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Old 04-22-2014, 05:42 AM   #1
sheffsteve
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Indiana Jones & The Suspension of Disbelief

So I've been interested in this question for a while now but would like everybody's opinion on here. When KOTCS came out some friends of mine all said 'It's completely unbelievable I just can't accept it'. My stock reply was 'Have you actually seen the other films?' To me the three previous Indy films had contained plot elements that were just as unbelievable as those in KOTCS but it was almost as though people hadn't noticed them! So do you think KOTCS went too far or is it simply of a piece with the other three? For me KOTCS was fine and it probably comes third in my rankings (TOD would be last).
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Old 04-22-2014, 09:44 AM   #2
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Sorry to say I agree with your friends. Inanimate objects with hidden power are more believable than a skull that talks to you thru mental telepathy, before springing back to life when it's rejoined to it's long lost brothers and sisters (just before the giant, ancient spaceship rises from the ground and disappears into the space between spaces).

Cup of Christ, Ark of the Covenant, and even the Sankara stones all beat out the Crystal Skull in my opinion.

For me, one of the best things about CS was that it made me appreciate TOD all the more. After seeing CS, TOD was no longer my least favorite Indy film.
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Old 04-22-2014, 10:12 AM   #3
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It's an interesting situation with the fourth film isn't it? It appears that if it had been made in the, lets say, mid 90's it would have been even more outrageous though with little green men and flying saucers.
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Old 04-22-2014, 11:51 AM   #4
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I continue to find it bizarre, this dislike of series, that have a clear element of the supernatural, increasing the scale and nature of such fantastical elements in sequels. I've known people who badmouthed the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels for going full-hog with supernatural stuff. Same goes for Crystal Skull, where people seem to think a psychic skull that hypnotizes you into bringing it home so it can rejoin its brethren is somehow 'too much'. Which begs the question: what on Earth is the line for these folks?

A supernatural element has no line. Because the supernatural doesn't have a strict limitation on what it can appear as. The supernatural can be anything, from ghosts to demons to magic objects to ancient curses or monsters. As long as it makes sense for that story and is interesting, why limit your storytelling possibilities? You can argue that the crystal skull wasn't as mythic as the Ark or the Holy Grail, fine, but saying its somehow 'too much' for this series? Pfffffttttt.
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Old 04-22-2014, 12:14 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goodeknight
Sorry to say I agree with your friends. Inanimate objects with hidden power are more believable than a skull that talks to you thru mental telepathy, before springing back to life when it's rejoined to it's long lost brothers and sisters (just before the giant, ancient spaceship rises from the ground and disappears into the space between spaces).

Cup of Christ, Ark of the Covenant, and even the Sankara stones all beat out the Crystal Skull in my opinion.

How is "a skull that talks to you thru mental telepathy" itself not an "Inanimate objects with hidden power"?
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Old 04-22-2014, 12:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Crack that whip
How is "a skull that talks to you thru mental telepathy" itself not an "Inanimate objects with hidden power"?

Because at one time this was at least implied to be a living being. Although given the fourth dimensional nature of these beings...(the aliens coming back when the last skull was put in place) I wonder if death really is an obstacle for them.
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Old 04-22-2014, 01:38 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TheFedora
Because at one time this was at least implied to be a living being. Although given the fourth dimensional nature of these beings...(the aliens coming back when the last skull was put in place) I wonder if death really is an obstacle for them.

Yes, that (thanks, Fedora)...and because the skull and skeletons become animate objects once they rejoin and come back to 'life.'
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Old 04-22-2014, 01:47 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by kongisking
I continue to find it bizarre, this dislike of series, that have a clear element of the supernatural, increasing the scale and nature of such fantastical elements in sequels. I've known people who badmouthed the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels for going full-hog with supernatural stuff. Same goes for Crystal Skull, where people seem to think a psychic skull that hypnotizes you into bringing it home so it can rejoin its brethren is somehow 'too much'. Which begs the question: what on Earth is the line for these folks?

A supernatural element has no line. Because the supernatural doesn't have a strict limitation on what it can appear as. The supernatural can be anything, from ghosts to demons to magic objects to ancient curses or monsters. As long as it makes sense for that story and is interesting, why limit your storytelling possibilities? You can argue that the crystal skull wasn't as mythic as the Ark or the Holy Grail, fine, but saying its somehow 'too much' for this series? Pfffffttttt.

Your friends are correct. They intuit that something is somehow "wrong" about Crystal Skull, that is different than the other movies, but perhaps they aren't great at articulating those thoughts to you or even themselves.

