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Rene Belloq/Ark & Ghost

Adventure Heroes
by yo go re

Since they stumbled onto the crossover popularity of Playskool-style Star Wars figures, Hasbro has been giving the "cutsey" treatment to their various properties, like Marvel characters and Transformers. When the merchandising flood for the newest Indiana Jones began on May 1, 2008, you can bet that Indy and his friends joined those tiny ranks, with the Indiana Jones Adventure Heroes. Recognizing where the series' real popularity lay, they didn't just start with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but actually included a healthy dose of Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well.

This particular set stretches the boundaries of what we can call "adventure" by featuring a man in a dress beside a golden box. Yeah, okay, we kid: it's evil archaeologist Rene Belloq and that must-have item, the Ark of the Covenant.

In Exodus 25, the Ark is described in detail: "And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: Li'l Ark of the Covenant two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about." The movie's production designers followed that closely for the prop, and so the toy is a decent representation, as well. It's about 1½" long, 1" wide and 1½" tall, and completely golden. It's missing the poles on the sides that allowed the Ark to be carried - despite the fact that God specifically said they were never to be removed - but all Hasbro's toys seem to have that problem.

The Bible describes the lid separately. In typically fancy language, it says that there should be a mercy seat - a wing and a prayer - literally that's "seat" as in "seat of power," not an actual chair or anything. It's basically a term for a spot where all is forgiven. It's a weird term from Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible. Obviously something got lost along the way. Anyway, the mercy seat is to be flanked by two hammered cherubim, and no, that doesn't mean they're drunk: it just means they weren't sculpted or molded. The angels' wings stretch out toward each other, covering the center of the lid. The movie version also features a lot of small detailing around the edges.

Rene Belloq may be an underhanded schemer who got where he is in life by riding Indy's coattails, but he's also extremely cautious. Li'l Belloq As the Nazis prepared to open the Ark to verify what was inside, he donned a full ceremonial garb in order to satisfy the conditions set out in the Bible. Better safe than sorry, right? After all, that's why they were opening it in the first place.

While the figure is fairly true to the movie, he's not really accurate to the source material. The ceremonial vestments are decribed in Exodus 28, and while the figure is wearing the prescribed breastpiece, ephod, robe, woven tunic, turban and sash, but the details are wrong. "And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue." Nope, looks off-white to me. There are also no knit pomegranates or bells around the hem. He has the golden plate on his forehead, but it's attached to the turban with an off-white cord, not blue. The tunic and sash aren't described in great detail, so there's nothing to say they're wrong.

The breastplate has four rows of three gems, Connect Four to represent the tribes of Israel, but they don't match the biblical description or the movie costume. It was probably a measure to cut back on paint apps, because paying for 12 apps on something that isn't even a half inch square would be way too expensive, baaaaah! particularly on a kiddie toy. Besides, the pattern on his tunic is remarkably crisp and even, especially when you consider how many odd shapes it has to wrap around. His eyes are light blue, but his hair looks more blonde than grey.

There's nothing in the text about Belloq's ram-headed staff, but it certainly looks ancient, doesn't it? The staff tops out at 3" tall, and the figure moves at the waist, shoulders and right wrist.

I don't understand - how did Noah get two of every animal in there? The lid of the Ark is removable, but the only thing inside is a bit of spiraled sand. Where are the ten commandments? Where is Aaron's incense burner? Where's the golden bowl? Are they under the sand? Maybe they've been removed by some higher power. Because we know this isn't a fake Ark - or if it is, it's still got some freaky powers of its own.

Why would a Jewish ghost be so mad at Nazis? When the Ark was opened, spirits emerged. At first they seemed friendly - even beautiful - but their horrific nature was soon revealed, and their wrath turned upon those who had desecrated the holy artifact. In addition to Belloq and the Ark, this set includes one of the ghosts, cast in translucent blue and with a skeletal face, floating above a base of blue fire. The ghost is unarticulated, but it can either stand on its own or sit inside the Ark.

This Adventure Heroes set is very well done. Belloq, the Ghost and the Ark all look cute Ooga booga boo! in this superdeformed style, and the paint apps are great. Yes, to be entirely "accurate," Belloq should be wearing a lot more blue, but that's the same mistake the movie made. Or did it? Sure, aybe the choice to switch from blue to off-white was just a costuming decision, made to keep Belloq in the same sort of light earthtones he'd worn throughout the movie; but maybe instead it was a subtle bit of characterization. Maybe they did it on purpose, to underscore how he really wasn't very good at his job. After all, if all his acclaim had come by copying and stealing from Indiana Jones, he might not be very careful with all the small details when left to his own devices.


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