The marketing men are taking a rather different line on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is a star attraction at the Cannes film festival starting next week and which opens in the UK later this month. They are talking about something "fresh but familiar", which is what fans will be hoping for from the old team of storymaker George Lucas, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford back in the hat as the born-again archaeologist action hero. The money men are predicting the blockbuster of the summer.And there are already noises being made about a fifth Indiana Jones movie. I'll let you know what I think of that once I've seen the fourth.
Harrison Ford has form on that. The previous Indiana films have been one of the biggest box-office successes in the history of the movies. They won Ford the No 1 slot in Empire magazine's Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time list – and took his gross worldwide earnings to almost $6bn, making him one of the most financially successful actors of his generation. Who cares that his long career has featured only one Oscar nomination when he has appeared in five of the top 10 highest-grossing movies ever.
Still, Indiana 4 has been a long time coming. Spielberg and co have been on the lookout for a good enough script for more than 15 years, rejecting three so-so ones in the process. "None of us was fully satisfied with what was produced," says Ford.
There is an irony in that. For long planning is the antithesis of the happenstance that has characterised Harrison Ford's long career. Many of the nodal points over the past four decades were happy accidents or serendipitous defaults. His big break, playing Han Solo in the first Star Wars film, came while he was a carpenter standing in to read for an absent actor. Indiana's leather coat (very odd wear for a hot-climate archaeologist) was originally intended for another actor, Tom Selleck, who at the last minute couldn't get out of his contract for the TV show Magnum PI.
Meanwhile some high school students in Florida are learning about real archaeology in a simulated excavation:
The project, a joint effort by Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast high schools' Community Problem Solvers teams, is designed to teach students about world cultures through archaeology, said Flagler Palm Coast teacher Diane Tomko.Good stuff.
"When you learn about archaeology, it's hard to do it in the classroom," said Tomko, who worked with Matanzas teacher Mat Saunders to coordinate the project. "They get more of a hands-on experience this way."
To prepare for their roles as archaeologists, students first researched 15 different countries including Japan, India and Pakistan, said Bunnell fifth-grade gifted teacher Karen Driscoll. They had to familiarize themselves with the art forms, dress and currency of the country.
Students practiced their excavation techniques using toothpicks to carefully wedge out the chocolate chips in cookies, Driscoll said. Saunders -- who will lead Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas students on a dig in Belize this summer -- said it's important students understand that there's more to archaeology than just digging up antiques.
"We're teaching them scientific method, history, world cultures, geometry," he said. "Everything is tied into this."
The 27-by-50-foot dig box may be the largest of its kind in North America and is similar to a real archaeological site, Saunders said. Before the students could dig, Saunders and Tomko charted the locations of each country in the box and buried dozens of artifacts -- ranging from a full samurai suit to a golf club.