Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Geekery on display!

In his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column yesterday, Gregg Easterbrook digresses about halfway through to briefly discuss the plot holes in the movie Double Jeopardy, a film whose plot hinges on a gross misreading of the concept of double jeopardy. His objection to that film is spot-on, but what caught my eye here was his illustration of a "triple plot hole" in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Esterbrook writes:

Perhaps the greatest came in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nazis steal the ark from Indiana Jones, and escape in a U-boat. As the submarine dives, Jones leaps off a ship and clings to the U-boat's side. Now, what is he supposed to do -- hang on while the sub is underwater? We see a chart of the U-boat crossing the Mediterranean, then a shot of the submarine easing into its dock at a super-secret base. As the submarine arrives, Indiana Jones is already standing on the dock, disguised as a Nazi. Double plot hole! Not only could he not have survived by clinging to a diving submarine, how did he then get to the base first? Triple plot hole! How did he even know where the sub was going?

Well, taking the objections in order: first of all, the film does not establish that the sub dives, so Indy could have simply hung out on top of the thing. According to a bit of online research I did, U-boats did not routinely cruise underwater; they submerged when actually on the attack; given that the film takes place in 1936 -- three years before the outbreak of WWII -- the U-boat wouldn't really have had reason to dive. (However, there still appears to be a partial error here, since I also read elsewhere that U-boats would dive at least once in the course of even a routine voyage, for some reason to do with pressure and ballast. I assume this is just a historical error -- Steven Spielberg and company probably knew U-boats generally didn't submerge for just going from point-A to point-B, as in The Hunt for Red October, but didn't know that they would submerge for "routine maintenance".)

Second, Indy isn't already standing on the dock when the sub arrives – he is there after the sub has already arrived (the "arrival" shot isn't the sub arriving, but the crate containing the Ark being offloaded). He doesn't arrive before the U-boat does, he arrives at the same time. Easterbrook is forgetting that Indy has to procure a uniform, and he first does so by clubbing a Nazi guard who isn't his size. So, the U-boat approaches its base, Indy hops off and sneaks inside the base, and then while the U-boat is offloading, Indy grabs a uniform. The whole sequence is highly implausible, but it's not a "triple plot hole".

UPDATE: A commenter informs me that the Sub Captain can be heard saying, in German, "Dive the boat!". Well, I'm just going to ignore that. Doo dee doo dee doo....

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