However, as frequent movie-goers, they can tell when something is off even if they can't explain in detail exactly why the feel that way. And, especially when compared with the other movies, "Crystal Skull" definitely feels off kilter, "wrong" somehow, even if we aren't exactly sure why.

"What is TOO much" is only part of it. What it is really about is rules. Movies need to make sense, they need to feel logical. Yes, even movies with a supernatural or fantastical element. Heck, ESPECIALLY then.

Sure, we can suspend our disbelief, but you have to earn it. You can't just throw anything at us, willy nilly, and expect us to believe it.

You have to create rules and then you have to follow those rules.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" is a masterclass in that kind of filmmaker. Because the Indiana Jones movies exist, for the most part, in "our world" (as opposed to outer space, Middle Earth, etc.) it is all the more important to frame the supernatural elements in a context that makes sense. And is internally logical and consistent.

"Raiders" plays very strictly by its own rules. In the beginning of the movie, in arguably the best scene of pure exposition in movie history, Indiana Jones lays out all of the information we need to know to watch the rest of the movie. About the Ark, about its history, about how to go about finding it and, finally, most importantly, about the Ark's powers.

So when we finally see the Ark unleash holy hell in the last act of the movie, we are suitably awed and excited (even horrified), but we don't feel like the movie is playing by a different set of rules all of a sudden. We were prepared for it. The movie is fulfilling its promise to us, but it isn't cheating us.

The exact same thing holds true in "Last Crusade." We're told about the object and its powers and we see the object performing its duties exactly as promised. Nothing confusing about it. When we are given the "rules" of magic, we can accept it. It is not "plot hole" it isn't really even "suspension of disbelief." It's a movie creating a consistent universe and staying within its own boundaries.

"Temple of Doom" is just a little more problematic. All we are told is that the stones have vaguely defined "magical properties", but we don't know how they actually work or manifest. However, since the supernatural element is actually pretty muted at the end (all the rocks do is get really hot), we can accept it. Magical properties? Okay sure. They get really hot. Probably do some other stuff, maybe, but that's all we need.

If the stones had suddenly transformed everyone into gerbils or transported the villains to the far side of the moon, we'd rightfully feel cheated. "Whoa, I was not expecting THAT!" But the leap is fairly minor, so we can go along with it.



Now it comes to Crystal Skull. The problem isn't that it's dealing with a wonky object few people have heard of before. The problem isn't that the object doesn't come from an established religion.

The problem is that, throughout the entire movie, we have no friggin' clue what the skull is, what it is supposed to do, how it go there, etc. etc. The movie itself seems to have vague, contradictory ideas, as well.

Sometimes the skull is magnetic. Why? Who knows? Is it ALWAYS magnetic? Nope. The skull kind of also has telepathy. Okay. That would be fine if we were told that all along. Or if that was the ONLY power. Or if we knew WHY the skull was acting that way.

The skull can be used to open a door to the hidden location where the skull itself came from and was, um, stolen, I guess. So how could they have made a door activated by the skull when the skull wasn't supposed to have been stolen? Are all the alien skeletons from different aliens or are they all just "one" being - since they go together at the end. Why are there TWO different species of aliens? Why does the movie refer to OTHER kinds of crystal skulls.

The mythology, simply, is a mess. It's not consistent. It doesn't work. We never really "get" what the goal of the movie is supposed to be. There are some elements which kinda work and would be okay if the movie trimmed away all the extra nonsense and focused on them.

But, instead of one very efficient, intriguing and foreboding scene of exposition like in "Raiders", we get scene after scene of the characters discussing the skull, the weird path it took, what it might be all about. There's nothing to latch onto, it's clumsy, it's sloppy, it's confusing.

It feels like "too much." it doesn't work on the same level as the straightforward simplicity of the other films. Like, AT ALL.

So we leave the movie confused and bewildered. "That wasn't like the other Indy features. I guess it was all that weird supernatural crap." Which is right, but it's only part of the story.

We can accept all kinds of crazy crap in the Indy universe or in fantasy movies in general. But the filmmakers have to play fair with us.

If we're told Captain America was given a serum to make him into a kickass super soldier, great. In the "real world", it's a ridiculous, absurd notion. But if the movie plays by its own rules, we allow it and embrace it. However, if Captain America starts shooting lightning out of his butt in the final act or can suddenly teleport, we're going to feel jerked around.
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Old 04-22-2014, 02:57 PM   #9
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You have to create rules and then you have to follow those rules..

Unless you are: TheOne
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Old 04-22-2014, 03:27 PM   #10
Lance Quazar
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Unless you are: TheOne

That movie followed the rules of its own universe perfectly.

