The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

The Indy that Could’ve Been: Reviewing Darabont’s City of the Gods

Written by: Carson McKnight, Special to CC2K

Image When I left the theater after seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I was disappointed. It was, at best, a mediocre movie with some really terrible scenes. There were things that happened that just didn’t make sense, and then there was a scene where Indy’s heir-apparent swung through a South American forest like Tarzan, complete with monkeys. Ugh. What happened? Why was Indy “helping” the evil Russians? What was the deal with these aliens? And why the heck was he saved by a refrigerator when a nuclear bomb went off?

So when I heard that there was another script out there that George Lucas rejected called Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods I was understandably intrigued. Even better, it was written by Frank Darabont, who gave us both Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile (as well as Nightmare on Elm Street III and The Fly II, but nobody's perfect.) On the one side, I wanted to see what else could have been done with this movie. It had to be better, because how could it be much worse? Yet on the other hand I was having trouble wrapping my head around the idea that there had actually BEEN another full script written and rejected. How bad was it? I figured they used the script they did simply out of necessity; it was the only one around when everyone was ready to shoot. So when I got my hands on a copy of the script a few days ago I started reading with some apprehension. What I found was a script that WAS better than Crystal Skull, but still had some problems.

City of the Gods starts off in a VERY similar manner to Crystal Skull. But we are introduced to a Russian friend of Indy’s rather than a British friend. This Russian turns out to be a spy who is in fact look for *Gasp* a crystal skull. Indy still weathers an atomic explosion in a refrigerator and he's still put on temporary leave from the University because he is believed to be a Communist spy. But from here on things change quite a bit. There is no Mutt character, and Marion plays a much larger role, one that better fits her character in Raiders and would have been a lot more fun to watch. Indy and Marion wind up in South America trying to find the City of the Gods. Professor Oxley is still there, they still get attacked by Army Ants and they still go on a wild ride down a river. But there are some additional action scenes that add to the suspense and when they finally arrive at the City of the Gods they find a chamber with 13 crystal skeletons, all missing their heads. What ensues is an ending in which Indy actually has to make a choice and there exists some gravitas, unlike the ending of Crystal Skull.

Overall, as I said, City of the Gods is a better script. It’s more cohesive, it makes more sense, and Indiana Jones FEELS like Indiana Jones rather than just some random adventure movie character. This is not to say that it wasn’t without it problems. We still have aliens and psychic abilities, not too mention some other strange occurrences that are simply explained by saying “It must be the skull.” We may never know why the script for Crystal Skull was chosen over this story but at least it’s good to know that some out there can still tell a compelling and complete Indiana Jones story. Even if he didn’t lose his eye in this one either.