A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

June 10, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

This was one of the first movies my family owned on VHS. When we got our first VCR – an enormous boxy thing – we had a couple tapes my uncles had provided so we’d have something to watch. What a grand and magical Christmas that was. For some reason I had not seen this movie when it was in the theaters. I was a sensitive young boy and maybe my parents figured that it would be too much for me. My classmates raved about it though. Everybody seemed obsessed with the adventures of the dashing Indiana Jones. I distinctly remember them talking about the giant rolling boulder during Indie’s escape at the start of the film. We were nine years old at the time and this was just the kind of adventure tale that would capture our second-grade imaginations.

It probably wasn’t until about two years later that I finally got to see this movie myself. I’m ashamed to say that it was a bootleg copy – probably recorded off of HBO or STARS back in the early days of pay cable. I watched that tape over and over again. Eventually I had it memorised. I had a lot of fun riffing the movie with my friend Mike, not because it was bad and deserved to be made fun of but because it was so familiar. (Yes, I riffed movies more than a decade before I discovered MST3K – it’s just a natural reaction to a movie for me.)

What Spielberg and Lucas have crafted here is the ultimate adventure film. Often imitated but never replicated this homage to the adventure serials of the forties is full of great escapes, chases, humor, fight scenes, and most of all pure cool. There is no iconic symbol that better captures swashbuckling adventure than Harrison Ford with a manly stubble on his chin, a fedora on his head and a whip on his hip.

There’s not much point in covering the plot of the movie, really, since probably everybody has seen it already. Indiana Jones is a professor of archeology who spends his sabbatical time raiding tombs in search of rare artifacts for his friend’s museum. In his world archeology is not a dusty or scholarly activity, it is all about defeating diabolical traps and outwitting other treasure hunters like the nasty French Rene Belloq. Jones is approached by a pair of US government intelligence types who explain to him that Hitler is looking for some mysterious object in the desert outside Cairo – the Ark of the Covenant. It just so happens that Indie’s old mentor and father figure was an expert on the resting place of the lost Ark, so off he goes to Nepal to seek out an artifact that will lead to the ultimate treasure (and perhaps to victory in the war.) Unfortunately Indie’s old mentor is dead, but his feisty daughter Marion is still there, although she’s not too happy to see Dr. Jones waltzing back into her life. From there it’s a rip-roaring adventure tale filled with cliffhangers, peril and snakes.

What can I say? It was a joy to watch this movie again tonight. I still remember every line, every shot and every moment of the movie, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch again. Indiana Jones, as the advertisements for the sequels were fond of reminding us, IS adventure. Karen Allen as Marion is the perfect foil for him and although she often finds herself being a damsel in distress she’s also perfectly capable of clobbering a guy over the head, operating a machine gun or drinking anybody under the table. I love a capable and not easily dominated heroine. Harrison Ford makes Indie human – he’s not a superman. Indie gets hurt, loses fights, is almost always outmatched, but never lets that stop him, which is part of the charm. And charm is the key to the role. The old smoothie.

It’s only unfortunate that none of the sequels quite lived up to the high standards set by the original. Then again, how could they possibly?

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June 10, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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