Indiana Jones: When History and Fiction Collide

Discussion in 'Lucasfilm Ltd. In-Depth Discussion' started by Dubya_Fett, Aug 10, 2001.

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  1. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

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    Jun 2, 2001
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    I am a big fan of the "Indiana Jones" movies, but I am also a history major, and I can't help but notice all of the historical inaccuracies in those films. The purpose of this topic is for all the history buffs out there to point out the mistakes in the Indy films.
  2. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    Well, I'm no history buff, but I'll take a shot at this.

    Hitler never actually went after the Ark?
    The library in Venice doesn't really have a Knight's tomb underneath?
    There's no city called Alexandretta or a Crescent Valley?

    I know, that's probably not quite what you had in mind, but oh well.
  3. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
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    Actually, you are partially right Yodaman.

    Hitler didn't go after the Ark of the Covenant, but the Nazis did look for the Holy Lance, the Holy Grail, and Atlantis.

    I believe there are no catacombs beneath Venice.

    But there actually was an ancient city called Alexandretta. It was in Turkey and renamed Iskenderun, which was the city in "The Last Crusade" where Marcus meets Sallah. There is also a province called Hatay in Turkey. I don't think there is actually a Valley of the Crescent Moon though, and the exterior of the Grail Temple is actually the ruins of the city of Petra in Jordan.

    Now here's an easy inaccuracy: in "Temple of Doom", Indy points out the giant vampire bats in the sky. Except there are no vampire bats in India; they are found only in the Americas, and they are very small. What Indy saw were actually large fruit bats!

    -Dubya Fett
    Fettism of the Day: GEORGE W. BUSH: "The clones are attacking? Golly, why didn't anyone tell me?"
  4. Darth Tunes SfC Part III Commissioner

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    Nov 26, 2000
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    LOL at the Fettism of the day! :D
  5. Padme Bra Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 1999
    star 6
    Well the stuff about Hitler never goig after the ark and catacombs under Venice is just called artistic liscense. Besides, it was made pretty clear that the whole ark thing was covered up so it's not like it would be public knowledge anyway.

    The thing about the vampire bats could either be Indy's mistake (he's an archaeoligist, not a biologist), or him just trying to scare Willy.
  6. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

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    Jun 2, 2001
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    Well, the fact that the Nazis never looked for the Ark of the Covenant in particular (although they did look for other legendary artifacts) is artistic license, but there being catacombs in Venice when they don't exist, and can't because Venice is built on a series of small islands and any attempts to dig catacombs would result in flooding, is simply bad history.

    By the way, the purpose of this topic is not to bash the "Indiana Jones" films, it is simply an academic exercise. For the most part, the Indy movies have better historical accuracy than other films of its genre, as George Lucas is a big history buff, but they still have lots of mistakes, or at least conveniently ignore certain facts to make a more entertaining film.

    Okay, here's another historical error. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is set in 1936. The plot involves Indy being recruited by US Army Intelligence, who are concerned about the Nazis looking for the Ark. However, it is still a few years before World War II. Why is the US government so concerned about whatever Hitler's archeologists are doing? Not only that, but the British still had a military presence in Egypt in the 1930s. Egypt was nominally independent, but I'm sure if the US was concerned about the Nazis digging around Tanis, the British would be even more so. So why is a large German force, complete with soldiers, jeeps, trucks, and a flying wing, allowed to just go about their business not that far from Cairo with no British troops keeping an eye on them? Well, if the British were concerned it would pretty much deprive Indy of an adventure and us of a movie, but it's still historically incorrect.

    -Dubya Fett
    Fettism of the Day: GEORGE LUCAS: "So what do you think of the title 'Attack of the Clones'?" LUCAS'S KIDS: "Yippee! That is so wizard, dad!"
  7. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    Well I don't think anyone really cares whether or not Indiana Jones is historically correct and would consider that bashing. Hell, people don't even care if Star Wars is scientifically correct.
  8. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

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    Jun 2, 2001
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    Why is pointing out historical inconcistencies in "Indiana Jones" bashing? Sure, it's fiction, but it is set during a certain time period (the 1930s), features real-life villains (the Nazis, the Thuggee), and all the artifacts have grounding in myth. SW is pure fantasy, so the rules of science don't really apply to it. "Indiana Jones" needs to be somewhat historically accurate in order for it to work. If a film, say, had Indy visiting Israel before Israel was founded that would be a big deal. And if Indy was fighting some Nazis on a Soviet-made tank not invented until after World War II that would also stand out.

