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I'll admit from the start of this review that I am bias. Raiders Of The
Lost Ark is in my top 10 movies of all time. The opening is in my Top 5
movie openings of all time (only Jaws, Saving Private Ryan and
Cliffhanger are above it) and the score is one of my favourite
soundtracks. I love it.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark was the first installment in the Indiana Jones film franchise to be released, though it is the second in internal chronological order. The story is filled with the standard elements, (good v's evil, old lovers reunite etc) but the movie is anything but standard.
It pits Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) against a group of Nazis who are searching for the Ark of the Covenant, which Adolf Hitler believes will make his army invincible.
I can't praise the cast enough of this movie enough here, Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as Indiana Jones. Karen Allen, Paul Freeman as Indy's nemesis, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott all deserve special credit.
The action set pieces are superb, the humour hits the mark and the score is another valuable asset to the movie.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark is a highly professional piece of work, swift and suspenseful, with a good sense of pace and atmosphere it makes for perfect entertainment. To put it bluntly, it is quite simply one of the best movies ever made.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark was the highest grossing movie of 1981, considering 'Superman 2' and the insanely popular Burt Reynolds led 'Cannonball Run' was released that year it's an even greater achievement.
Raiders of the Lost Ark marked the debut of Harrison Ford as Indiana
Jones, two fisted archaeologist with a mean bull whip. The film also
reawakened a longing in the American public for some good old fashioned
pulp fiction adventure even if it is done tongue slightly in cheek.
Archeology certainly is a competitive business, but I think Indiana Jones takes it to an exponential level. He certainly has to when he's dealing with the up and coming German Reich.
What they and Jones are after is high stakes indeed. Both have a lead on where the Ark of the Covenant might be buried. It was spirited away after the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem, whereabouts unknown until the 1930s.
As the Good Book tells us the Kingdom of Israel was undefeated as long as the Ark was ahead of them in battle. So even with the Nazis rather well known policy about Jews, they'd like to have this thing with whatever powers it has.
It's a pretty delicate matter. If you remember a soldier of King David was struck down for just touching the Ark as it was about to fall. You can catch that in the Gregory Peck-Susan Hayward film, David and Bathsheba. It should definitely come with a warning label.
Anyway, Ford ably assisted by Karen Allen, Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies goes after it and has to battle the Nazis for possession. As for the Nazis, it's like that old adage of being careful what you wish for.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated for several Oscars and came away with a few in the 1982 ceremony for 1981's films. After almost thirty years it's still rollicking good entertainment.
As for Karen Allen and Harrison Ford. Go see Indiana Jones chasing down that Crystal Skull in theaters now if you want to find out what happened with these two.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is an action masterpiece. There's not one bit
of fat on its bones. There's not one wasted moment. It flows exactly
like an adventure movie should it continually moves forward,
breathlessly driving you towards the conclusion; it's incredible fun.
The reason why the film works so well is because the script is so tight. The exposition is clear and well delivered, meaning that you know precisely what's at stake, small character details are set up early on and paid off later and the dialogue is incredibly pithy. It's a masterclass in film writing.
However, this would mean nothing if all the other elements didn't come together. Thankfully they do. Spielberg's direction is superb, Harrison Ford is perfect as the hero, Karen Allen is wonderful as the heroine and the music is out of this world. Plus the action is kick ass.
My favourite action scene is the fight with Pat Roach by the plane. Quite unusually for a film hero, Indy doesn't mind fighting dirty. He kicks Roach in the balls, he throws sand in his face and he even bites him. Indy doesn't have to win a fight fairly. And it's also unusual for a film hero to be so vulnerable. We rarely see anyone get a scratch or put in any real jeopardy. But here Indy gets his arse handed to him. The only reason he survives is because he's so wily after getting beaten and bruised for a while he leads Roach into getting chopped up by the plane's rotor blades.
