Latest ‘Indy’ film’s nuke blast scene irks some

by Kakumi Kobayashi

Kyodo News

The latest installment in the “Indiana Jones” movie series has puzzled viewers and critics in Japan as it includes a segment showing a nuclear bomb test they say could give young people the wrong impression about the dangers of radiation and the destructive power of atomic weapons.

Some people have expressed disappointment or anger in magazines and on Internet message boards, questioning why renowned Hollywood director Steven Spielberg chose to describe a nuclear blast in such an “imprudent” way.

Film critic Ken Terawaki criticized Spielberg for including scenes of a nuclear blast “just for fun” at a time when the world is struggling to do away with atomic weapons as “a common enemy of humanity.”

At the start of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” released in Japan in late June, archaeologist Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, fights with Soviet agents at a nuclear test site in Nevada in 1957.

Jones flees from the agents and finds himself in one of the mock houses at the site. Suddenly realizing an atomic test is about to be conducted, he hides inside a lead-lined refrigerator and survives the blast without sustaining any major injuries.

In the next scene, Jones is seen in a lab surrounded by several people in gas masks who are scrubbing his body with brushes to remove from his skin the traces of radiation emitted by the bomb.

“The problem is that the scenes have nothing to do with the movie’s general story line,” said Hiroo Otaka, a Tokyo-based film critic.

“The story continues without any reference to damage caused by the bomb and Dr. Jones goes back to his adventures without showing any aftereffects,” Otaka said.

He questioned Spielberg’s use of the blast scenes in the latest issue of the movie magazine Kinema Junpo.

“I understand that Mr. Spielberg is not trying to justify atomic bombs. Apparently he has just used a nuclear bomb blast to depict Indiana Jones as a superhero who can survive anything. Even so, I have to say it was too easy a choice,” Otaka said.

“There are many children these days, both in Japan and the U.S., who are unaware of the nature of nuclear weapons. What will they feel when they see the scenes?” he asked.

Terawaki, a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design, said the nuclear scenes symbolize the lack of prudence in the U.S. when thinking about war. “In a sense, Spielberg symbolizes America,” he said.

“I was speechless after watching those scenes,” said Masako Katagata, 34, a worker at a medical association in Osaka Prefecture. “Scrubbing Dr. Jones with brushes to get rid of radiation. What was that? Where is the science?

“Damage caused by radiation is not a past problem that only involves the Japanese,” she said, noting some U.S. soldiers who went to Iraq are suffering from diseases caused by shells containing depleted uranium. “It is disappointing not to see that Mr. Spielberg is aware of reality, even though he is one of the world’s top film directors.”

People who have seen the movie have been exchanging opinions on various message boards, including one on the film’s official Japanese site.

“I’ve liked the Indiana Jones films since I was in elementary school,” wrote one person on the official site. “But now I feel angry.”

Another said filmgoers should not let their displeasure get the better of them, because the movie is just entertainment and the scene takes place in the context of the 1950s Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union.