We cannot predict the future, but we can certainly study the past in excruciating detail. Some items of significance from the past are recognized for what they are immediately after they have gained a spot in the annals of history. And yet, there are many instances where these precious historical artifacts are lost. Sometimes these items are lost on purpose, to protect the power they yield. Other times they’re misplaced via upheavals that change the social structure of the world. Regardless of how these historical items are lost, there are people out there who hunt the lost history to better understand our modern world. These individuals might not be archeologists, like symbology professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in The Da Vinci Code (2006), Angels & Demons (2009), and Inferno (2016), but they all understand the importance of history. This week’s two films highlight some “history hunters.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours
Because history isn’t always written down, we often need to turn to archeologists to dig up the past. While the artifacts recovered don’t tell the whole story, they can lead to an inference of the lives of the people who once used them. Regarding famous Hollywood archeologists, none come closer than the adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). For his first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), he was able to find and recover the Ark of the Covenant. While the sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) wasn’t about any historical object, the next film in the series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) found the Holy Grail (albeit a different interpretation than the one in The Da Vinci Code). I can only hope that after the non-historical Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Indy will find a historical artifact in the fifth installment due out in 2020.
Adventurer and archeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has traveled the world in search of rare and significant items. While he came home empty-handed from Peru, two men from the government have another mission for him. As it turns out, a mentor of his is being tracked by the Nazis because they believe he holds a key piece to an item known as the “Staff of Ra.” When Jones arrives in Nepal and finds his friend has died, he manages to obtain the item in question and heads to Cairo. Upon finding the Nazi dig site, Indy realizes they’re digging in the wrong spot because they only have half of the information on the Staff of Ra. With full knowledge of the artifact, Jones finds where the Ark is actually buried but is thwarted by the Nazis who trap him in a tomb and take the Ark away. Escaping from his predicament, Indiana Jones catches up with the Nazis just as they are about to test the powerful artifact.
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours
While Americans do appreciate history, there hasn’t been much of it in the United States when compared to other regions of the world. In fact, as we’ve seen in The Monuments Men (2014), we will go out of our way during a time of war to protect the art and history of Europe as the Nazi menace looms overhead. Still, this doesn’t mean America is completely devoid of historical artifacts, it merely means most of them have been documented. Because of this, the undocumented history is certainly more interesting to pursue. Since the secretive society of the Masons helped found the United States, there have always been rumors of Masonic treasures buried under government buildings. National Treasure (2004) takes this idea and runs with it, following up these adventures with National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) a few years later.
With only the single clue of “The secret lies with Charlotte” guiding his way to a fabled Masonic treasure, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) sets out on an expedition to the Arctic to uncover a ship with the same name. When he finds a pipe with a clue that suggests the next piece of the puzzle is on the back of the Declaration of Independence, his partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), suggests they steal the famous document. The two men go their different ways, which leads Ben to go to Washington D.C. to warn the authorities of the robbery attempt. Because they don’t believe him, he takes matters into his own hands, stealing the document himself. The next few clues lead him to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Trinity Church in New York City. The whole time, Ian is hot on Ben’s trail, eventually leveraging Ben’s father as a hostage. Will Ben give up a chance at treasure to save his dad?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 history hunters