(Though I haven't seen the sequels, so I can't comment on them.)
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Old 04-22-2014, 03:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Lance Quazar
Now it comes to Crystal Skull. The problem isn't that it's dealing with a wonky object few people have heard of before. The problem isn't that the object doesn't come from an established religion.

The problem is that, throughout the entire movie, we have no friggin' clue what the skull is, what it is supposed to do, how it go there, etc. etc. The movie itself seems to have vague, contradictory ideas, as well.

Sometimes the skull is magnetic. Why? Who knows? Is it ALWAYS magnetic? Nope. The skull kind of also has telepathy. Okay. That would be fine if we were told that all along. Or if that was the ONLY power. Or if we knew WHY the skull was acting that way.

The skull can be used to open a door to the hidden location where the skull itself came from and was, um, stolen, I guess. So how could they have made a door activated by the skull when the skull wasn't supposed to have been stolen? Are all the alien skeletons from different aliens or are they all just "one" being - since they go together at the end. Why are there TWO different species of aliens? Why does the movie refer to OTHER kinds of crystal skulls.

The mythology, simply, is a mess. It's not consistent. It doesn't work. We never really "get" what the goal of the movie is supposed to be. There are some elements which kinda work and would be okay if the movie trimmed away all the extra nonsense and focused on them.

But, instead of one very efficient, intriguing and foreboding scene of exposition like in "Raiders", we get scene after scene of the characters discussing the skull, the weird path it took, what it might be all about. There's nothing to latch onto, it's clumsy, it's sloppy, it's confusing.

It feels like "too much." it doesn't work on the same level as the straightforward simplicity of the other films. Like, AT ALL.

So we leave the movie confused and bewildered. "That wasn't like the other Indy features. I guess it was all that weird supernatural crap." Which is right, but it's only part of the story.

We can accept all kinds of crazy crap in the Indy universe or in fantasy movies in general. But the filmmakers have to play fair with us.

Those are good points. And by no means do I refuse to admit the skull was a rather wonky MacGuffin that was poorly-defined. I meant more that I take umbrage to people seeing how clumsily the skull was handled, and they act like it was the fault of the very idea, instead of the execution.

Oh, and one more thing: I personally didn't really mind much in the end the skull not being clear-cut defined, as for me it made it more enigmatic and mysterious. But I totally understand people who say it was clumsy and inconsistent. However, I'm fairly certain the skull being used to open the throne chamber operates basically equivalent to a retinal scan that the IDB's used as a security measure so that only they could enter, and not any belligerent Ugha.
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Old 04-22-2014, 04:17 PM   #12
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I have much more trouble with the nebulous and vague nature of the power of the stones in TOD. I was aware of the crystal skulls before the film so maybe it was just a case of being happy to be led.
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Old 04-22-2014, 04:38 PM   #13
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Lance's points nail most of the issues plaguing CS. In the trilogy Indy goes directly after archaeological objects with a clear goal of obtaining them. The aliens have a more distant link to being "archaeological objects" as the story has them directing humans to create the great city, which is the real archaeological object, especially with all the collections of artefacts from every civilisation. But this does not receive the focus. This helps to blur exactly what Indy has to get done. Returning the skull is fine I suppose, but how did it get removed in the first place? Considering how it boings back on from a distance and the power the aliens had, it must have been a sh*t fight getting it off.
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Old 04-22-2014, 07:50 PM   #14
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Also another point about suspension of disbelief in TOD. In the mines scene, when Indy is fighting one of the Thuggee, the mind controlled prince uses what is essentially a voodoo doll on him. And we see Indy reacting very visibly to it. That was slightly more problematic for me, because that just seemed to come out of nowhere, and we were not given an explanation as to how that might work. With the Black Sleep of Kali we were kind of...and the heart pulling out scene, I was not sure how the Thuggee priest was able to do that without immediately killing the victim. Especially since he tries the same trick on Indy again in the scene where they are hanging onto the bridge, but Indy seems to be in pain from it.
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Old 04-22-2014, 09:01 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by TheFedora
Also another point about suspension of disbelief in TOD. In the mines scene, when Indy is fighting one of the Thuggee, the mind controlled prince uses what is essentially a voodoo doll on him. And we see Indy reacting very visibly to it. That was slightly more problematic for me, because that just seemed to come out of nowhere, and we were not given an explanation as to how that might work.

I used to think the voodoo doll came out of nowhere too.

Then I watched the 1941 Jungle Girl serial, and it all made sense:

http://raven.theraider.net/showpost....2&postcount=41
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Old 04-23-2014, 10:01 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by sheffsteve
I have much more trouble with the nebulous and vague nature of the power of the stones in TOD. I was aware of the crystal skulls before the film so maybe it was just a case of being happy to be led.

