What would movie fans give to read every draft of “Indy 4” — especially Frank Darabont’s? Well, the wait is over: That very version popped up online late Wednesday.
At least we think it did. Titled “Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods,” the version of the script (before it was taken down by legal eagles) is either the Darabont version or the most authentic, beautifully written fake we’ve ever seen. (Calls to Paramount and Lucasfilm were unreturned at press time.)
And, make no mistake about it, there are moments of real beauty in this thing. So what’s the biggest difference between the two versions?
The overall arc of the film more or less follows that of “Crystal Skull,” with the adventure beginning at a desert military base/ warehouse, continuing at Marshall College, and ending with Indy and company deep in the jungles of South America searching for skulls.
But the four biggest differences in this draft also double as the four best: No Mutt Williams; no Mac; a tougher, more “Raiders”-esque Marion; and a climax that not only gives Indy something to do (how in the world did David Koepp think to give Indy nothing?) but forces him to make a decision that rivals the end of “Crusade” (the cup or a father’s love?), crystallizing the character and his history into one momentous singularity. Bravo!
So how good is Marion, really? Great. The first time we see her onscreen, she literally punches Indy in the face. She’s also married, and not to Dr. Jones, but to a rival archaeologist turned communist spy. The banter between the two old lovers sparkles, a lot of it recalling dialogue from “Raiders.” For example:
Marion: “What’s the matter, Jones? Mileage finally catching up with you?”
Indy: “It ain’t the mileage, sweetheart. It’s the years!”
A “Raiders” reference! Are there any more? Lots and lots.
We don’t see the Ark in this movie, though we can assume from the description that we’re in the same warehouse. We also see Sallah (briefly), a play on Indy’s fear of snakes, repeated references in the dialogue (Indy: “Marion Ravenwood. I always knew someday you’d come walking back through my door”), and even the golden fertility idol.
Are the groan-inducing moments from “Crystal Skull” in here too? Surviving a nuclear blast in a fridge? A rubber tree that supports a car? Man-eating ants? A character swinging through the trees like Tarzan? Yeah, they’re all here, as well as some even sillier stuff, like an “Anaconda”-esque snake that devours Indy whole and a cameo for Henry Jones Sr. that has him singing — singing — Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.” Also, there’s this dialogue:
Marion: “Oh yeah, what about that glamour gal you spent time with?”
Indy: “She moved out to Hollywood to be a star. Last I heard, she fell in love and married some big-shot director.”
(In real life, Kate Capshaw, who played Willie Scott in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” is married to Steven Spielberg. Indefensible.)
Is the silly stuff still as silly? Not really. That’s the thing. We can’t believe we’re going to defend a refrigerator ride on a nuclear wave, but we’re going to. For one, the conversation after the event is much more pointed — Indy actually talks about nuclear weapons with his interrogators, telling them that he doesn’t think anybody should have that much power. And that exchange, that line, means so much to this film, especially to the climax, that it’s easy to say it works better. The film also ends not with a spaceship flying away into space, but a spaceship trying to fly away into space, only to crash-land and explode in a second nuclear inferno. So it’s a silly setup that has a serious and poignant payoff. Nobody should have that much power. Not even the aliens.
Oh yeah, there are still aliens. Well, one alien. He talks this time, specifically calling himself a being worthy of worship. We see scenes of primitive man mistaking them for gods. (The red-staters would have a hemorrhage.)
So this climax we keep talking about. What is it?
Indy, Marion, Oxley (yeah, he’s here), Marion’s husband (the rival archaeologist) and a few others deliver the crystal skull to the temple, placing it on the head of a crystal skeleton. Soon, five members of the group are lifted into the air and offered anything their hearts desire. One wishes for ultimate power. One for ultimate wisdom. Another to be the deadliest creature alive. Indy? We’ll let Marion ask:
Marion: “Back in the Lost City. When you were in the dream cloud, what did you see?”
Indy: “It was like … seeing everything in the universe all at once. Like suddenly knowing all the secrets there are to know. The meaning of it all.”
Marion: “So why didn’t you take it? All that fortune and glory?”
Indy: “I did.”
And then they kiss. Good line. After falling from the cloud, Indy shoots the skull, destroying the entire temple — again, denying any creature that much power. We call that a climax in this business. Scratch that: We call that an awesome climax.
And the action scenes? Some really good ones, including a rooftop fight between Indy and a Russian assassin, and a midair plane fight in which Indy battles his rival from the wings of a biplane.
A million times better than “Crystal Skull.” Not perfect. Not “Raiders.” But it’s got its moments of pure Indy magic. Darabont obviously loves the character, and more than anything else, his passion is evident in each and every scene. If made, it could have been a welcome addition to the Indy cannon and easily earned a place alongside the other sequels.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
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