Legend of the Crystal Skulls, The (DVD)
Reviewed by Tristan Sinns
Directed by N/A
Distributed by Smithsonian Networks
After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came in with a huge fuss and then dejectedly slinked away without much of one, some of us were at least educated about one small fact of archaeological trivia: Apparently crystal skulls were gifted to us by hyper-intelligent super aliens in an effort to communicate with the dirty unwashed apes that we quite obviously are. The Smithsonian has sought to research this legend in its new documentary, The Legend of the Crystal Skulls, now out on DVD.
The original artifact was first shown in the 1940’s by adventurer and artifact digger Frederick Arthur Mitchell-Hedges, who, perhaps half-jokingly, referred to the object as the Skull of Doom. His daughter, Anna, quickly claimed to have found the object in the early 1920’s while out exploring Mayan ruins. Over time more details of her story and the skull’s secret powers trickled out, and soon other crystal skulls also began to be "discovered" by other interested parties.
The Smithsonian’s documentary does a great job of building up the story and following the tale of the believers up until modern time. Its entire initial presentation is mostly aimed at exploring Anna’s story as well as the stories and beliefs of those who think the skull has super powers of likely alien origin. Their beliefs surrounding the skull are rather extreme -- and very devout. There is really only one way to say it and remain as clear as can be: These people are nuts. And by nuts I mean nuttier than a nuthouse on a free nuts Wednesday.
Anna devolves into touting that the crystal skull can predict world disasters; others interviewed insist the skull is an alien computer that you can communicate with sans keyboard (do they have mine sweeper?); still others claim the artifact was originally given by extraterrestrials to the great leaders of Atlantis, where supposedly the hippy merfolk still frolic and play to this day. There are a few shots of the skull in its heyday of the 70’s, sitting under a great metal triangle, while believers meditate heartily in its general direction, all while Anna sits on a nearby hilltop, Jim Jones like, gazing approvingly from the comfort of her lawn chair.
Science makes an appearance in the latter portion of the documentary and gets to work studying the facts as well as the skulls themselves. In the 1990’s a study was conducted in which the tool work on the surface of the skulls was examined through powerful microscopes. Without spoiling the full effect of the study and its revelations, it was found that all of the skulls, Anna’s as well as her copy-cats, were of far more recent origin than the believers find comfortable.
The legends of the crystal skull are nothing but skullduggery, a hoax created likely to get a bit of attention that ended up getting a lot. It’s interesting, though, as is noted in the documentary, that Anna held this hoax to be true for nearly her entire life, up until she passed away at the age of 100 in 2007. This story had become so to the core of the woman’s life and she had invested so much into it that likely she died believing the story really was true.
As is apparently standard with the DVD release of these documentaries, extras are non-existent. Included are a couple of advertisements for Smithsonian’s HD channel for your viewing pleasure.
The Legend of the Crystal Skulls is a well done documentary that does a solid job of presenting both sides of the tale. The believers behind Anna and her Skull of Doom were given plenty of time to present their legend of the artifact, and the scientific conclusions against the legend were delivered with a rather dry efficiency that politely demonstrated the truth behind it all. After seeing this documentary, it feels a shame this legend was even chosen to use as the core of the plot in the recent Indiana Jones installment; while lesser known, it’s about on par with crop circles or Bigfoot.
4 out of 5
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