Indiana Jones and the Guardians of the Bone Mill: a treatment

Hell is: dreaming the real-time plot of a fifth Indiana Jones film (Starring both Harrison Ford and  Morgan Freeman) only to be woken up by your significant other’s tooth grinding. Grrrrrrrrr………..

So what am I doing up before 7 a.m. you ask?  Why, I’m outlining the movie of course. Luckily I have an outlet for these creative impulses. I knew I started this blog for a reason!

So, here we go.  My “treatment” for…

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[working title]

Ext–Day–Australia, circa 1900ish

We open on a strange missionary church, built into cliffs along the ocean. This is Australia at the turn of the century. Inside the church, three missionaries–two women and a man–are unpacking boxes and making themselves at home in this rudimentary building. Lizards, snakes, large spiders; pretty much every poisonous denizen of Australia has come out to welcome the settlers.  As they try to clear the church of cobwebs and creatures, one of the women comes across a ragged doll with a bronze head. Thinking it may be worth something (and therefore required to be put into a fund for the church) she sets it aside for her next trip to town. The man, with a dubious look, snatches the doll, tears off the head, and examines it later under the scrutiny of candlelight.

The head is really a skull (like a Mayan version of C-3PO) and seems to whisper to the man. He pulls out a piece of parchment containing the name of a ship, a time, a strange brand, and directions to where the ship is docked. He takes leave of the church and dashes along the cliffs as stormy waters crash below, but not before he is discovered by one of the women.  She wakes the other and they both go after him.

The terrain becomes more treacherous, the waves more angry. Thunder rumbles in the distance. Desperate, the man ascends a steep rockface with the women on his tail. He is close to his rendezvous with the ship. As he reaches the last ledge, the skull starts to whisper to him. He takes it from his pocket. The women scream his name. The whispers grow louder. With a solemn nod to the tiny skull, he pockets the relic, takes a deep breath, and lets go of the ledge. In his fall, he clips the women, bringing all three of them to their doom.

Did they fall into the ocean? No. As the camera pulls away, lightning crashes, igniting a small island where their crumpled bodies landed. An island that looks oddly like the tiny skull…

Present Day–well, 1962–INT: Australian Pub

We find Henry “Mutt” Williams bellied up to the bar with his pal, Jesse.  Who’s Mutt you ask? Oh, come on. It’s Shia LaBeouf’s character from Crystal Skull, aka Indy’s illegitimate son. Sheesh.

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This will be the biggest obstacle in getting this movie made. We’ve all heard Shia’s little tirade badmouthing Crystal Skull and how Harrison told him to shut his mouth. But if IJ5 is going to happen, we have to work with the source material, which means bringing back Indy’s son. Granted, he’s a little older, wiser, and hopefully going by “Henry” or at least “Hank” by now.

Seems Henry/Hank/Mutt has followed in his old man’s footsteps and is now a grad student externing in the field of archaeology, which is why he finds himself in Australia having a drink with his new pal, Jesse, a local also involved in a prestigious program.

(For the record, I think Jesse should be played by Bruno Mars.)

Singer Bruno Mars poses in the press roo

Okay, so the two boys have had a few and are trying to work up the courage to approach one of their fellow students–the very blond, very sexy Cara Inglebrook (who happens to be a bit of a Brit, doesn’t she? Brilliant! Unless you get me Rachael Taylor, then we’ll make her a local too).

After a few more rounds of boy talk, and Jesse saying, “If you don’t go, I will,” Mutt is finally feeling brave enough to approach Cara. He uses that inherent Jones charm to win Cara over, but neglects to tell her who he is–or rather, who is father is. Mostly because through talking to Cara, he finds out she is wildly intelligent, passionate about archaeology…and totally obsessed with the legendary Dr. Jones to the point where she bites her lower lip whenever he’s mentioned.

Cara and Mutt head back to the student housing. The student dormitories are built into the same cliffs as the old church, though nothing remains of the missionaries or their brief home. On the way back, they see something glinting in the moonlight beneath the water. Hoping to impress Cara, Mutt dives in to retrieve the metallic object. It’s a tiny bronze skull. He brings it up, gives it to Cara, and she brings him back to her place to dry his clothes and offer him a nightcap. While in her room, Mutt realizes how obsessed she is with the little relic, hoping its discovery will escalate her career. She elaborates about how much she wants to be a famous archaeologist like the Indiana Jones, how he inspired her, blah blah blah blah….

While Cara fetches his newly dried clothes, Mutt fingers the skull. He isn’t too impressed with it, nor does he recognize its origin. He squints at it, begins to hear a sound like a whisper, then quickly pockets it as Cara returns.

