Let’s talk about that Indiana Jones fan theory

In case you haven't come across it yet, an intriguing fan theory concerning Indiana Jones has been circulating today that posits that the reason the hero was able to survive that notorious “Nuke the Fridge” scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is because he drank from the Holy Grail in The Last Crusade — thereby granting him eternal life. So is Indiana Jones really immortal? After checking out my conversation with HitFix's Roth Cornet about the theory in the video above and below, you can read my dissection of it further down the page.

At face value, the reason offered for Indiana Jones' unlikely survival sounds like a plausible (though obviously unintentional on the part of the filmmakers) theory…until, that is, you start really thinking about it.

For one thing, a quick Google search reveals a number of rebuttals to the idea, which has previously been postulated online but never gathered steam until now. Take the following from Q&A site Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange, where user “Richard” pokes holes in the theory using lines from the actual script. The first instance he highlights involves an exchange between Indiana Jones and Walter Donovan (Julian Glover), in which the former relates the story of two knights who survived another 150 years after discovering and regularly drinking from the Grail — only to die almost as soon as they passed beyond the entrance of the temple where the Grail is housed:

Indy: I've heard this one as well. Two of these brothers walked out of the desert one hundred and fifty years after having found the Grail and began the long journey back to france. But only one of them made it. And before dying of extreme old age, he supposedly imparted his tale to a-to a franciscan friar, I think.

Donovan: Not “Supposedly,” Doctor Jones.

Donovan produces an ancient leather-bound volume with very brittle pages. Indy views the manuscript with considerable interest.

The second instance, meanwhile, involves a dialogue exchange between Indiana Jones and the third knight who still guards the Grail (Robert Eddison), who has survived hundreds of years longer than his counterparts by remaining inside the temple. As he tells Indy, the Grail cannot be taken beyond the bounds of the “great seal,” and — as it presumably needs to be drunk from continually in order to work — once one stops partaking of it, the power of immortality is lost. From the script:

Indy goes to the well and fills the earthenware jug with water, then pauses. Indy brings the jug to his lips and takes several large swallows. A strange sensation overcomes him, a feeling of peace and contentment… and we see his wounds begin to heal.

Knight: You have chosen wisely. But the Grail cannot pass beyond the great seal. That is the boundary and the price of immortality.

That aside, the theory's biggest inconsistency is a much simpler and more obvious one: Indiana Jones' father Henry (Sean Connery) also drinks from the cup at the end of Last Crusade, and yet he is established to have since died in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Additionally: if Indiana Jones is “immortal,” why has he visibly aged at a normal rate since the events of The Last Crusade? Etc. etc.

At the end of the day, poor narrative choices cannot be retroactively explained away by fan theories on Reddit, and the “Nuke the Fridge” scene will continue to be a sore point for fans of the series. If the Grail were the reason for Indy's superhuman powers of survival, certainly they would have alluded to it somewhere in Crystal Skull. Clearly, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas simply overestimated their audience's willingness to suspend disbelief. In the immortal words of a bystander in the classic Simpsons episode “King Size Homer,” the nuclear set piece was simply a “fridge too far” for moviegoers.

For more on this, check out my discussion with Roth on the fan theory above and below. You can also re-watch the Grail scene here: