I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 11

Day 11: Indiana Jones and the Anachronistic Dialogue

Making movies is hard, demanding work. Given that there are dozens of people running off in all directions at any given moment, the fact that they manage to put together anything resembling a work of art can be considered something of a minor miracle.

Mounting a period piece is an even more daunting prospect, and filmmaking mistakes are to be expected, and should be forgiven so long as they're not egregious. Rounding up period props is always difficult, so if a certain make of car wasn't available until a few years after the film was set, or if a beer can uses the modern logo rather than the classic one, it can be overlooked so long as it doesn't affect the overall setting.

There's one place where anachronisms aren't acceptable though, and that's in dialogue. While a wayward wristwatch might amuse a viewer on the second or third viewing, hearing clearly modern dialogue coming out of the mouths of people wearing period costumes is a jarringly unpleasant experience that snaps the viewer right out of the experience.

A recent example of this was in the film "Leatherheads" - during a scene set in a speakeasy, Renee Zellwegger's character quips about George's Clooney's date, inquiring how she got in, since people have to be 21 to get into places like (the speakeasy). Of course, when the film was set there was no national legal drinking age of 21, not to mention the fact that because the film is set during prohibition, it's not legal for anyone to be drinking there at all. While most anachronistic mistakes are the result of people just innocently missing things, dialogue is the most unprofessional, since the line probably survived multiple drafts of a screenplay, and then everyone on the set listened to the actors say it over and over again, but no one mentioned anything.

For whatever anachronism problems the Indiana Jones series has had, (and according to the Internet Movie Database, run-ins have been substantive) before Crystal Skull, there have never been glaring errors in the dialogue.

I'm sure I missed a few, having only seen the film once, but the three times I winced in the theatre were bad enough. First it was Harrison Ford using the term Nuclear which, while correct, was less popular in the parlance of the day than 'Atomic'. Right at the end, the minister pronounces Harrison Ford and Karen Allen "Husband and Wife", rather than "Man and-".

Worse than either of those two was the line than transcended anachronism to act as an awkward reference to another film. I speak, of course, of Harrison Ford telling Shia LaBoeuf that he's brought a knife to a gunfight.

Look, filmmakers, we know that Sean Connery was in the previous Indiana Jones movie. The five minutes you spent giving us loving closeups of a picture of him in his costume from that film made that abundantly clear. Who on earth thought it was a good idea to be referencing another Sean Connery film in the middle of this utterly Connery-free movie? How could you have imagined that this would be anything other than a distraction?

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