The Cynical Optimist – 7/7/08


With the fallout (no “nuke the fridge” comments please) of Indy IV still thick in the air, I figured I would devote a column to discussing, in detail, the scripts that could have been. A fourth Indy film was in development since the 1989 release of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Screenwriters Jeb Stuart, Jeffrey Boam, Frank Darabont and Jeff Nathanson wrote drafts, but Lucas, Spielberg and Ford eventually decided on David Koepp’s script, which in reality is more of a amalgam of the previous scripts.

Aside from my script reviews, this edition of The Cynical Optimist will also have your standard “Did You Know?” trivia as well as the week’s recommendations. O.K, enough talking, lets do this thing…

Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men From Mars

Screenwriter Jeb Stuart, best known for his screenplays of “The Fugitive” and “Die Hard,” penned a script for a fourth Indiana Jones film back in 1995. Titled “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men From Mars,” the script contains several elements and sequences that ended up in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Borneo. 1949. Indiana Jones and a “wild-eyed native man” named Kabul make their way down a dark river on a small steamer boat. In this, the opening sequence of “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men,” Indy and his sidekick are in between a rock and a hard place.

The river is filled with crocodiles, and the last shovel-full of coal was just chucked into the engine. Not to mention the cannon-strapped PT boat filled with river pirates, waving their guns about like madmen.

The leader of these pirates is one Mr. Frederick Baldassare, who eventually captures Indy and demands to know the location of some maps our hero has in his possession. Indy refuses, and in return Baldassare plants dynamite on the steamer before putting away in his PT boat.

Before the ship blows to pieces, Indy and Kabul dispose of the explosives – and though Indy and Kabul have lost everything they’ve worked for, without pay even, there is hope. Indiana Jones removes a familiar looking artifact – it’s the golden idol from the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He’s finally tracked it down!

Our heroes eventually dock at their destination where Indy meets Dr. Elaine McGregor, a beautiful linguist who is a colleague of Macrus Brody. Dr. McGregor can speak 49 languages, and while she can communicate with the natives just fine, she needs Indy’s help to track down a the Iban temple, an ancient ruin in the deepest jungles of Borneo.

Indy is smitten with Dr. McGregor, and after six weeks on an excavation together, and another run-in with those river pirates, the two are engaged to be married. At the wedding we get to see some great cameos by all our favorite Indy characters. Short Round, Marion, Willie, Sallah and Henry Jones Sr. all make appearances at the church – and no one can actually believe what they’re seeing.

It must be too good to be true, and it is – A strange man shows up moments before the wedding only to usher Elaine McGregor into a waiting car, leaving Indiana at the altar alone. Indy grabs a car and decides to pursue Elaine’s captor.

The following chase is very similar to the Mutt Williams motorcycle chase that ends up in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” After weaving through campus quads and side streets, Indy eventually loses Elaine’s car and heads back to the chapel where her father reveals to Indy that the ‘strange man’ was none other than Elaine’s actually fiancé.

Indy is crushed after realizing Elaine wasn’t kidnapped – that she actually just kind of dumped him. He drowns his sorrows at a bar with Willie and Marion, who console him. Indy digs up some info on her supposed fiancé, Bob Bolander, and ends up in New Mexico.

The Atomic Diner, seen briefly in “Crystal Skull,” shows up in the script – and Indy stops in to have an atomic burger, while asking the waitress if she’s seen Bolander. Two other men in the bar, cowboys, react to the name.

Indy gets up and goes back out to his ’49 Ford. He ends up following a convoy of army trucks to a base in the New Mexico desert. The description is very similar to the opening of “Crystal Skull.” Indiana Jones tries to get into the base by offering his OSS rank – Colonel.

He’s turned away and is forced to sneak in. As he comes to the edge of a hill overlooking the military compound, he sees that the ground is blackened and scarred – a streak that extends for over a mile until it disappears over the next hill. There’re your typical amount of troops, wooden crates and tents sent up around the site.

Men in white coats can be seen moving in and out of the massive tents. Indy is eventually caught and brought to Bob Bolander. Indy suspects a high altitude left the skid marks – probably Russian, and that’s why Bolander needs Elaine’s linguistic skills.