    So I'm not trying to bash Indy with this topic, heck, I'm probably one of the biggest Indy fans in the JC, I'm just trying to get people who love both Indy and history, in fact many of whom were maybe turned onto history because of Indy, to point out the little film flubs. It's the same as a SW fan pointing out the Stormtrooper who hits his head on the door in ANH or the running shoe and potato in ESB's asteroid belt.

    -Dubya Fett
    Fettism of the Day: GEORGE LUCAS: "What do you think of the title 'Attack of the Clones'?" LUCAS'S KIDS: "Yippee! That is so wizard, dad!"
  9. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    Huh?

    Well, I suppose I did word that a bit strange. I was trying to say that no cares if it's historically accurate and no one would consider that bashing. Sorry about the confusion.
  10. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    It's okay, Yodaman. Now I understand what you meant.

    Now this isn't a historical error, but rather just a general film flub. In "The Last Crusade", Indy finds that the catacombs beneath the Venetian library contain petroleum from an underground well leaking into the water. Indy then lights a torch and walks through the catacombs, dripping bits of flame onto the water. Nothing happens. However, when those Turkish guys from the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword drop a lighted match into the water, the petroleum is ignited and the whole catacomb bursts into flame. What gives? Just something that always bugged me about an otherwise good movie.

    -Dubya Fett
    Fettism of the Day: "Thank you very much, Mr. Loboto, for helping us escape from Cloud City, thank you..."
  11. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

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    Jun 2, 2001
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    Now here's a big historical inaccuracy. In "Temple of Doom", Indy says he found Short Round after his parents were killed when the Japanese bombed Shanghai. Now Indy must have access to a time machine, because the Japanese bombed Shanghai in 1937, and TOD is set in 1935!

    -Dubya Fett
  12. GriffZ Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    May 27, 2001
    star 6
    We never actually see the flaming bits of his tourch hit the water. We see them falling after it's burned down a little, but we don't see it hitting the water.

    But who cares? Raiders had a bunch of errors, but does that make it a bad film? Hell no.

  13. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    GRIFFZ: Either way, lighting a torch in an underground tunnel filled with petroleum is a pretty stupid thing to do.

    And I'm not out to bash "Indiana Jones". I'm probably one of the biggest Indy fans in the JC. This topic is just an academic exercise in spotting historical errors that the average moviegoer does not.

    That said, near the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Indy threatens to blow up the Ark of the Covenant unless the Nazis free Marion. Indy is armed with a rocket launcher - a Soviet-made one not in existence in 1936.

    -Dubya Fett
  14. theforceisstrong Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2001
    star 1
    don't forget rommel's "afrika corps" uniforms being used in 1936. or the existance of a flying wing in the same year...BTW, the wing was designed by the filmmakers, it was NOT a real historical design, although the nazis did produce some similar odd-looking craft
  15. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    TheForceIsStrong: Good eye. In another case of historical liberties, the tank featured in that terrific chase scene in "The Last Crusade" was modelled on a World War I-era German Mark 3, but the gun turret placed on it was made-up.

    -Dubya Fett
  16. Padme Bra Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 1999
    star 6
    As for why Army Intelligence cared about Hitler, even though we weren't at war, they were still keeping an eye on Nazi Germany.
  17. VladTheImpaler Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2000
    star 4
    I'm not huge on history, so there isn't much I can add to this topic. But I will say that pointing out errors isn't bashing...I think noticing mistakes like these are fun.

    The torch thing is funny. How did Indy ever survive his beginning action scenes in Last Crusade? The whole "magic box" thing...how the hell would he have gotten out of the train? And when he's an adult, and the boat blows up...how does he get back to shore? He's surrounded by nothing but ocean there.
  18. Mavrick889 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 1999
    star 4
    I love all of the Indy films, including the Young Indy ones. However, there's one error that sort of sticks out.

