Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Questionable Jones No. 2

According to eBay, the Ark of the Covenant is worth the most, but it’s got a heck of a shipping charge and you’ll never get it through customs. Maybe it wasn’t worth pursuing after all. And what about that sippy cup you can’t take with you?

Question: "Rank the artifacts Indi pursues by coolness."

Andrew's Answer: I put the Ark at the top of my list because it’s just all kinds of cool. Not only does it have a cool history, but it would be highly useful if the bad guys got their hands on it. Believe it or not, I’m going with the Crystal Skulls next. They symbolize the modern Holy Grail, if I may say so, because they tie in the whole alien subculture. Then I rank the Holy Grail. Yes, I know the Holy Grail is considered THE thing everyone quests after, but if it’s just a cheap wooden cup that you can’t even take with you, then it’s not that exciting. Finally, we come to the rock collection. Yeah... painted rocks. To quote Wayne’s World. . . “we’re not worthy!”

Scott's Answer: The Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail both tie for first, if only because we're all somewhat familiar with them and the mythology behind them is a little more... relevant to some people, at least in this country. Next would be the Sankara stones. Not as relevant or meaningful for some folks, but still interesting. And like I said in my defense of the film, if Indy is interested in them, then we're interested in them as well (at least until the movie ends!). The same can not be said for the Crystal Skulls. I don't even have a problem with the idea of Crystal Skulls - I think my problem is simply, of all the cool artifacts Lucas could've chosen, he went with this? But like everything else, had the film been better written I'd have no problem.


K said...

Agree with Scott, it's not the quality of the macguffin, it's the quality of the story. That being said:

1. Ark - Ancient Hebrew particle beam weapon. It doesn't get cooler.
2. Skull - not just a skull, but an alien skull. Also it deflects giant ants.
3. Grail - THE object of Western quest mythos.
4. Sankara stones - would have been more impressed if they had disintegrated a platoon of SS troopers.

tryanmax said...

In spite of all the adventuring, to me the quintessential Indy artifact is the golden fertility idol he is pursuing at the beginning of Raiders. (The Muppet Babies intro sequence may be partially responsible for this.) So that's number one.

And if, as Scott and K contend, it's the story that makes the macguffin, then the Cross of Coronado has to rank, even if one has to overlook the implausibility of Indy acquiring all of his distinguishing traits on a single train chase.

But I should play fair and rank the main ones:
1. The Ark of the Covenant - i.e. The Wrath of God
2. The Holy Grail - This coulda been first if it also turned water into wine.
3. The Crystal Skull - Because dead aliens are still cooler than rocks.
4. Sankara Stones - *yawn*

Also, the whole Staff of Ra setup is very imaginative--way cooler than a paper map.

And who wouldn't want a diamond the size of the Peacock's Eye?

AndrewPrice said...

K, It is the story that ultimately matters, but I do think the coolness of the item itself matters a lot.

Good point on the deflecting of giant ants! That's a pretty cool property!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, You know what's funny? That probably is the coolest artifact, now that I think about it! LOL! That's the one everybody parodies, and that's the one I think of when I think of the character. I guess that was just a heck of an opening!

Totally agree about the Staff of Ra... awesome idea!

BIG MO said...

Tryanmax – For me, the opening Raiders sequence is immortalized in the Simpsons, when Bart steals Homer’s change jar.

1) The Ark is definitely numero uno, and not just because of the final scene. The history/Sunday school lesson between Indy, Brody and the two government flacks is a superb setup, including:

Government flack: “Good God!”
Brody: “Yes, that’s just what the Hebrews thought.”

2) I like the Grail, but I also would pick the tomb, body and sword of Sir Richard under the Venice library. Too bad he got torched with the rest of the crypt.

3) The Cross of Coronado, just because wearing that hunk of bling around my neck would make me far cooler than Flava Flav.

4) No love for the "remains of the first emperor of the Manchu dynasty"? :) :) That would look cool on my fireplace mantle - until it spilled on the floor, that is.