Little does Indy know, an alien spacecraft left the marks. Indy balks at the idea when he hears it first, until he sees the evidence – pieces of wreckage and actual alien bodies. It’s during this reveal in the tent that we are introduced to the artifact of the film – a stone cylinder covered with rows and rows of tiny pictographs, cuneiforms and glyphs.

The markings appear to be Egyptian, Mayan, Sanskrit, and Chinese – thus, Elaine’s involvement with the top-secret project. This is no ordinary stone, however, as it seems to react to radio and light waves. It appears to be the aliens’ power supply for their craft.

It seems that Lucas and Spielberg went along these drafts and plucked the best parts from each to make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Jeb Stuart’s script features army ants, a rocket sled fight, Indiana surviving an atomic explosion by sealing himself in a fridge, and a climactic battle between the US military and flying saucers.

My guess is this is where Jeb Stuart’s script crossed the line for Harrison Ford – being as the climactic battle involved Indiana’s wife-to-be, Elaine McGregor, falling out of an airplane and Indy (in a scene straight out of “Shoot ‘Em Up”) jumps out of the plane after her, catches up to her, and rescues her from certain death.

As Indy and Elaine float safely to the ground via parachute, flying saucers are dog fighting with military aircraft – vaporizing them with a powerful blast of their advanced weaponry.

We see the aliens, which are described as “enormous spidery creatures” with seven-foot long arms and bony fingers. They have pale wet “skin,” which seems translucent. The description of these aliens seems very similar to the life forms we’ve seen in Spielberg’s 2005 “War of the Worlds.”

In the end, after beating the Russians and dealing with the alien artifact, Indy and Elaine finally tie the knot for real this time, and the final scene has the wedding car driving down a dusty road, cans banging behind it.

Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods

“Adventure Still has a Name…”

Frank Darabont, who wrote various “Young Indiana Jones” episodes, was hired to write a script for the fourth Indy in May of 2002. His screenplay, entitled “Indiana Jones and the City of Gods,” was set in the 1950s, with ex-Nazis pursuing Dr. Jones.

Darabont’s script opens in much the same way of “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” with two hot-rods roaring into view. Instead of Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” pays off the “American Graffiti” homage.

We first see Indiana Jones at the Atomic Café in Nevada – which showed up in “Saucer Men” and “Crystal Skull.” His comrade, Yuri Makovsky, who speaks with a Russian accent but seemingly loves America, joins him. Our introduction to this character consists of Yuri constantly commenting on hamburgers, French fries, ketchup and his love of American culture.

While sitting at the diner, Indy pulls out a handkerchief filled with fragments of Native American pottery. If you recall to the opening of “Crystal Skull,” when the Russians pull Indy out of the trunk, they throw some clay pots on the ground – I can only assume these are one and the same.

Darabont’s script is largely the same as Keopp’s final draft. The story focuses on the discovery of the crystal skull, as well as a lost city in Peru where the Gods were thought to live. And yes, just like “Crystal Skull,” we discover these “gods” were aliens with an advanced culture, capable of creating technology thousands of years beyond our own.

It should also be noted that one of Darabont’s contributions was the inclusion of Marion Ravenwood. She’s featured a bit more prominently in this script, and while Ray Winstone’s character is no where to be found, there is a double-crossing friend. Would you have guessed Indy’s Russian comrade Yuri?

A lot of people would like to believe George Lucas is single-handedly responsible for ruining “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” by insisting on outlandish action sequences that don’t mesh with the old films, but you might be interested to know that the “nuclear town” sequence from the film is lifted completely from Darabont’s script. Everything from the “Howdy Doody” to the refrigerator blasting past soviet vehicles is in his draft.

Jeb Stuart’s “nuke the fridge” scene was quite different, involving Indy sliding into a crawl space and holding an opened refrigerator on top of him as the nuclear bomb blasted the house away from its foundation – but here, everything feels the same – even the post-bomb debriefing where Indy is questioned by Military officers.

Much like Stuart’s script, Dr. Henry Jones Sr. and Sallah make cameos, and Harold Oxley is still a big part of the story. There’s even a “big damn ants!” sequence. There’s also the obligatory snake scene as well as vine swinging bit not too dissimilar from Mutt’s in “Crystal Skull.”

