Archives in the Movies: Jungle Cruise
Beware of Spoilers all ye who enter here!
I have so many questions after watching Jungle Cruise, Disney's latest overstuffed movie about a theme park ride. One, how is a WWI era submarine able to navigate the Amazon River? I'm pretty sure, even at its deepest, the Amazon couldn't allow for the frequent submerging and breaching of a wartime vehicle. Water displacement is still a thing, Disney! Two, how does a 300 year old Spanish conquistador, trapped along a river snaking through Spanish and Portuguese territories, end up with an American accent? That's, like, culturally impossible! Three, how does Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson end up being the least charismatic actor in the whole movie?
But we're not here to solve these questions that likely have no answers. It does speak to how enjoyable the movie is that I'm focusing on these thoughts instead of just liking the movie for what it is. It's unfortunate that the movie is trying to be The Mummy (the Brendan Fraser movie, a very important distinction), Pirates of the Caribbean, and The African Queen (the movie the Disneyland ride was based on) while failing to be any of them. No, we're here to talk about the one scene in which there is an archives - mostly.
The plot of Jungle Cruise involves a legend about Lope de Aguirre (of Wrath of God fame) and his conquistadors searching for the Tears of the Moon, a tree whose petals are rumored to cure any disease or lift any curse. It didn't go well for them. Three centuries later, Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall) hire river boat captain Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to take them to the tree's location, somewhere along the Amazon River, after acquiring a priceless artifact that has also attracted the attention of Kaiser Wilhelm's son, Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Hilarity ensues.
The scene with the archives happens at the beginning of the film, after the opening scene that lays out the legend/curse of Aguirre. In an effort to gain access to the Royal Anthropological and Diverse Adventures Society's archives and an artifact that could potentially lead to the Tears of the Moon, Lily has her brother distract the all male consortium while she breaks into the archives to steal the artifact. And by break in, I mean smack a screwdriver into a rudimentary lock and call it lockpicking. This will be a common occurrence throughout the movie.
While in the archives, Lily hides among crates, timing her movements to the comings and goings of the employees as well as opening a crate in time to a hammer and chisel against a barnacle-laden artifact. Upon acquiring the sought after artifact, an arrowhead, Lily is discovered by Prince Joachim and an escape attempt is made that results in papers, objects, and crates being destroyed or disorganized in the process.
It's not a very long scene, mostly a means of showing how resourceful Lily is as she circumnavigates the figurative closed doors of early 20th century patriarchy as well as literal closed doors. The room itself is a small space and most likely a processing room given that the men are working on identifying objects and attempting to preserve or uncover artifacts. When Lily goes on the defense to escape, she doesn't hesitate to mess the place up or correct the misidentification of African tribal armor. She's a smart girl, but also doesn't care too much about ruining the work of others in order to get what she wants.
Some points in favor of the depiction of the archival processing room is it's not in the basement. I have no idea if the final storage of the collections is in the basement, but the processing room is located several stories above street level - for plot reasons. There's also a normal amount of dust shown, so that's refreshing. Unfortunately, no one in the cast is identified as an archivist, so the Society's archival staff is supposedly working based on the whim of an invisible supervisor.
Ya know, like in real life!