My second favourite action sequence is when Indy chases after the Ark and recovers it by hijacking a Nazi truck. After the CGI mess of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it's great to see old-fashioned stunts. It's a much better way of letting you get absorbed by the action even though you know it's a film, you know someone actually had to do this, making everything much more impressive to watch. The best stunt is when Indy is thrown through the front window and has to pull himself along the bottom of the truck. He manages to do this and then hooks his whip under the bottom so that he's dragged along the ground. He then manages to get back on the truck and back in the cabin. It's a joy to behold and allows you to immerse yourself in the action.
Another great thing about the sequence is that once again we're shown Indy's vulnerability. As he's driving he gets shot in the arm. And then later a guy punches him in his injured arm and throws him out of the truck. Therefore when Indy comes back and beats the crap out of this guy, it's doubly satisfying, because not only is the guy a damn Nazi, but he also had the audacity to try and injure our hero. And the blood and guts reminds me of how gritty the film is. Not only do we have Indy getting shot in the arm and then having the wound beaten, but earlier on a guy gets shot in the face lots of blood pours down from the hole in his skull. Oh, and he's also on fire. Excellent.
But as well as this there's also stuff that is just plain over the top. The melting faces for instance and Belloq's head exploding. This scared the hell out of me as a kid and I'm still amazed that stuff like this was included in a 'kids' film.
However, the scene that terrified me the most as a kid was the scene where Marion gets mugged by skeletons and we then see a large snake oozing from a skull's mouth. I was so traumatised I refused to watch the film for years. But now the vague horror element is another reason I adore the movie. It sets it apart from almost every action/adventure film that came before it and nothing else has managed to better it, even subsequent Indiana Jones films.
But watching the film now it's quite unusual to note that Indy doesn't kill any of the three main villains. They're all killed by the Ark. Indy instead just closes his eyes and lets 'god' do the rest. It's a strange ending but one that works perfectly. Indy isn't a killing machine. He's someone trying to do the right thing. And at the end he's rewarded by, well, not having his face melted off.
Another reason why Raiders stands out is because of its heroine. She's one of the best in modern cinema a tough woman who constantly shows her toughness without having to resort to ridiculous feats of physicality. We don't see her pummel men who are twice her size, but we do see her out smart them and drink them under the table. As well as this she has great chemistry with Indy. For instance, there's the marvellous scene where she tries to look after our injured hero and he cries like a girl every time she touches him. He then points out a few places where it doesn't hurt, which she kisses. It's a lovely scene. And I also like the bit of slapstick humour earlier where Indy gets a mirror smashed in his face when Marion turns it over.
This leads me to another reason why Raiders is brilliant. It's very funny. You have a monkey giving a Nazi salute, Indy nonchalantly shooting a swordsman, Sallah's cowardly reactions at the Well of Souls and the Gestapo man plunging his hand in the snow after he gets it burnt while trying to grab an extremely hot bronze medallion. The humour is great.
And on top of all of this cinematic goodness the humour, the action, the adventure you have one of the best opening sequences in film. It's a bravura piece of film-making everything clicks perfectly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I understand that I may be forgiven for not thinking 'Citizen Kane' is so great, but the following is cinematic heresy- I've decided I'm not that crazy about the Indiana Jones series. They're fun films, no doubt, and there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours. I watched 'The Last Crusade' again not long ago, and last night I watched the first one. At the risk of stating the obvious, what 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' really has going for it is Harrison Ford and a couple of slam-bang action/special effects sequences. Well, you say, for cryin' out loud, isn't that enough? And yeah, I suppose it is. I've just found I'm not nearly as enamored of the series as I once thought I was, and each of the films has flaws that perhaps only become apparent on repeated viewings. The aspect of 'Raiders' that grates particularly each time I see it is Karen Allen's performance. I'm sorry, I don't find her funny or attractive or even interesting. I understand that the idea is for her to be a feisty tomboy, someone who speaks her mind and is "more than a match" (as they say) for Ford's Indy. But does that mean Allen's Marion has to be so utterly unattractive, in every sense? At times, she seems more like a gangly, socially-challenged