Speaking of Mutt Williams, Shia LaBoeuf’s character is nowhere to be found. I personally enjoyed Mutt’s inclusion in “Crystal Skull,” as well as his obvious link to Marlon Brando’s character in “The Wild One.” Also absent is Cate Blanchett’s Spalko character. In Darabont’s script there are numerous villains, and even combined they still can’t compare to Spalko’s presence.

I think a lot of people want to believe that Frank Darabont wrote a perfect script, and that Lucas was an idiot for turning it down, but that’s just not the case. A lot of the scenes people hated about “Crystal Skull,” were present in this script – and, I think, much worse.

Take for example, the snake scene. Here Marion comes upon “the biggest damn snake anyone’s ever seen.” As it rears up, it’s taller than Indiana, and its head is comparable to a horse’s. Indy hears Marion scream and spouts off some line like, “Geez, you act like you’ve never seen a snake before.”

A moment later, the snake springs up and chomps down on Indy, swallowing him to the waist. The snake thrashes back and forth, trying to swallow our hero, who is kicking his legs violently trying to escape. Now, in most cases, you would think Indy would survive this – but here, the snake actually swallows him whole.

To add insult to injury, the snake even swallows up Indy’s fedora. Marion is in shock as this gigantic snake slithers its way up a rubber tree, where Indy eventually cuts his way out of it – pretty over-the-top, and felt a lot like “Anaconda.” And yes, after slashing his way out of the snake, he reaches back in to grab his intestine-covered hat.

People complain about the monkeys in “Crystal Skull,” but what if they knew there was an even more atrocious scene in Darabont’s script. Indy is hanging on to the landing gear of a plane Marion is flying. He’s getting dragged through the canopies of trees when he runs right into a bunch of monkeys. They start screaming and flailing about of course, and this leads to a monkey clutching onto Indy’s chest.

Indy screams right back at the monkey, scaring it away. He climbs back into the plane and delivers probably the worst line ever. “The monkey pooped on my chest.”

Yeah, that’s right. Say what you will about Mutt Williams swinging through the jungle like Tarzan, at least “Crystal Skull” didn’t have a monkey droppin’ a deuce on Indy’s chest.

The script ends in much the same way as the film we saw did. Instead of Spalko becoming “the woman who knew too much,” the numerous villains are each granted a wish by the aliens, and each is consumed by the greed and power they each want. A flying saucer, buried deep beneath the temple’s foundations, rises out of the ground and disappears into the sky.

Indy and Marion get married, and Oxley picks up an interesting trait from the aliens – he is now apparently telekinetic, as he makes the silverware dance and twirl about his table at the wedding reception.

Did You Know?

M. Night Shyamalan was hired to write a screenplay for Indy IV, intended for a 2002 shoot, but he was overwhelmed writing a sequel to a film he loved like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and claimed it was difficult to get Ford, Spielberg, and Lucas to focus.

Frank Darabont’s first job in movies was as a production assistant on the 1981 low-budget film, “Hell Night” (1981), starring Linda Blair. He spent the next six years working in the art department as a set dresser and in set construction while struggling to establish himself as a writer. His first produced writing credit was on the 1987 film, “Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.”

After the credits of 1987’s “Masters of the Universe,” Skeletor’s head pops up from the lake and says, “I’ll be back!” which sets the stage for a sequel that was never made. However, a script for a “Masters of the Universe” sequel was written, only to be re-written and become the script for the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Cyborg (1989).


“Batman: Gotham Knight” is an anthology film of six animated short films set in-between “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.” The two-disc collector’s edition DVD, which hits stores July 8 stateside, can be found at Amazon.

Less Than Jake’s latest album, GNV FLA, hit stores on June 24th. Head on over to their official website to check out their first single, “Does the Lion City Still Roar?”

Soul Calibur IV hits Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles on July 29th here in the states, and features some pretty interesting bonus characters – namely Yoda and Darth Vader, as well as Vader’s apprentice from the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” video game.

Sign Off

Okay guys, that’s it for this week – thanks for reading and as usual send any comments, questions or concerns to