It was Dr. Jones

It is not uncommon that people ask me how I ended up studying anthropology, and usually I just respond that it was my broad and undefined interest in all things social, cultural and human that led me in that direction. But that it is not the whole story.

I don’t think I was entirely aware of it at the time, but later, and now again with the release of the new film, I’ve come to realize that the Indiana Jones films have been quite the inspirational factor leading me towards anthropology.

Though Indy is an archaeologist, much of what he does is connect the strings between various cultures, languages and events across history and geography to uncover new and fascinating interpretations of the world – with lots of adventure, danger and romance to boot – so what’s not to like?

I liked the wealth of variety, the intricate scientific theories regarding these, but most of all, I liked the stories – not just the folklore and myths, but also their discovery and interpretation. Indiana Jones was all about that. To top this off, I was surprised to find out that it was none other than famed proto-anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski who helped inspire Indy’s choice of career.

So, it was with all of this luggage that I went to see the newest installment in the chronicles of the aging archaeologist, Dr. Jones and his visit to Crystal Skull country. In a short bulleted review:

The Good

  • It did have the proper Indiana Jones feel. The action sequences were clever and inventive, and there was a sufficient of the old comic spark in it.
  • Indy – has aged believably, and as dryly sarcastic as ever.
  • Mutt Williams – as a sidekick I thought he was okay. He had enough character to make him interesting and the age difference between Mutt and Indy was a good basis for comedy.
  • Irina Spalko – a good villain, she made the switch from Nazis to Commies work out alright. Unfortunately, she was given too little depth and too little time with Indy to develop properly.
  • Marion Ravenwood – a lot of heart and good fun. But again, there were too many distractions to allow time to give that relationship the depth it needed.

The Bad

  • The number of sidekicks – there were at least two sidekicks too many, and they stayed on for far too long with adding any depth of character or plot, offering only a little comic relief. Both Indy’s old army buddy and his crazy archaeologist friend could easily have been left out – they stole focus from the more interesting characters
  • The references to WWII – So Indy was a big war hero. We get it.
  • The political references – I suppose it’s a rule that any Hollywood film taking place in the 50s should have some sort of reference to McCarthyism. But it doesn’t really fit in Indiana Jones universe – at least not if it is done as clumsily as this. The film would like to turn Indy into a god-fearing patriot wrongly-accused. But hey, maybe he’s a pinko?


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