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Posted on July 24th, 2023 in Events, Local, We Have Thoughts On That... by Elizabeth W. Thill | Tags: ,

By far the least believable aspect of this movie is that when they show up to an Italian archaeological site, the ticket booth is open.

Recently, Classical Studies Program Director Dr. Elizabeth Thill did something she had not done in years: she attended a newly released movie, in the theater, where the aim was not to keep her children entertained (although she did bring her children, a somewhat questionable decision). What movie could coax her out of her self-imposed movie-theater exile? Why, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, of course! Not only was Indy back, Baby, but for the first time he was after something from the Classical World!

And what is that Classical MacGuffin? As the title suggests, it’s the Dial of Destiny, an artifact clearly inspired by the Antikythera Mechanism, a geared contraption recovered (like the Dial of Destiny) from an ancient Roman shipwreck, which was discovered off the coast of Greece by sponge-divers in 1901. Sometimes called the “world’s first computer,” the mechanism was used to predict all sorts of random things the Ancient Greeks cared about, like eclipses and cycles of the Olympic Games. Sadly, the movie does not center around Indiana Jones trying to reset the cycle of the 1936 Nazi Olympics.

The actual plot of the movie…you know what, it doesn’t even matter. Suffice it to say it’s a means of delivering various action sequences while playing “Mode of Transportation Bingo” (this eventually includes a train, planes, automobiles, boats, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, a horse, and the New York subway). As is Indiana Jones tradition, there is much gratuitous destruction of artifacts, prompting Dr. Thill’s husband to inquire later, “So, from a methodological perspective, how do you decide which artifacts to set on fire?” Dr. Thill actually winced at a sequence when Indiana “It Belongs in a Museum!” Jones topples numerous museum shelves, smashing dozens of artifacts, in order to escape some goons. But no one goes to an Indiana Jones movie to learn archaeology, and the movie does give audiences what they want: dangerous riddles are solved, whips are cracked, hats are grabbed, children are inexplicably endangered.

But the BEST PART by far is [spoiler alert] when they fly two planes through a time portal and end up in the Siege of Syracuse in 213 BCE, where the scientist Archimedes is using giant mirrors to light the besieging Roman ships on fire. The planes’ arrival results in a battle where Ancient Romans fight Nazis, which really should have been the entire plot of not only this movie, but all movies before and since. The situation also presents an example of when knowing how to speak Ancient Greek can really come in handy, although Dr. Thill will point out, Latin would have been more useful, since Romans eventually won the siege (because of course they did).

So the moral of the story is: even Indiana Jones thinks you should enroll in CLAS-L 131 Beginning Latin I this fall, just to be prepared. And if you like movies and love Classical Studies (don’t we all!), mark your calendar for our upcoming Classics at the Kan-Kan series, tentatively scheduled for Disney’s Hercules on Oct 3 and O Brother Where Art Thou on Nov 7.