5) Belloq’s watch. Hey, if he buried in the desert and I dug it up 10,000 years later, I’d either own a worthless smashed bit of gold, metal and crystal, or be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. And who knows what powers it would have (a la Warehouse 13).

AndrewPrice said...

Mo, Bling... LOL! Awesome!

Excellent thinking on Belloq's watch! That's another great moment which explains archeology in a nutshell!

I totally agree about the Sunday School speech. That's an brilliant set up for what's coming. Normally, exposition is a bad idea, but in this case, it's handled so perfectly that you don't even realize the whole scene is just exposition.

Tennessee Jed said...

well, as I ponder the question, I can't help but think that there never was a film titled "Monty Python and the Ark of the Covenant" was there. Shouldn't that be telling in some way?

T-Rav said...

I'd have to go with the Ark as well in terms of "coolness," but really, it's hard to argue that it or the Grail could have become a Nazi super-weapon. I mean, once the true nature of each is revealed, it's hard to imagine how they could have been of use to anyone other than godly people. The Grail only gives you immortality if you stay within that one spot in the desert, so it's not like that can be weaponized at all. The Ark is maybe a little different; maybe the Nazis could have figured out how to use it. But how? None of the ones who opened it had any respect for God, so they died. Presumably, no matter how they would have done it, opening the Ark for the first time would have killed anyone observing or taking notes.

Honestly, things being what they are, there's really nothing you could do except pack it up and put it in that warehouse.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Now you've given the Monty Python people an idea! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That's a good point. I guess you could put it in a museum to let people see it, but the danger there is that someone knocks the top off and you have some serious liability issues.

BIG MO said...

The Monty Python crew could just record new dialogue for Last Crusade. When Indy encounters the Grail Knight, the knight would swing around and declare "I am Arthur, king of the Brittons! I am your king!"

Indy's reply: "Well, I didn't vote for you."

Andrew - have you thought of expanding "Questionable Jones" to include the terrific Young Indiana Jones series?

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I wonder if melting faces and fiery columns are covered by any insurance company nowadays. Not HMOs, I'm guessing (rimshot!).

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, LOL! Nice.

We may do some Questionable Jones questions about the series. Let me talk to Scott about that. In the meantime, you are always free to discuss those. :)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Ra, Yeah, I'm pretty sure very few policies have a face-melting or fiery columns rider. But you never know. :)

tryanmax said...

Some observations about the coolness rankings:

1. God's Wrath beats God's Mercy
2. God beats aliens, but Jesus ties for 2nd
3. Rocks are inherently boring

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Interesting isn't it? Perhaps wrath has a better PR firm? :)

And yes, rocks are boring.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Sorry I'm late!

I've only seen a few episodes of Young Indy. I own the DVDs but I haven't gotten around to watching the rest of them. Right now we can just stick to the films.

Oddly enough, Lucas re-edited the entire series a decade ago, re-cutting episodes as movies, combining two episodes with newly-shot bridging material. I never saw the show in its original version but I do know there were originally intros with an actor as "Old Indy" which are NOT in the recut version.

Anonymous said...

K -

Thanks for agreeing! ;-)

You know what the world needs now? Since apparently the U.S. isn't building the Death Star, I think Israel needs to work on a new Hebrew particle beam weapon!

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

Normally I'd agree with you re: dead aliens > old rocks, but while Lucas and some hardcore fans might disagree, I'm just not sure aliens belong in the Indy universe. I know it begs the question, "But the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant are perfectly believable?" And Lucas' reasoning was that the other films were homages to 30s and 40s serials, so this film - which takes place in the 50s - would be an homage to flying saucer films.

But it all goes back to the writing, and the fact that the ending of Crystal Skull was done better in the first X-Files movie.

Anonymous said...


I mentioned to Andrew above that I have yet to watch the entire run of Young Indy... but never say never!

