Hi Bob! (and thanks for responding)
1. I think it depends on what form the cherubim take. I picture something very similar to the ghosts that melted the nazi's at the climax of Raiders. I don't feel this would be any farhter out than the previous material.
I don't think you can really have an Indy film WITHOUT the supernatural element. This doesn't mean the movie has to be overtly theological...many different religions refer to a Garden and cradle of civilization. I think you have to get a *little* specific, but this doesn't contradict the earlier movies at all. (The grail really isn't anything more than a cup unless you accept as part of the storyline that Christ was more than just a wise carpenter dude.)
2. I'm trying to understand your viewpoint, but I think I need more information. You say that the opening of the Ark was a one time event...do you mean within the spirit of the movies (IE you can't do something similar?) or do you mean the power of the Ark only existed for the one opening? Or am I completely misunderstanding you?
As for showing Eden, I do think keeping it understated is best. I wouldn't do it with CGI...all that needs to be is a verdant tropical setting, with an enormous (unusual) tree, with strange looking apples coming from it. You say that you can't win if you show it, but I think if done cleverly, it can be bought. Particularly if it's invisible until you reach the Gateway. I think making the location of the Garden appear to be a wasteland until crossing the threshold is the best way to achieve this.
3. I need some clarification on this point too. You say that there would be no artifacts or inscriptions, but I don't think this is true. Various lost civilizations make numerous references to the location of the Lost Garden, and the artifact itself would be an apple. Also, you say there wouldn't be an opening Venice style taster, but I'm not sure what you're referring to?
You also say that it pushes credulity to the limit to believe that the location of the Garden was simply some place in Iraq. My question is, Why? If you view the Garden as having been historical rather than mythical (a conceit you have to indulge for the premise of the movie anyway), then it had to exist SOMEWHERE, right? Various historical clues would point the location of the Garden at a junction of the Tigris, Euphrates, and a couple of other rivers. Shuttle satellite imaging located two (now dry) riverbeds that once intersected with the Tigris and Euphrates, so...?
4. I understand that you don't believe in Eden. I didn't say that *I* necessarily did either. That's really not the point. The point of the movies isn't to be a swaying point to any religion...it's not to make you believe. They're made just to entertain...to twist your mind into a fun area where you could believe that the story taking place on screen *could* happen. The inscription argument I made was never to PROVE that the Garden existed, or that it exists in Iraq. It's there to showcase that there are archeological relics that could be recovered that could lead to a larger expedition in SEARCH of the Garden.
5. You state that you can have a one-off supernatural event in an Indy movie and NOT have it religious due to the nature of the films. I'll meet you halfway...one of the great things about the Indy movies is that I always imagine Indy having these adventures, and afterwards shaking his head and thinking "Things couldn't have really happened the way I remembered them." It lets him believe that the world around him is not exactly what it seems to be, but he's never 100% that what he *thinks* he's encountered is real either. That's why I agree with you that you can't delve TOO deeply into the theology, or get too preachy. But you can't divorce the supernatural element from the theology entirely, or there would be no explanation for what happens at the climax. At that point, the supernatural event in the script would occur for the convenience of the plot, and not for the story itself.
6. I don't think the Garden has to be huge, or played as "The Greatest Find Ever." I think whatever the eventual object does end up being, it should be just a "Further Adventure" of Indiana Jones...albeit in a different period and with a little more wisdom under his belt.
7. I agree that the villains need to be destroyed by their own greed. Whoever they end up being, they will be seeking the tree for the wrong reasons. They won't be eliminated immediately upon entrance to the garden. The Cherubim, I'm certain, will have a test which the villains will fail.
I agree that their destruction should be short and wondrous. One of the great things about the deaths of the villains in the Indy movies is you're always left going "Whoa." That should be the case here.
I dont' think the presence of the supernatural has to be constant in the last act. Like I said, I think the Garden, once visited, should appear to be nothing more than a lush tropical garden with a very impressive couple of trees. On a side note, I *DO* think a snake should make a quick cameo...but on this one occasion, Indy could kick it aside and not pay it much mind. I think it'd get a laugh out of the audience after a particularly tense moment.