“Indiana Jones and the City of Gods”: a brief review (w/spoilers)

| June 13, 2008

Oh, for things that might have been.

I saw “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” on opening day, and — for all the grumblings that I’ve seen in other reviews — I actually liked it. Shia LaBeouf wasn’t as bad as I feared, and it was a joy seeing Karen Allen — the only real heroine of any of the Indiana Jones movies — appear again. The film was a bit goofy here and there, but it was fun.

And then in just this past week, I began to see rumblings about Frank Darabont’s original screenplay for Indy IV having been leaked to the ‘net in PDF form. I did some poking around, found it, downloaded it, and began read.

I didn’t stop until I had finished it, despite my wife’s best efforts to drag me away from my laptop.

The screenplay isn’t perfect, but scene-for-scene, line-for-line, it’s a far better script that what Lucas and Spielberg eventually filmed. I don’t know why Lucas and Spielberg (and it may well have just been Lucas) rejected this script; on the other hand, given what Lucas did to the Star Wars prequels, I’m not sure any explanation is necessary.

This film does not have the Cate Blanchett or the Shia LaBeouf characters. The Ray Winstone character is actually Russian (and turns out to be a Russian spy). Marion is married (!) when Indy runs into her in Peru, and — contrary to what Wikipedia says — she does not have a 13-year-old daughter from her liaison with Indy in “Raiders”. There are giant ants — even bigger than the ones in “Crystal Skull” — but there’s actually a rational for them — and I regret not seeing the hummingbirds. Oh, and Sallah and Dr. Henry Jones are both still alive.

Yes, there is one (only one) former Nazi — hiding out in Peru — in the movie, but he’s a relatively minor character and could have been easily written out or changed to something else, so it makes no sense to say (as Wikipedia does) that Spielberg rejected the whole Darabont screenplay because of that one character.

It’s a great read, even in screenplay form, and a great insight into the craft of screenwriting. If Spielberg had filmed this screenplay, I think that “City of Gods” would have blown past “Iron Man”.

But, hey — that’s Lucas and Spielberg for you. A few “spoilers” after the jump.

The overall arc of “City of Gods” is very similar to “Crystal Skull”, except that you have several groups after the lost city, not just two. Jones — while still in the US — ends up with the skull and with tickets and directions to meet up with an expedition down in Peru. That expedition turns out to be led by Marion Ravenwood’s husband, a charming, intelligent and experienced archaeologist. That group sets off, but then must deal with another coalition group comprising the (dictatorial) president of Peru, Indy’s Russian-spy (former) friend, some Soviet commandos, the one ex-Nazi, and a few others. It becomes a chase to the lost city — but I like this one better than the one in “Crystal Skull”. And the alien they awake is a bit nastier, too. (Indy to alien: “Hey…welcome to earth.” BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!)

As I said, do some sleuthing, and you can find the screenplay yourself. Pity that’s all we’ll ever see of it. ..bruce w..

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About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.