thirteen-year-old who hasn't learned basic table manners yet and who snorts when she laughs. I don't know what's more annoying, her behavior or the fact that every male in the film seems to think she's gorgeous. Granted, she doesn't have any competition... that must be it. So there's that. The film of course was a trendsetter in many ways, resurrecting almost single-handedly the grand old adventure flick. The durable plot elements and (other) characters were made to seem fresh again, from the resourceful adventurer venturing to exotic lands to those most reliably evil of slimy villains, the Nazis. And there is a toughness to the first Indiana Jones movie that seems somewhat lacking in the other two. Both Sallah and Marcus Brody are real characters here, alternately serious and amusing. By the time we get to 'Last Crusade,' the two men are strictly comic relief, and Marcus in particular becomes a scatterbrained buffoon. The climax of 'Raiders,' when it finally comes, was something of a revelation (so to speak) at the time. This was the big payoff, and it didn't disappoint, though it's actually pretty brief. The face-melting and vaporous spirits (to be used to a much greater extent later in Spielberg's 'Poltergeist') had audiences wide-eyed with amazement. And then a clever little epilogue left cinema-goers feeling satisfied, that they'd really gotten their money's worth. I shared all those feelings when I first saw 'Raiders of the Lost Ark;' as I said, it's only been the last two or three times I've watched it that I haven't been as blown away.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a perfect George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's incredible talents for artistically valid, universally appealing, and downright inspired high adventure cinema. There are an endless number of good things about this movie, but what sticks with me the most is the beautiful, full blooded original orchestral score by John Williams and the witty humor. The sly humor shows Raider's self awareness of the limitation of its genre, while the score gives the narrative gusto and elevates the film well above its competition (not counting other Lucas/Spielberg/Williams collaborations of course). All of this adds up to Raiders having nearly infinite re-watching value, which very very few films have.
There are no set qualities for a great film. Some movies like Citizen
Kane are towering Cathedrals, crowned with outstanding lead
performances, their every shot awash with gravitas and innovation, two
hour pieces of high art with relatively simple stories. Other films are
great stories, superbly told, like The Shawshank Redemption, Braveheart
and Slumdog Milllionaire. And then there are films like this one which
are a joyous, fun celebration of all the things we love about movies
and film making.
Every scene of this is fun and enjoyable. A rollicking chase between two rival archaeologists as they travel all over the world (the film using world maps so we can keep track of the action) in search of the mystical "ark of the covenant." Throw in some Nazis, snake phobia, cutting edge (for the time) special effects, a damsel in distress and the Saturday matinée feel and you have an adventure film like no other to that point in time.
For star Harrison Ford, this film, on the back of his turn as Han Solo in an expanded role in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back confirmed his status as the pre eminent leading man of his time, and from the start, this is his movie. We follow his adventures for an inordinate number of minutes before the director shows us his face, we see him fearlessly tackle big hairy spiders, leaps of doom, deadly arrows and rolling stone balls before the film is 15 minutes old. We also see him lose his first big battle on screen with his rival Belloq. And in those first 15 minutes we learn everything we need to about his character and the film. Indy is fearless, principled, a bit of a screw up and not a particularly good archaeologist. No wonder he has to work as a teacher to pay the bills. From that point on he becomes all things to all people. The film rarely lets up on the action, with chase after chase, and usually ending in Indy being outwitted by his smarter, better resourced rival.
Ford is absolutely superb. While I personally believe that the film still would have been a success had Spielberg's original choice for the role, Tom Selleck, been available, it is now impossible to see anyone else in the role. Spielberg has also surrounded Ford with a great supporting cast including Denholm Elliott, John Rhys Davies, Paul Freeman, Karen Allen and Ronald Lacey, as well as a very young Alfred Molina. Allen in particular is great as the love interest/ damsel in distress.
The effects, for the time were breathtaking, bringing the settings alive and nearly making us believe that the Nazis faces are melting at the film's end. Some of the blue screen shots leave a little to be desired, but it was still fairly early in the evolution of that film making technology, and so these are forgivable. The set pieces are expertly realized and the fight scenes well choreographed.
