Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) -
I feel ashamed that our humble website has existed for nearly two years and yet we’ve not reviewed Raiders of the Lost Ark. This weekend the classic adventure film was given a remastered release in the IMAX format. I therefore seized upon the opportunity to correct that mistake. If you’re interested in knowing about the IMAX version, scroll down past the verdict for my thoughts.
If you’ve never seen the movie, here’s a brief synopsis: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is an Archeologist extraordinaire, expert on the occult, and all around badass. So when he finds out that the NAZIs are close to finding the legendary Ark of the Covenant, he decides to go America all up in their asses.
The only good NAZI is a… no… there are no good NAZIs
Simply the greatest Adventure film ever made. Raiders of the Lost Ark grips the viewer from the opening prologue, and never lets go until the credits roll. Based on a story idea from George Lucas, with a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan (whose previous collaboration with Lucas resulted in The Empire Strikes Back), and directed by Steven Spielberg at the peak of his creativity, this film managed to mine the best from all of its creators. Harrison Ford is positively electric as the debonaire Dr. Jones, a smooth talking career academic with a knack for fisticuffs.
Not that fist-fighting is always necessary…
Ford would go on to have a 20 year run of top-billed film roles after this movie. And while he’d been well known for his role as Han Solo in Star Wars, it is with Indiana Jones that he proved he had true leading-man talent.
The movie features an excellent supporting cast, with Denholm Elliott, John Rhys Davies, Alfred Molina (in his big-screen debut), and the scenery-chewing Ronald Lacey as the single most frightening NAZI since Sir Laurence Olivier’s Dentist in Marathon Man.
A safe assumption… or is it?
Steven Spielberg has always had a keen eye for stunning visuals, but Raiders is arguably the film in which he perfected his craft. In spite of the jaw-dropping action sequences and pacing which holds up well even by today’s ADD standards, Raiders manages to take time to allow the viewer to truly bask in the surroundings of each setting. With unique camera setups and lighting, Spielberg makes a popcorn flick feel like a convincing piece of art, as well as a damn good time.
Credit is also due in a large part to ace sound designer Ben Burt, and Composer John Williams. Ben Burt uses sound in much the same way that Spielberg (along with Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe) use visuals, to create a believable world with a sense of style. And what can be said of John Williams’ rousing score, it is just… the hell with it, just listen…
There are adventure films which may equal the greatness of Raiders, but like the speed of light, it is theoretically impossible to surpass.
Steven Spielberg’s remaster of this film thankfully avoided George Lucasification. Instead what you get is a cleaner, bigger print, with a booming surround soundtrack, and the classic rousing score in all its glory. And since Raiders is a big film in every sense of the word, it feels right at home on IMAX screens. This may be your last chance to see it in theaters in your lifetime, so I recommend it to fans of the movie. And if for some reason you haven’t seen it, there is no better time to become initiated.
Don’t pass up your chance to see this on the big screen
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when a character takes a drink.
Take a Drink: anytime Indy narrowly escapes death.
Drink a Shot: whenever the main theme kicks in.
Drink a Shot: when Belloq gets the best of Indy.