    In Raiders, during the montage of Indy's flight, we see the Golden Gate Bridge, something that had not been built yet in 1936.
  19. Synecdoche Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 17, 2001
    star 2

    I'd like to know a little bit about Henry Sr.'s, um, history, given the age gap (or lack thereof) between him and his son... ;)
  20. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    A lot of "poetic license" surrounds the portrayal of the Thuggee cult in "The Temple of Doom". The Thugs (as the practitioners of "Thuggee" were actually called) were an organized gang of thieves that operated in India for hundreds of years before being supressed by the British in the early 19th century. They would strangle travellers, rob them, and then bury the bodies in pre-dug graves. They were more a secret criminal society, like the Mafia, than an actual religious cult.

    Part of Thuggee did involve worship of the Hindu goddess Kali, but the Thugs included both Hindus and Muslims as members. There has been speculation of human sacrifice at one time being made by Kali-worshipping cults in ancient India, but the Thugs seemed to murder for profit rather than for religion. The religious aspects of Thuggee were most likely overemphasized in British literature, and later in Hollywood films such as "Gunga Din", "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", and "The Deceivers". In fact, the Thuggee cult in "Temple" seems more based on its portrayal in "Gunga Din" than on actual history.

    "Temple" portrays Thuggee as a pastiche of various occult practices. The infamous "heart-ripping" scene combines the human sacrifice practices of the Aztecs, where beating hearts were cut out of living victims, with the idea of "psychic surgery", performed by fraudulent faith healers. People being lowered into pools of molten lava is a cliche of the adventure genre. We also see voodoo dolls and Indy being turned into a zombie. The actual Thugs were unlikely to have offered a "sacrifice of flesh and blood" as the ideal was to kill without spilling any blood through strangulation.

    I actually like "Temple" as the guilty pleasure horror-adventure B-movie that it is, but the film may have been a bit better and a little less controversial if it portrayed the Thugs in a more realistic fashion.

    -Dubya Fett
  21. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    Now this isn't a historical inaccuracy, but just an interesting note most people don't know. The Sankara Stones in "Temple of Doom" are actually phallic symbols! The Hindu god Shiva's symbol was his phallus, or linga. This is confirmed by the Indian villagers refering to the Sankara Stone stolen from them as "Shivalinga".

    By the way, does anyone with knowledge of Hinduism know if the Sankara Stones appear in ancient myth, or whether they were simply made up by the filmmakers? I can't find any information on them. I know Sankara existed, but I can't find any information on the legend of the Stones.

    -Dubya Fett
  22. Darth_Digital Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2001
    star 4
    Uniforms.

    The use of field grey by the Nazi colonel in the Last Crusade didn`t fit in with his branch of service.

    He was a soldier; Not SS...



  23. JediBeowulf Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 6, 2001
    star 3
    To my knowledge (and I am hindu) there are no such things as Sankara Stones as depicted in TOD. However, there ARE sacred lingas scattered throughout various Shiva Shrines in India, and these are thought to have been part of the original mountain upon which Lord Shiva resides. They are thought to carry some magical powers, but not like any of that seen in the TOD. There were thought to be many more of these magical lingas in India, but then brutal Muslims invaded India killing, raping, and pillaging as they went along. A little known fact is that most of India's Hindu temples and artifacts were destoryed or taken by Muslims. Later, the British came and looted jewels and richs, but at least they respected Hindu culture.

    Also, the linga is a phallic symbol, that is true...but, it is meant of the context of creation and fertility, not anything else...just fyi :)

    Any more questions, ask away.
  24. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    I would like to make a slight clarification on an earlier post, regarding Indy's comments about "giant vampire bats" in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". There are so-called "false vampire bats" in India, which are large and carnivorous, but do not drink blood like the small "true vampire bats" of the New World. "False vampire bats" might be commonly referred to as "vampire bats" by a layman like Indy, so this could excuse his comments.

    -Dubya Fett
  25. Dubya_Fett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    I would like to make a slight clarification on an earlier post, regarding Indy's comments about "giant vampire bats" in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". There are so-called "false vampire bats" in India, which are large and carnivorous, but do not drink blood like the small "true vampire bats" of the New World. "False vampire bats" might be commonly referred to as "vampire bats" by a layman like Indy, so this could excuse his comments.

    -Dubya Fett
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