His plan? Make some imprints of the skull, send them to his father, let him solve the mystery of its origin, and use the factoid to impress Cara with his archaeological knowledge–without letting her know that he literally “got it from his old man.”

The next day, Mutt makes the relative notes and imprints and addresses them to Dr. Henry Jones, care of the University of California-Berkeley. Before he heads to the post office, Cara calls him. She sounds worried, she’s made a discovery about the tiny skull, only to find out that it’s missing! Feeling guilty and not wanting to ruin things with Cara over petty theft, he agrees to meet Cara at the pub where he’ll return the skull and explain the whole thing–including coming clean about who his dad really is.

When he gets to the pub, Mutt finds Cara being dragged into the back of a car. Seeing Mutt approach, she smartly codes her desperate pleas, not letting her assailants know that she’s actually giving Mutt secret instructions not to try anything and just run.

Mutt fights his fighter instincts. Cara is taken with a black bag cinched over her head.

Angry, scared, but not without his wits, Mutt first continues to the post office before he moves on to planning Cara’s rescue. But instead of just mailing the notes, he mails the whole bronze skull to his father.

Nearly back to the dormitories, right around the pub where Cara was nabbed, a frantic Mutt runs into Jesse. Mutt tries to explain what’s happening, but is not sure himself. He sounds like a demented conspiracy theorist. Jesse tries to calm his friend down with soothing tones. Mutt finally does calm down, takes a deep breath, and looks down the street to the post office. Then stares helplessly down the alley where Cara was kidnapped.

That’s when Jesse produces a black bag and cinches it over Mutt’s head with a furious grin.

Fade to black.

University of California, Berkeley–1962

Finally, we get to our titular character: Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones is now a tenured professor at UC-Berkeley. We see that he is surprisingly content in the role of “aging mentor.” His wild oats sowed, Dr. Jones new adventures are in the classroom, in the hallways, in chair meetings, and in his office in the Dept. of Archaeology. We see him in said office, finishing up advising a student. As the student leaves, he asks the professor about the dying nature of the industry, the fact that archaeology as Dr. Jones knows it is falling to the wayside. All the treasures have been discovered, all the temples have been mapped–what role could archaeology possibly play in the future?

Dr. Jones response is cut short by a snide answer from Dr. Elijah Hodges (enter Morgan Freeman), a fellow professor of Archaeology who explains that “if what Dr. Jones does can be called archaeology, then the field has been in trouble for a long, long time.”

As Jones grits his teeth in classic Harrison Ford fashion, he reaches for his desk drawer, revealing a glimpse of his infamous whip. He decides against a fight. All the while Hodges elaborates on the future of archaeology lying in technology, and “archaeologists” like Dr. Jones will just have to hang up their proverbial hat–or fedora?–and take their proper place in history books.

In this moment, we see Indy’s new arena: soviets and Nazis aside, Hodges and the politics of the department are Indy’s new enemy.

The student exits and the showdown between Hodges and Jones is cut short by Hodges explaining he just dropped by because some of Dr. Jones’ mail wound up in the wrong box. Hodges produces the package sent hastily by Mutt. Though no return address, it has clearly been opened.

Jones glares at Hodges.

Hodges says, “Oops.”

The argument reignites, but is quickly doused by Hodges telling Jones to just have a look at what’s inside. Jones examines the tiny bronze skull, turning it over in his hands. He rubs his thumb in a small notch at its base.

Hodges goes on: “The craftsmanship–the bronze–doesn’t fit the origin.”

Jones: “What’s the origin?”

Hodges: “Oceanic Aboriginal.”

Hodges’ career emphasis. How convenient. Annoyed, Jones digs out the notes Mutt included in the package, and for the first time he realizes it’s from his son. He reads over the basic notes and diagrams, then notices something strange written at the bottom of the page in a different ink and in a shakier handwriting.

Please hurry.

This is unusual. Jones’ relationship with his son has been strained to say the least–what could possibly warrant a message like that? Jones dismisses Hodges, and makes some phone calls, finally learning that his son is studying archaeology in Australia. He tries to make the arrangements for the trip, but finds that between his duties and his dry funds, he cannot make it happen.

Enter Hodges (again). We learn that the rivalry between the two stems from a grant that Jones recently lost to Hodges. A grant that Hodges agrees to split with Jones if he’ll take him with to Australia to uncover the mystery of the tiny skull. Jones feels like it’s a slap in the face, but finds it the only way to discover what is going on with his son.

Dr. Jones agrees to Hodges’ terms and becomes Indy once again.