In the end Raiders is the finest example of the adventure genre, made the more entertaining for the fact that our protagonist is not a particularly successful adventurer. It has enough silly to be fun, without being stupid and remains, more than 30 years on, as one of the most entertaining films not just of its era, but in all of American cinema.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is directed by Steven Spielberg and
collectively written by Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay), George Lucas
(story) and Philip Kaufman (story). It stars Harrison Ford, Karen
Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm
Elliott. Music is scored by John Williams and cinematography by Douglas
What can you say about Raiders of the Lost Ark that hasn't been said before? It has been analysed, deconstructed, praised and written about at length by everyone from the highest of film critics to the man of the street film lover and his dog. Truth is, is that nothing new can be added to the millions of tomes written about what Spielberg coyly announced was his B movie homage to adventure serials of the 30s and 40s.
In simple factoid terms it was roughly made for $20 million and went on to make nearly $400 million! It quickly pulled Spielberg out of a depressive rut after the critical mauling of his period comedy movie 1941. It announced Harrison Ford as a superstar actor whilst simultaneously introducing pop culture references that still thrive today. It won four Oscars and was nominated for a further four, and as it made archaeology sexy it heralded the opening of a new era for the summer blockbuster. The whole production (apart from Spielberg) were taken ill whilst filming in Tunisia and it was the start of a franchise that still brings great GREAT pleasures to millions of fans.
Why is Raiders so adored? That it is a film that still entertains royally today, where once loved in 1981 is still loved by the very same older and wiser people in the new millennium? The answer is it gets everything right, it transcends its basic source to reveal one of the most exhilarating action/adventure movies ever made. It's packed with outstanding action set-pieces (amazing stunt-work), the special effects stunning, the locations are sumptuous, the cinematography gorgeous and Williams' score stirs the blood and raises the gooseflesh. The narrative is smooth and appealing in its good versus bad race against time simplicity, yet the pace is frenetic. From the establishment of the kinetic pleasures with its iconic opening section, to the gloriously gruesome finale, it's breakneck stuff that is by turns intense but played with considerable wit and playfulness.
Casting is also spot on, with Ford leading the way. Ford's performance as Indiana Jones - part time teacher, part time lovable rogue who lurches from one perilous situation to another - is note perfect. It's a performance of style and substance that is often wrongly ignored by the stuffy, purely because of the genre of film it sits in. That Ford oozes comic book heroics without falling into campy cliché is a great achievement, while of course he gave us iconography unbound that still exists today. The supporting performances are also outstanding, with Allen's spunky hard drinking Marion and Freeman's weasel Nazi stooge Belloq particularly hitting the heights. While on the other side of the camera and at the writing table, the trio of Spielberg, Kasdan and Lucas prove to be a meeting of classical adventure loving heart and minds, for the film is crafted with humour, energy and skill.
It undoubtedly owes a debt to olde Hollywood fare like Gunga Din, Secret of The Incas and Valley of the Kings (and more), while some stereotyping of natives exists because the film harks back to olde Hollywood adventure movies! And undeniably it's a teenytiny bit annoying that as we enter the home straight Allen's character arc has her shift from tough dame to "save me Indy" fodder, but small complaints be damned. This is top line genre film making, where true love is proved to always last a lifetime, because, quite simply, Raiders of the Lost Ark is still the modern day template for action/adventure movies. 10/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1936, Indiana Jones, an archaeologist and adventurer, is hired by
the US government to find the lost Ark of the Covenant, rumoured to be
buried in a hidden vault somewhere in Egypt. His quest takes him first
to Nepal to recover a key artefact, and then to Cairo in a desperate
race against time to find the Ark before Nazi agents also hunting it.