And the Cross of Coronado scenes have one of my favorite exchanges in any of the films:

"It belongs in a museum!"
"So do you!"

Not Shakespeare but short and to the point. :-)

Anonymous said...

Jed -

We can only hope Monty Python reunites for another film one day. :-)

Anonymous said...

T-Rav -

The thing with the Ark of the Covenant was that, if you really think about it, Indiana Jones didn't have to be in the story at all. The Nazis would've found the Ark, opened it, and been incinerated. Sure, Jones has to find it and it gets put in a warehouse ("Top. Men.") but his presence isn't needed as far as the villains are concerned.

(I read this on a screenwriting blog years ago.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, If Jones hadn't been there, you never know what could have happened. The Nazis may have failed the first time, but they might have solved the riddle and solved it the next time.

Individualist said...

I am going to go with the Holy Grail onlyh because it makes you immortal.

I know you can't leave the tomb but hey it is a spacious place and undergraund caverns are usuall;y a nice cool 70 degrees. All you need is a generator, an internet connection, an xBox and a WOW account and you are good.

There take out in the desert might be a little unreliaqble but hey you are immortal.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I'm just paraphrasing something I read (which of course I can't find at the moment). :-)

But that's true, we the audience never would've found out what happened, but Belloq and Co. would've melted whether Indy had interfered or not.

Anonymous said...

Indi -

Immortality is one of those awesome things that sounds good in theory but people who try to find it forget that their nearest and dearest will inevitably pass away.

tryanmax said...

Scott, if the justification for the Crystal Skull is that it's an homage to 50s scifi, then it's a massive fail. If anything, is homage to the much more current fascination with alleged "ancient astronauts." I personally don't believe in ancient aliens, but some of the evidence is compelling.

Gideon7 said...

In Robert Heinlein's book Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long discourses at length on the pitfalls of imortality. (One of the best pieces of SF fiction written on the subject IMHO.)

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That guy is a study in conspiracy theories. First, there's nothing he won't promote. Secondly, he's got ALL of it down. He knows never to say anything specific, just to suggest and to always claim that's he's not really saying anything all the while he's pimping heavily. And his theories are the worst kind of rhetorical crap. I could use his arguments to prove anything. Basically, he the lack of evidence is itself proof to him. This guy needs to be seriously beaten.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, As crazy as that sounds, you've pretty much just described modern life for most people. That's kind of sad if you think about it. :(

AndrewPrice said...

Gideon, I haven't read much Heinlein, but I've always meant to. Immortality sounds kind of unpleasant depending on how it works.

tryanmax said...

I'm mainly just persuaded by his hair. No way that's human.

AndrewPrice said...

Well, yeah, that's a given. :D

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

That's another thing I didn't like about the movie. I mentioned this in my Mission to Mars review but, like you, I don't believe in any of that ancient alien stuff.

To paraphrase Gene Roddenberry: "Aliens didn't build the pyramids! Humans did! Because they were smart and they worked hard!"

Lucas could be into this stuff but you'd think Spielberg would know better.

Koshcat said...

I still haven't gotten past the first third of the 4th movie. It was sooooooooooooooooo poorly written, I didn't care. As sort of stated before with the Grail and Ark, the idiots with the skull probably would have blown themselves up. As for the Grail, it couldn't leave the cave but certainly you could leave. My daughter asked me how long do effects of drinking from the grail last? Not sure, but could probably go back once a year for a drink or two. Put in an up-to-date security system with lasers (or sharks with frickin' lasers) and good to go. Meteorites with diamonds that glow? Awesome! I also liked the other relics as well. I don't really have one favorite of another but we don't speak of the abomination Crystal Skull in my house. I agree with South Park's take on what Lucas and Spielberg did to Indy.

Anonymous said...

Koshcat -

Ordinarily, I recommend finishing a movie that one starts but in this case, you needn't go back and finish! And in this house, it's referred to as "the trilogy." :-)

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