I just finished reading "Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods," a script leaked to the press that is supposedly none other than Frank Darabont's. For Indy Week, we had an article that spoke of some possible attempts at writing the fourth movie, but Darabont's (who wrote for the Indy TV series) effort has always been kept top secret. What isn't a secret is that David Koepp's script (Crystal Skull) was pretty much a grab bag of some of the best pieces of the other scripts. How much did he borrow from City of the Gods? Look here before it's too late. Here's my review.
Is Darabont's script better? You bet. But there are hits and misses just like there are in Crystal Skull. Here's the breakdown.
Skull's beginning: Paramount logo dissolved to CGI gopher hill, followed by a car blazing down the rode to 50's tunes. Eventually we see a group of Russian trucks who pass by the Atomic Cafe on their way to Area 51, where they take over the warehouse in search of a weird artifact.
God's beginning: Paramount logo dissolved to real mountain in Nevada, followed by a car race in the desert with some 50's tunes in the background. Eventually they pass the Atomic Cafe, where inside, Indiana Jones and his Russian buddy, Yuri, are eating lunch. Nearby they go on a dig where Indy is photographing pottery and Yuri says farewell to go on a big adventure of his own.
Verdict: Even though Yuri actually says "Back then, adventure had a name," God's has a better opening because we see Indy at peace and content with his age (he is not wearing his outfit at the moment). In Skull, we were thrown right into the mix. Both aren't bad, but God's is better (huge bonus points for no CGI gopher hills).
Skull's first action: Indy is on the run from Spalko and big Russian baddie after Mac turns on him. What follows is an awesome warehouse action scene, then Indy and the tough guy on a rocket sled, and the horrendous 'nuke the fridge scene.'
God's first action: Indy notices Yuri off in the distance meeting up with soldiers who disguise themselves as MP's to storm the base (never referred to as Area 51). Indy grudgingly follows and infiltrates the base, knocking out a guard and taking his uniform (like in Raiders and Crusade). After an exchange we get a warehouse chase that probably isn't as good as Skull's, the rocket sled, and the horrendous 'nuke the fridge' scene.
Verdict: Skull, just barely (but than again, it's pretty much just stolen from Gods. In the latter, one of the officers at the gate says "protocol tango, hotel, x-ray, one, one, three, eight. We have vehicles, authorization is good, request you unlock inner gate." Did you spot the joke?
Skull: Indy gets canned for being a commie, meets Mutt Williams, and goes on an motorcycle chase.
Gods: Indy gets canned, gets hammered and talks to the Marcus Brody statue at the museum. Lots of throwbacks to the old movies, if you're into that sort of thing. Indy, still a drunken mess, decides he wants to take the artifacts him and Marcus worked so hard for. We see the Cross of Coronado and the Fertility statue, so Indy tries the bag of sand trick from Raiders and fails just like in Raiders. There's a quick action scene with a shady villain, then Indy goes home and sees his Dad.
Verdict: The references to the old movies are sometime too much, but Henry Sr. is alive and well. No Mutt in Gods. Draw.
Skull: Indy and Mutt use Oxley's National Treasure clues to find the skull in Peru. But the Russians catch up to them. Enter Marion Ravenwood as Mutt's mom. Oh, and Indy is Mutt's dad.
Gods: Indy must leave the country because the government is after him. His Dad lets him run away (since he's so good at it). His encounter with the shady villain has landed him the crystal skull (called the Skull of Destiny. OOOoooOO!) and a trip to Peru in place of Yuri. Turns out Marion is waiting in Peru to run the search for the city. They have their little moment. Indy actually says "Marion Ravenwood. I always knew some day you would come walkin back through my door." Turns out Marion is married to a fancy foreign archaeologist who is searching for the city. What about Willie Scott? Indy heard she went off to Hollywood and married some big shot director (gay).
Verdict: The in-jokes keep coming in Gods, but the dialogue between Marion and Indy is much better.
Skull snake moment: The dry sand pit/snake scene is hilarious and very entertaining.
Gods snake moment: Guess what? Indy got over his fear of snakes years ago. Some people can change you know. That's what he says after the first regular sized snake. Then an anaconda eats him whole, forcing him to cut through from the inside out with a machete...whatever. He's still fine. Then he sees a baby snake on his pillow and freaks. Whatever again.
Skull: Indy and his crew find the city, but the Russians are hot on their tail. We also get a big jungle jeep chase, man eating ants, and Mutt playing Tarzan.
Gods: Indy, Marion, and her husband search for the city. Yuri and the Russians are on their tail. So is the Peruvian Government with the help of a Nazi. There's a big jungle chase, maneating ants, and Indy playing Tarzan (why do people think this is a good idea).
Verdict: The stunts in Gods are much crazier, like Indy and Marion's plane chase with Yuri. We still get all the waterfalls in this, and the jeep landing on a tree that slingshots back at the Russians. Oxley is also in this as a nutball who's been there. Marion's husband, who seemed great, is a little shifty. The relationship between those three is very entertaining. Her husband is pretty much Belloq reborn. Even though the action is out of control, the story is so far better in Gods.
Skull: The skull belonged to one of the 13 aliens who landed here to make civilization better. They also collected lots of artifacts. Spalko gets vaporized by knowledge, Indy and his crew escape to fight another day.
Gods: Almost the same. In Skull, Mac was the only double crosser. In Gods, the Nazi betrayed Marion's husband to help the Peruvians. Marion's husband betrayed her, works with the Russians. Indy, Marion, Oxley are on a third side and all are fighting each other and holding each other hostage and the Skull is constantly changing hands. Eventually, all of them are double-crossed by Hispanic guides and left for dead. In the end, the Nazi, Yuri, the Peruvian President, Indy, and Belloq Jr. make it to final chambers, with Marion. The aliens are still the first archaeologists who helped the Indians. The reach the circular throneroom and return the skull (the first to be returned instead of the last), and the special power is that the aliens will grant you whatever you wish. Oxley channels the alien that is put back together. We get this big finale Raiders-type moment, where the 5 guys get a special fantasy cloud that shows them the universe and asks what they want. The Nazi wants Germany to return to Glory, but is vaporized by Hitler. The President wants to be the most fearsome thing and gets turned into a poisonous tree frog (they made an appearance earlier). Belloq Jr. wants knowledge like Spalko and suffers the same result. Indy is torn between everything in the universe and Marion. Eventually he snaps out of it and picks Marion. He then shoots the skull before Yuri wishes. Then the alien gets mad and comes after Indy, to which he says "welcome to Earth" and shoots him in the head. The space ship rises and falls, leaving another mushroom cloud blast. Indy and his crew escape. Yuri is let go.
Verdict. In Skull, Indy stands back at the end and is a spectator. In Gods, he has that moment of temptation and actually has to do something. Gods wins.
Skull end: Indy marries Marion as Ox and Mutt look on.
Gods end: Indy marries Marion as Ox and Henry Sr. look on. Sallah gives Indy a big bear hug. Henry Sr. is proud of Junior and hugs him. By the way, he's also drunk and sings terribly.
Final thoughts: Crystal Skull borrows generously from City of the Gods. It's not even close. I don't know how Darabont didn't get a writing credit on this movie because the whole overall plot is a carbon copy. Gods loses track towards the end because of all its villains (Belloq Jr., Yuri, Nazi, and Peruvian President) whereas Skull just had Spalko and Mac. We lose Mutt, who's not bad, but we gain a great love triangle story line. Seeing Indy jealous is a lot of fun, and even though we'd get all the in-jokes, throwbacks, nukes and monkeys, I'd pick Darabont's script. Thanks a lot George Lucas.