What can one say about Raiders of the Lost Ark that hasn't already been said? A few years ago, I wrote a review of it, and Damon Lindelof just wrote a spectacular love letter to what he called a "perfect film." Not surprisingly, Lindelof was in the audience at the 30th Anniversary screening hosted by the L.A. Times Hero Complex in Los Angeles. I also had the opportunity to attend, and this was one of the best theatrical experiences I've ever had. Watching one of my favorite movies of all time on the big screen for the first time was indeed perfect, and seeing legendary director Steven Spielberg do a Q&A afterwards was a really cool thing to experience in person.
Not only that, but when Harrison Ford surprised the crowd with an unannouced appearance and Indiana Freaking Jones walked into that theater after everyone had just watched Raiders, the crowd went nuts. For someone as tight-lipped as Ford to sit down and talk with Spielberg and host Geoff Boucher for about 40 minutes was impressive, and it's clear that everyone involved had a great experience making this classic film and they all have fond memories of it as well. Their conversation covered a ton of ground: the making of Raiders, altering films for home video release, the possibility of another Indy sequel, the state of Hollywood today, films overemphasizing CGI, and even a version of Jurassic Park that never came to be. Hero Complex will be releasing video of the event over the course of this week, so keep checking here at GeekTyrant for the embeds whenever those videos go up.
There's not much new I can add to the conversation about this movie, but I just wanted to take a minute to point out a few things that I noticed watching Raiders this time around. I know the term "perfect film" takes on different meanings for everyone, but I share Lindelof's sentiment on this one. Nearly every scene is iconic (or at least has an iconic moment or image), and from its fantastic opening to its unconventional conclusion, Raiders of the Lost Ark works wonders. There's even an information dump that comes a few minutes into the movie - you know, the scene where Indy explains to the Feds about the history of the Ark? - but something that would be boring and forced in another film gives us a great character moment here, allowing us to watch Indy switch into "Dr. Jones mode" as he flips the blackboard and teaches these guys as if they're his students.
The pacing is phenomenal all the way through; every scene fits with the one before, and each action has real consequences. Each plot point is of the utmost importance, because they're playing with the highest stakes possible: if Hitler gets the ark, he'll rule the world. Everything moves the story forward, and the breakneck pace is only overshadowed by the sense of wonder I get while watching it. This is what movies should be, and the reason movie geeks like us get excited when we see those special one or two films a year that make us feel this way (if we're lucky).
I could go on for days about how incredible John Williams' score is or how much of a badass Marion Ravenwood is, but I'll save that rant for another day. The main thing I noticed this time was just how fallible Indy is as a lead character. Here's a guy who gets punched in the face, knocked around, left for dead, and more, and his resilience - not gadgets, or muscles - is what ultimately saves the day. His intentions are pure, he's an academic at heart, and he's one of the best movie characters of all time.
Now it's your turn: sound off in the comments with your thoughts on Raiders of the Lost Ark. Where do you think it ranks in the Indiana Jones series, and among movies in general?