For me, this is simply the best action film ever made. This film just roars along at an incredible speed, and it has everything in it - secret temples, tarantulas, Injuns, bar brawls, romance, Egyptology, Nazis, pompous Frenchmen, street fights, monkeys, buried treasure, snakes, car chases, pirates, submarines, the wrath of God and government coverups. I mean, what more could anybody honestly want ? The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, from an original (well, sort-of) idea by George Lucas, is just terrific but it's the sheer frenetic pace of the film that just sweeps you along - the story never stops for anything. It's a textbook model of how to cut all the flab out of a movie until there's just the good stuff left. The genius of the film is of course the genius of the great Steven Spielberg, with his unique combination of absolute technical mastery of the medium and his amazing capacity to entertain, but the sheer talent of the people behind him are what make this arguably his best film. John Williams' score is perhaps his best, with the most memorable of any of his great themes and entire sequences (the map room, the truck chase, the final ceremony) just awash in marvellously atmospheric music. The stuntwork (Glenn Randall, Peter Diamond, Terry Leonard, Vic Armstrong) is the best I've seen in any movie, and Deborah Nadoolman's wonderful costumes, Ben Burtt's sound effects and the special effects by Richard Edlund, Kit West, Bruce Nicholson and Chris Walas are simply fabulous. You can't have a great movie without great performances, and the entire cast bring such a sense of fun and enthusiasm to their characters that they are impossible to resist. This is Ford's classic hero performance - he fits into Indiana Jones seamlessly and somehow manages to be lovable, heroic, scruffy and noble all at the same time. Allen punches and kicks her way through the film with terrific aplomb and still manages to also be a classical romantic heroine. Freeman, Davies and Elliott all devour their roles with gusto and Lacey is indisputably the best, and I mean the best, Sinister Nazi ever to grace the screen. Despite what any critics might say, movies always have and always will be about one main thing - telling a story in pictures. This movie is a deliriously brilliant piece of visual storytelling with an unbeatable capacity to entertain. Outstanding.
Here it is, February of 2005 and I had yet to see Raiders Of The Lost
Ark (or the other 2 in the trilogy for that matter). For some reason,
it did not appeal to me. I did not get into movies until the early '90s
and never got around to seeing it. However, upon urging of my friend I
decided to rent it. I have to give credit where credit is due. Indiana
Jones paves the way for the Tomb Raiders and other various movies of
the same type.
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is a doctor in archeology who teaches at a college and in his spare time, finds rare artifacts and saves the world from Nazis. In this case, he is trying to find the Ark Of The Covenant, which at one time held the original Ten Commandments that Moses chiseled into the stone tablets. The Nazis, along with help from Jones' arch rival Rene Belloq, are trying to find the Ark for their own purposes. Along the way, Indiana meets up with a woman named Marion (Karen Allen), who he jilted in the past, which is not really explained in this movie but they end up helping each other in the search for the Ark.
The special effects and the action in Raiders Of The Lost Ark are exceptional, considering this was made in 1981. It set the bar reasonably high for action/adventure movies, even to this day as many movies are still compared to the Indiana Jones trilogy. It holds up well, considering most of the movies from the early 80's are very dated and hard to watch anymore. 8.5/10
I'm not going to spend much time on this as I am obviously in a massive
minority by not liking it. It's taken me 20 years to finally see this film
through to the end.
It just bores me completely. It's a part James Bond film, which I've never had any time for. It doesn't seem any better than the 'Mummy' or 'Tomb Raider' type films (ZZZZZZ) where the dialogue is largely incidental & which you can watch with the volume turned down and still follow. They generally concern some pre-historic torch, urn, key, lump of dog turd, that has special powers, that the hero needs to get his hands on & that just doesn't make for an interesting film.
I just cannot get into films like this & never have any interests whether they achieve what they're after. In this there were a lot of scenes which seemed to be filling in time. First the Nazi's had the initiative, then Jones, then back to the Nazi's again and this went on & on & on, to the point that it wasn't dis-similar from a Steven Seagal or Van Damme film. Apart from the obvious superior quality of acting in this, the fighting scenes were sometimes laughable.
Karen Allen threw in some incredibly wooden acting in her cliched lines she was given. The "I'm your partner" was almost cringe making.
There seems an unwritten rule that you are not allowed to comment on Raiders of the Lost Ark without mentioning Star Wars for some reason. So I love Harrison Ford films, I like George Lucas & certainly don't dislike Spielberg. Thus, I have Star Wars as one of only a dozen films in my list at 10/10, it's almost perfect. I myself, wouldn't mention this in the same breath as Star Wars. You immediately feel a part of Star Wars & it's wonderful characters, neither of which apply here.
This film has never taken off in England to the extent it has done in the US. I know plenty of adults who've never seen it & many who are not mad over it.
But I'll admit I've never found anyone who genuinely dislikes it. Apart from me!
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