse fear: being alone. The love of his life, Marion Ravenwood, has moved on: she's married another.

Fortunately for Indy, her husband is secretly a communist spy and doesn't have her (or America's) best interests at heart. The three of them, along with Russians, a German dreaming of resurrecting the Third Reich, and the power hungry ruler of Peru, seek the power of the gods. And it is the gods they find, in the form of aliens buried beneath the earth awaiting their time to rise. With surgical precision, the very concept of a "god" is dismantled and considered. These are not benevolent beings, but rather cold and calculating lords demanding human sacrifice. One of the aliens is raised from the dead. He is comfortable with the term "god," though it seems to be a matter of expectation and expedience only.

The climatic finale satisfies completely, providing Marion the opportunity to save Indy in a moment reminiscent of the opening of the Arc. Indy, faced with an ancient being of fearful power, reminds us why we love him: instead of running, he reaches for his gun and kills the alien. Of course with her husband dead (and what other end could possibly have awaited him), Marion is available, and the movie concludes (a bit awkwardly perhaps) with a wedding.

Against any of the previous Indiana Jones films, this receives a respectable four and a half stars, only failing to snatch five because of its reliance on computer generated imagery. Truly, it is a worthy bookend to the Jones adventures.

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