As other people have said, it was about following the rules of what you set up. We see they have three stones...and are looking for the other two. But then Mola Ram starts talking about with the three stones they'll rule the world and crush all the other religions. And I am like...how? Is it supposed to be a motivational force to gather an army or do they have stronger powers beyond getting vaguely hot...and only when Indy recites the incantation that he read earlier. So that means the stones wouldn't work by themselves, they need something to set them off, an incantation to release the energy inside.
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Old 04-23-2014, 11:46 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by TheFedora
As other people have said, it was about following the rules of what you set up. We see they have three stones...and are looking for the other two. But then Mola Ram starts talking about with the three stones they'll rule the world and crush all the other religions. And I am like...how? Is it supposed to be a motivational force to gather an army or do they have stronger powers beyond getting vaguely hot...and only when Indy recites the incantation that he read earlier. So that means the stones wouldn't work by themselves, they need something to set them off, an incantation to release the energy inside.

...which actually kinda lends defense to the Skull's undefined nature in KOTCS. But the big difference is: TOD was an infinitely better executed movie overall, and thus we forgive a rather confusing MacGuffin, because the story around it is so damn awesome.
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Old 04-23-2014, 11:55 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Lance Quazar
The mythology, simply, is a mess. It's not consistent. It doesn't work. We never really "get" what the goal of the movie is supposed to be.

Totally agree. Though I've posted in other threads that I don't find CS as bad as people make it out to be, I was confused on the purpose of the crystal skull...as if the writers threw a bunch of different ideas of what it all means and hope one of them sticks. I think I would've bought into it more if we knew the purpose of it from the beginning and as you mentioned, and just focus on that.

I also agree on your other statement...
Quote:
You have to create rules and then you have to follow those rules.

No matter how crazy and absurd the rules are, as long as you follow them, then we can buy into it. Even if there are plot twists in the movie, if it falls in the scope of being part of those rules, then it still works.
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Old 04-23-2014, 03:11 PM   #19
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I always found it interesting how in the Indiana Jones Universe, the different supernatural forces operate, and seem to be in different classes. You have objects like the grail and the ark which are directly tied to the power of god. Then you have objects related to gods from other faiths that still have power... and then you have fourth dimensional beings in play as well. And each seem to co-exist by their own separate rules...

Although for religious artifacts such as Indy goes after, there does seem to be some sense of a possible pantheon of deities/fourth dimensional beings involved. Since the ark/grail manage to co-exist in the same universe where Indy is apparently able to find dragons and other creatures...I mean there was an indy comic which had a meteorite providing immortality to Shangri-la and Yeti were introduced but then treated as mere incidental. (Then later on in the same series Indy says bigfoot can't exist which makes me confused since he's already met Yeti...)

But yes, the point I'm trying to make here is that there are other things like the Crystal Skull fourth dimensional beings? Can these be tied into the fate of atlantis or we to assume these were different aliens? Probably different...but yeah, I get a since that the Indy Universe has a pantheon of different supernatural forces and play by their own rules.
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Old 04-23-2014, 03:31 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by TheFedora
I always found it interesting how in the Indiana Jones Universe, the different supernatural forces operate, and seem to be in different classes. You have objects like the grail and the ark which are directly tied to the power of god. Then you have objects related to gods from other faiths that still have power... and then you have fourth dimensional beings in play as well. And each seem to co-exist by their own separate rules...

Although for religious artifacts such as Indy goes after, there does seem to be some sense of a possible pantheon of deities/fourth dimensional beings involved. Since the ark/grail manage to co-exist in the same universe where Indy is apparently able to find dragons and other creatures...I mean there was an indy comic which had a meteorite providing immortality to Shangri-la and Yeti were introduced but then treated as mere incidental. (Then later on in the same series Indy says bigfoot can't exist which makes me confused since he's already met Yeti...)

But yes, the point I'm trying to make here is that there are other things like the Crystal Skull fourth dimensional beings? Can these be tied into the fate of atlantis or we to assume these were different aliens? Probably different...but yeah, I get a since that the Indy Universe has a pantheon of different supernatural forces and play by their own rules.

I've always wondered how the heck all those different religions can co-exist in Indy's world....and all be true. Part of me likes to think by introducing the IDBs, Lucas was trying to hint that all religions are based on ancient astronauts, each of whom took on different forms and tried to teach/conquer humanity in their own way. Basically, he was creating an explanation for how all these different mythologies can co-exist and all be true somehow. Of course, that concept probably pisses off the relig-y crowd, but it at least could fix that plot hole in this series...and even explain why Indy is always skeptical of different supernatural things.

