If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Since its release in 2008, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has been put forward as an example of a franchise going off the rails. And there’s one element in particular from the film that’s usually brought up to illustrate this. Not man eating CG ants and monkey madness, magnetic hypnotic alien skulls, the lack of ‘bad’ in the bad guys, or even Marion and Mutt. All of these left a bad taste in my mouth but that's not it. No, we all know it’s Nuking The Fridge.
Now, considering this is an adventure fantasy movie in a string of adventure fantasy movies, I'm surprised so many people have a problem with this scene. Especially since it’s MORE POSSIBLE than a lot of the stuff that goes on in the series. I’m not saying this will absolutely happen in the real world. A fridge is not the best safety capsule by any standard. But if you look at the risks (radiation, heat, and blast effects) compared to Indy’s options, it was the best thing going. The fact that other not possible things happen which are critical to the story and nobody bats an eyelid in decades makes it even more of a mystery for me.
Speaking of which, have a look at this...(there's a quiz later).
Now on to the blast. The first thing we usually think of resulting from a nuclear explosion (wether we know its name or not) is ionizing radiation. For some reason people think that the initial radiation from the blast is what’s most dangerous. This is pretty deadly but the proximity to the blast required to receive an instant lethal dose means that you’d be just as likely to be torn apart by the pressure or burned to death by the heat without any protection. To put it into perspective, at five miles from the blast you would receive one ‘roentgen’. This is equivalent to only five times our average annual background radiation exposure. In Indy’s position you’d get little more of a dose than getting a few dental x-rays.
At this point the lead lining in the fridge almost doesn’t matter but since it’s usually mentioned, I’d like to point out something. Aside from being a place for detonating nukes and stowing away downed alien spacecraft, New Mexico during this period was also home to a burgeoning new field of scientific endeavour. Nuclear medicine. And one of the tools which were developed for this field was the lead lined fridge. Now not having lived in the period or worked in the field, I honestly couldn’t say what one of these fridges looked like; but I know they existed in some form and have no real reason to suspect they were so different to what was shown in the context of the scene.
The radiation from fallout is a different story. The thing is, you don’t get that radioactive fallout until the particulates from the mushroom cloud start to drop. When he poured out of the fridge, Indy was well clear of most initial radiation and well in advance (timewise) of the impending fallout. So which sounds less likely? Surviving radiation poisoning or pulling a dude’s heart out and having it burst into flames?
Next thing is the heat. With this you’ve just got to dig down to the basics. Light coloured materials reflect heat. Fridges insulate from heat. Air is an extremely poor conductor of heat. So, you’re in a light coloured fridge moving rapidly away from a heat source with an increasing cushion of air behind you... Speaking of heat.
Finally there’s the blast forces. It's been a while since I saw the movie but as I remember, the fridge overtook the bad guys’ car at a height of about thirty feet. The cushion effect of the dynamic pressure exerted by the blast wave (same thing that ripped the car apart) could be a reason for this elevation; but since the direction of the force from the explosion is spherical, the propulsion of the fridge would remain more or less along the ground unless he started at angular altitude (like if the fridge was kept on the roof). The fridge could have also shielded Indy from a fatality caused by overpressure collapsing his internal organs, while the overpressure simultaneously kept the fridge sealed. Less probable than desiccation from a cursed cup? I think not.
As far as the actual crash, do you remember when Indy sat in the fridge? If you've done any commuting by air, you'll notice that he was seated in what is essentially a modified brace position. Let’s say that the blast had a peak overpressure of 5psi. This is enough to destroy a city but the windspeed generated is just over 160mph. For perspective, a plane crash landing at 140mph had all 129 passengers survive with only two serious injuries because they were all told by flight crew to assume the brace position. I guess there just weren't enough inflatable rafts for everyone on that flight to bail out.
Somehow people have fashioned their disappointment in the movie into a noose and marched this single scene from the movie to the gallows to pay for all its faults. I don't think that's being very honest. If we have issues with how the series was handled or the movie itself, why not actually discuss and express those problems? Instead, we've condensed what's wrong with this film into a hatred of something that simply doesn't deserve it in my opinion.
Now remember that picture from before of Indy holding the Staff of Ra? What’s wrong with that image? If you said that the beam wouldn’t show them the location they’re looking for - you get a gold star. That’s right. One of the most important plot devices in Raiders is totally bogus. This has bugged me for far longer than the fridge scene was ever around and here's why.
First, we’re expected to believe that Indy would place the staff in the right position at the exact time of season, day and hour for the beam to hit its mark. To do this, he'd have to know exactly what time of day the staff was made to be used, work out the difference between mean and apparent solar times, and extrapolate the difference across thousands of years of orbital change between the Earth and Sun. I'm not even considering any geological changes from in elevation or subsidence in the region since ancient times. Archaeologist, mathematician and astronomer?
The reason I bring it up is somehow we as the viewing public managed to overlook whaat was possible in this instance because the movie was great. Yet somehow something that is less far fetched is repeatedly labeled as impossible. Now that I've got that out in the open, I'd like you to ask yourself, is the scene really deserving of all the badmouthing it's gotten when there were so many worse things to pick from?
Is it really?