Queue the music, show the plane with the red trail spanning the ocean, and bam! There’s your intro for a new Indy flick.

Yada, yada, yada. Fill in the blanks.

Indy and Hodges play off each other charmingly, reminiscent of Ford and Connery in Indy III, or the infamous Willis/Jackson team-up in third Die Hard. Their search for clues surrounding the skull takes place in the relatively small city of Port Hedland, gloomy and dreary, and is more detective-like than Indy’s previous adventures. But there is no shortage of danger, gunplay, and car chases–especially as Indy realizes his son has been kidnapped. All the clues point to a city completely owned by a mysterious corporation known as Cold Core. Everything from meatpacking to the cab services seems to be a division of Cold Core Inc, led by a handsome entrepreneur. We’ll call him Devlin.

(And, if you’ve been paying attention, the Cold Core insignia is strangely reminiscent of a certain emblem scrawled on a piece of parchment shown earlier in the film.)

The gist? The little bronze skull is a key, so to speak. It is part of a larger device–located among the ruins of the coast–that mills human bone into powder. It is an ancient machine for human sacrificing, used for centuries by early aborigines, although its true origin is unknown. What’s so special about the temple-sized machine, besides its mysterious origin? Maybe nothing.

But the belief is that a series of crystals and prisms seals the spirit of the sacrifice into the bones as the body is processed. Thus, the bone meal produced is the essence of life, and can be ingested by others to ensure power, stamina, and near immortality.

And, as we all know, with immortality comes great wealth.

How does Devlin fit in? Well, even though the device was used for centuries by the aborigines, the Bone Mill was taken over by the first British convicts brought to Australia in the 1700s. Why? To gain power over the primal aborigines there, giving them the chance to thrive, and colonize the wilds of Oceania.

Of course, the key to the device–the skull–was lost for centuries.

Perhaps the spirits want the device lost to the white man.  Could that be why all the self-sacrificing whispers lead to its hiding? Hmmm.

Devlin, however, doesn’t have time for all that superstition. He is a descendant of the original convicts and desperately wants to utilize the device for gain over the “contemporary savages,” ie, the rise in businesses owned and operated by aboriginal descendants that have become more popular with Aussies in recent years.

Long story short, it’s all a trap.

Devlin–and his young apprentice, Jesse–have devised a plan. Not to discover the skull, of course–they already found that. They just had to plant it where a certain thick-headed son would find it so that a certain famous father would get involved. And with the surprise involvement of Dr. Hodges, Devlin now has two of the most brilliant archaeologists in the world working towards finding the long lost location of the Bone Mill.

The deal? Jones and Hodges find the Mill and Devlin spares his hostages: Mutt and Cara.

The mystery, the search, and the deception all bottlenecks at the Bone Mill temple, an ancient system of gears and cogs that has been activated by Devlin. His first sacrifices? Mutt and Cara. Why make good on his word when he can try out his new toy instantly? While the device has been initiated, Devlin must still reach a point at the top of the Mill in order to activate the crystals and prisms. The final lever, so to speak, which also needs the tiny skull key.

So as Indy races Devlin to the top, via a series of swashbuckling ups and downs, Hodges tries to convince Jesse to turn against his boss. Yes, Hodges knows Jesse shares aboriginal blood and deep down, he knows the young man doesn’t want to see Devlin rise to the top of his people using the ways meant for his ancestors. Plus, you know, human sacrifices are just wrong, dude.

Jesse is convinced, frees Mutt and Cara and intercepts Devlin at the top, seizing the skull and knocking Devlin out cold. Time to escape. But Jesse turns back, intending to throw the proverbial switch anyway.

What?!

Jesse apologizes, and warns the others they better start running.  Indy, Hodges, Mutt, and Cara do exactly that.

That last we see of Jesse is him staring at the skull with a solemn nod. He hears the whispers too. Instead of attaching the skull to the lever that aligns the crystals and prisms, he attaches it to a different lever–the self destruct, if you will. The whole place is comin’ down.

Now the escape has really become an escape, as the others struggle to leave the temple alive.

They do of course, and all is well. Including the estranged relationship between Indy and Mutt. But so many questions remain, including who built the strange device so far ahead of its time.

Who are the real Guardians of the Bone Mill?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

And more importantly, why do I dream in full movie plots?!

Obviously, this isn’t a real project (as much was we all want it to be) and all rights belong to Paramount. Or Lucasfilm. Or Disney. Just not me. Somebody else. I was just dabbling in their world.

But, Mr. Spielberg? Mr. Lucas? I’m more than willing to throw you a bone on this one.

What do you think, Indy fans?

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