Last week, we looked at Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), in which Indiana Jones praised the library, stating, “Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.” This week, let’s take a look at Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and a library scene in which Indiana Jones completely contradicts himself.
First up, a trailer to set the context for this most recent film in the series:
Once again, as in the previous film in the series, we get a scene of Indiana Jones teaching. Twenty years later, he’s still wearing the same three-piece suit, polka-dotted bow-tie, and round glasses:
The library scene:
A little over a half-hour into the film, Indiana Jones meets with “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a guy with a chip on his shoulder the size of his motorcycle. Indy jumps onto the back of Mutt’s motorcycle to escape from Russian agents who are after him. To finally shake off the agents, they motor into… what else? The library!
Although this scene lasts just under a minute total, Spielberg makes the most of it.
This exterior of the library scene was filmed outside Yale University’s iconic Sterling Memorial Library, standing in for Indiana Jones’s fictional Marshall College library. The interior of the library scenes were actually filmed in Yale’s dining hall!
Everyone is stunned to hear a noise in the library, let alone a motorcycle!
The two nearly run over a male student with a huge stack of books in his arms:
The guy’s books go flying, as does the motorcycle swerving to miss him. Indy, Mutt, and the motorcycle skid under a batch of tables, finally coming to a stop in front of one of Indy’s students. (That is a sentence I never thought I’d write.)
Fun fact: This student in the library is played by Chet Hanks, the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
And of course that student, unfazed by loud noises or sliding motorcycles and undeterred in his quest for knowledge (can you tell I think he’s the real hero of this scene?!), has a question for Dr. Jones:
Student in Library: Excuse me, Dr. Jones? I just had a question on Dr. Hargrove’s normative culture model.
Indiana Jones: Forget Hargrove. Read Vere Gordon Childe on diffusionism. He spent most of his life in the field. If you want to be a good archeologist, you got to get out of the library!
BOO. Boo, I say. BOO.
And I am not the only one incensed by this scene and total about-face for Indy’s view of the library and its vital role in research and archeology.
The trivia on the Amazon Prime version of the film also pointed out this contradiction:
And my overseas counterpart, Colin Higgins from Libraries at the Movies, messaged me this:
Do you like Crystal Skull? I don’t, at all. One of the reasons I feel it must be non-canonical is Indy’s dissing of libraries after his motorbike ride through Yale’s Sterling. The real/reel Indiana Jones would never say ‘If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library’!
I love Colin’s wording here, that (1) this film in the series is non-canonical because of its treatment of libraries, and (2) “dissing of libraries” is totally not in Indy’s character. Agreed on both counts!
I also enjoyed this extra bit of trivia/goofs from Prime, delving into the mention of Vere Gordon Childe in Indiana Jones’s advice to the student:
Hah! So Vere Gordon Childe, an Australian archeologist (1892-1957), did spend almost his entire career in the library! And OF COURSE I double-checked this. While he did oversee excavation of archaeological sites in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Childe is indeed most well-known for being a “great synthesizer” of archeological research, publishing over 240 articles and 26 books in his lifetime. And Childe was HIMSELF librarian of the Royal Anthropological Institute at one time (!), so I don’t think he would have EVER advised a student to “get out of the library.”
So. Indiana Jones not only contradicts himself — and one of the primary messages and themes from the previous film — he GETS IT WRONG.
I think it’s clear that Indiana needs to get back to the library, stat! (Without the motorcycle this time.) 😉
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ends up in the Class V category, as there are no reel librarians identified or distinguishable from all the other people in the library scene.
Continue with conversation:
What are your thoughts about this film in the Indiana Jones series and this library scene? Please leave a comment and share!
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett. Paramount, 2008.
- “V. Gordon Childe” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA license.