I could interpret his skepticism as not of the supernatural itself, but of that specific mythology, since he's seen proof that such-and-such religion is true, hence he automatically assumes all others are false...until the next one proves true. Basically, he's always skeptical just in case this new mythology he's dealing with happens to be the rare one that doesn't have any truth to it.
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Old 04-23-2014, 03:48 PM   #21
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I've always wondered how the heck all those different religions can co-exist in Indy's world....and all be true. Part of me likes to think by introducing the IDBs, Lucas was trying to hint that all religions are based on ancient astronauts, each of whom took on different forms and tried to teach/conquer humanity in their own way. Basically, he was creating an explanation for how all these different mythologies can co-exist and all be true somehow. Of course, that concept probably pisses off the relig-y crowd, but it at least could fix that plot hole in this series...and even explain why Indy is always skeptical of different supernatural things.

I could interpret his skepticism as not of the supernatural itself, but of that specific mythology, since he's seen proof that such-and-such religion is true, hence he automatically assumes all others are false...until the next one proves true. Basically, he's always skeptical just in case this new mythology he's dealing with happens to be the rare one that doesn't have any truth to it.

I would accept that, but that seems to make me wonder why he doubted the grail then. Christianity is accepted to be an offshoot of Judaism I think, so I don't know if by that point he was thinking that the Grail had the same sort of power that the ark imbued or not. Remember the power was in the grail not the water itself...rather the grail was able to turn the water into a destructive force when the evil guy drank it, but was fine for him. Like it had some sort of 'warning device' and the minute you came into contact with it you were tested by the power of God. Also, taking the power of God behind the seal makes me think that there may have been the Grail acting on its own again, some kind of spiritual 'barrier' that it simply can't exist beyond.

Also, thinking about the fourth dimensional beings... it's very possible. Considering that the dimensional beings are able to come back to life once the skulls are returned to body makes me wonder if they were in stasis... Also technology sufficiently advanced is like magic so magical incantations like the Sankara stones could really be code words acting on whatever technology. The ark is a huge booby trap designed to attack all these who view it. (The ark shooting the electric energy to disable the lights kind of makes me think of it as semi-technological) and the false Grail's 'detection system' for a person's true soul kind of reads to me as possibly being technological too, since the false grail could easily dispense acid or whatever into the water to get the results we saw in the Nazi guy after drinking, and the true grail gives lifegiving results once it determines that the person is worthy. Also instead of being a 'spiritual' barrier for the ark, the seal could also be some sort of 'technological' barrier that prevents it being taken. Said technological barrier can keep you in 'stasis' while behind it, which is why the knight was able to live while probably repeatedly drinking the cup.
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Old 04-23-2014, 03:53 PM   #22
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Who's to say the power of the Grail, Ark, and Stones were all from the same God/being? Just worshiped differently by different people, and called other names? They see it as different deities, but in truth it's only one?
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Old 04-23-2014, 04:55 PM   #23
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Who's to say the power of the Grail, Ark, and Stones were all from the same God/being? Just worshiped differently by different people, and called other names? They see it as different deities, but in truth it's only one?

Yes, it's those inter dimensional beings from KOTCS!
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Old 04-23-2014, 11:39 PM   #24
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I would accept that, but that seems to make me wonder why he doubted the grail then. Christianity is accepted to be an offshoot of Judaism I think, so I don't know if by that point he was thinking that the Grail had the same sort of power that the ark imbued or not.

Oh, absolutely. I totally admit my idea is flimsy at best. But hey, a fun thing to think about... :P
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Old 04-24-2014, 12:24 AM   #25
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If you can accept magical boxes, stones and cups then you should also be able to accept mystical aliens and their skulls.

That's all fantasy and they obey unnatural laws.

The parts that are harder to suspend disbelief for are the real world physical situations. These occur in all the films, but most significantly in KOTCS.

KOTCS fails because there was little or no attempt to explain or justify the situations. The chief culprit is, of course, the landing of the fridge. TOD added the conceit of snow, slope and water to give the impression of survivability.

KOTCS offers nothing but hard rock, and it's at this point that the intentions of the film are clear: nothing matters. The hero is completely impervious to damage. What follows is therefore a series of meaningless action scenes - The Kingdom of the Soporific Skull.

Monkeys, snake, rubber tree, three waterfalls, weak villainess, actors with better places to be. I found it very hard to suspend disinterest after the fridge.

There's no reason why the skull couldn't have worked as well as the artefacts in the other movies. After all, the artefact is only there to provide the basis for the adventure. It could be anything, so long as the story works and all the disparate parts are brought together skilfully, rather than thrown together as they appeared to be in KOTCS.
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