May 06, 2008

Preview of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I've just started paying attention to the Indiana Jones hype--the trailers and commercials. One TV ad brought an ugly thought to mind.

I've briefly wondered what and where the "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is supposed to be. I kind of figured it would be in sub-Saharan Africa, since the Indiana Jones series hasn't featured that region yet. And because a crystal skull sounds like something that might be found there. But now I know the answer.

It's a "lost city" in the Amazon jungle, which means it's inhabited by Indians. I gather it's supposed to be the "real" counterpart of El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. The trailer shows what looks like the Iguazu Falls on the Brazil/Paraguay border, which would place the "kingdom" in southern Brazil.

Indiana Jones and the Jonesing Indians

The Indians make a brief appearance. They're half-naked, with painted faces, waving spears, yelling and chasing people. They look much like the hideous creatures in King Kong or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

They're apparently protecting their crystal skull, an artifact that's cursed. So not only are they scary savages, they're supernatural savages. They practice evil magic and kill anyone who tries to violate it.

Their architecture looks to be moldy and crumbling. I'm guessing these Indians are degenerates who long ago forgot their arts and sciences and descended into barbarism. I'm guessing they haven't built anything more demanding than a sacrificial stone recently.

Will the movie show the builders of this monumental city as fully-dressed, intelligent, and sophisticated masters of art and science? I'm guessing probably not. I'm guessing these Indians will be about as civilized as Zagar the barbarian.

Perhaps the film won't even acknowledge them as the city's founders. Perhaps it'll say some "lost race" built the city and the savage Indians merely took it over.

Indiana Jones and the World of Savagery

Let's review. With a whole world of "savage kingdoms"--places full of magic, mystery, and menace--to chose from, the Indiana Jones franchise has twice given us deadly Indians. We have the Amazonian headhunters at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Hindu heart-stealers in Temple of Doom, and now...more Amazonian evildoers. (No ancient Egyptians appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Petra locale in The Lost Crusade was arguably an advanced civilization.)

So two-thirds of the "primitive" races in the Indiana Jones series have been Indians. Thanks, Spielberg, for showing us that the Amazon is the last bastion of savagery. We wouldn't want to get the idea that some Indians had a sophisticated worldview, a mastery of monumental architecture, or an advanced knowledge of medicine. Nope, they put curses on skulls and chuck their spears at intruders.

You wouldn't dare show black Africans as screaming savages. And no one would buy the Chinese as savages. But it's still okay to show Indians as savages. Because to most people that's what they are.

Below is the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer. Watch it and see for yourself.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
1., it's spelled 'Spielberg.' I before E, except after C.
2. "Guessing" or even outguessing either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg is an old game that most people lose, granting even more credence to 'opinions never are facts, and facts never are opinions.'
3. The crystal skulls maybe are alien artifacts tied to the Roswell Incident of 1947, being sought by Russians in 1950 for arcane purposes.
4. Lumping Hindus in with the Jovitos and KOTCS Natives is making misnomer over into misconstruction, but in fact it almost is de rigeur for Newspaper Rock. Presumption, presuppposition, and prejudice all are the hallmarks and high watermarks for this blogsite.
5. The Thuggee cultists from THE TEMPLE OF DOOM were evil. Wherein do any of the now six IJ: KOTCS trailers show their Natives as evil? Obviously, questions here prefer to be begged rather than honestly explored and explicated.
And, 6. 'Perhaps' some people would be happier if all Indiana Jones did was to potter around his museum and go about his own boring private life, simply because that is all they themselves are able to do...
All Best
Russ Bates

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
POSTSCRIPTUM -- ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY said INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL takes place in 1950. SCI FI Magazine says the film takes place in 1957. One of them is right, but we won't know that until May 22...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

1) Thanks for the spelling correction.

2) I'm not "outguessing" Spielberg about anything. I was guessing the content of Crystal Skull based on what I've seen and read. Since Spielberg already knows the content of the movie, there's no guessing match.

3) "The crystal skulls maybe are alien artifacts"? Maybe?! Now who's guessing, doofus?

Here's a hint of how the skulls tie into Indian culture:

The artifact of the title is inspired by real quartz sculptures of disputed origins that are carved in a way that defies the natural structure of the crystal.

"The theory is they are shaped by higher powers or alien powers or came from another world, or an ancient Mayan civilization had the powers," Marshall says.

Rob said...

4) I didn't refer to Hindus in general. I referred to the Hindu heart-stealers--i.e., one thuggish cult within the much larger religion. Your stupid mistake if you thought otherwise.

5) "The Indians make a brief appearance. They're half-naked, with painted faces, waving spears, yelling and chasing people. They look much like the hideous creatures in King Kong or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

6) I'll be glad to tell "some people" about your views the next time I host our booth at a gaming convention or fly cross-country to lecture on Indians and comics. Meanwhile, at least I'm not living in the past--i.e., signing autographs for a 35-year-old Star Trek or Isis project. If you've done anything noteworthy since the 1970s, I haven't heard about it.

Rob said...

P.S. The movie apparently is set in 1957.