Posted by: Ali | February 17, 2010

Movie: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008, directed by Steven Spielberg; originally in English

I’m going to assume, unlike most of the other movies I’m watching, that many of my readers have actually seen this movie.  If you haven’t, you should consider not reading any further.  I won’t do a plot synopsis or anything, just talk about the movie as it relates to Peru.  It is set in Peru, a fact I didn’t pay attention to the first time I watched it.  Yes, this is a fun movie that I don’t expect to have much basis in reality.  I mean, aliens?  But still, after watching it and actually currently being in Peru, there were HUGE, GLARING ERRORS, and that’s completely skipping all the aliens and psychic stuff.

The Peruvian part of the movie starts off with Indiana Jones being delivered a letter from his friend Oxley in a dead language called Coyoma, a “pre-Colombian Latin American language.”  Now theoretically it is possible that there are dead languages originating in Latin America, possibly even one called Coyoma.  However, not in Peru, which I know is not the biggest error in the world.  The most advanced pre-Colombian society in Peru were the Incas, of course, who spoke Quechua.  The kicker is this: Quechua didn’t have a written form, not at all – they would record numbers by tying knots in ropes called quipus.  But there was basically no written language in Peru until the Spaniards came, which is why today many Quechua words have many different spellings – the city of Cuzco is also spelled Cusco or even Q’osqo.  So it makes absolutely no sense for there to be a dead, written language in Peru, especially one that historians would know about.  Oh and by the way, coyoma is Chilean slang for penis.

Next, Indy and his sidekick Mudd go off to Cusco to see the Nazca lines.  First of all, the Nazca lines are in Nazca, which is in the desert, on the coast, near Lima.  I’ve been there!  Cusco is in the mountains, inland.  I’ve been there too.  They fly over the Nazca lines, which are, by the way, nowhere near as close together or as clear as they look at 39:00 minutes into the movie.  The place that they ended up, which for the whole movie continues to be confused as to whether it wants to be Cusco or Nazca, looks more like a Hollywood stage that is maybe trying to be a jungle.

When they arrive in Cusco/Nazca (Peru only had one airport when the movie was set in 1957 and that was in Lima), Indy speaks Quechua to the locals (which is spoken in Cusco but not Nazca), and Indy reveals that he learned Quechua by riding with Poncho Villa.  Poncho Villa was a Mexican revolutionary.  Mexico is very far away from Peru, and Quechua is only spoken in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.  Oh, and when they arrived in Cusco/Nazca, a Mariachi band was playing in the background (also Mexican).

In Cusco/Nazca, they follow the clues to Chauchilla Cemetary, which is an actual place, in Nazca.  The Nazca people were an actual culture that existed in Peru from 200AD to 800AD.  According to Indiana Jones, Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish conquistador, died in 1546 on the Amazon River, and then was buried in the desert on the other side of the mountains by the Nazcas who had been dead for 700 years.  If you look at the photos above, the Nazcas buried their dead in a desert, although in the movie it was a spooky temple inhabited by aboriginals who, according to one of the volunteers here, practice capoeira, a Brazilian martial art.

Then, oddly enough, we have a rare moment of truth!  In the cemetery, Indiana discovers several misshapen skulls which were elongated.  Indy explains that the Nazca used to wrap the heads of their infants to make them look more like the gods.  I’m not sure about the rationale, but the Nazca did in fact mutate the heads of their children in such a way, although only the children of important people.  They were also good at trepanning and brain surgery.

Next a lot of action happens and the factual errors are kept to a minimum, until Indy and his entourage go over a waterfall, specifically, three of them.  Because of the distinct nature of the waterfalls, one of the volunteers was able to point out that these waterfalls were actually the Iguazu Falls, which are reasonably famous, and are located at the border of Brazil and Argentina, near Paraguay.

Finally, they go through a waterfall and somehow come out on the other side of a Mayan temple.  The Mayans lived in Central America, in southern Mexico down through Nicaragua and that general area.  This part actually boggles me the most because Peru has fantastic old ruins!  Like, lots of them, even ones that are hiding in the jungle, obscure, and no one has heard of them!  So why did they have to pick ruins that were obviously (to me) so not Peruvian?  I could forgive almost everything else, but why not use some cool Inca ruins?


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  4. It was a fun movie?

  5. Its Pancho Villa


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