Throwback Reviews: 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark'
By Michael Kaye
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Review)
For those of you who haven't been all too impressed with Steven Spielberg's last couple historical based films and want him to go back to his roots, I have good news. Next weekend will be the release of his first ever collaboration with Walt Disney Pictures, adapting the Rhode Dahl book The BFG, starring Mark Rylance. But to properly prepare for that, I'm going to be taking a look at a few of the classics that Spielberg is best known for, particularly that other major franchise from the mind of George Lucas, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Here's the story. When Dr. Indiana Jones, the tweed-suited professor who just happens to be a celebrated archaeologist, is hired by the government to locate the legendary Ark of the Covenant, he finds himself up against the entire Nazi regime.
The debate over which film is Spielberg's best could last forever, but personally this one gets my vote. It's just a perfect tribute to the old pulp serials from the 30's and 40's. Here are some of the highlights.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, I have to talk about the cast. Harrison Ford is one of the luckiest actors in Hollywood, with two of the biggest franchises of all time under his belt. And it's not like he's simply playing Han Solo as an archaeologist, he's a totally new character with his own personality. He's working off a fantastic supporting cast, including Karen Allen as his love interest Marion Ravenwood, Paul Freeman as the villainous Dr. René Belloq, John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, "the best digger in Cairo," and plenty of others. Fun fact, this was the feature film debut of Alfred Molina, who would later go on to play Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2.
The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan is pitch perfect. I've never really been that big a fan of the films he's directed, but somehow whenever he's working with Spielberg or Lucas, he hits bullseyes. There's just something about the action adventure genre that just works so well. Is it because he's working with talented directors, or is the material he's writing a labor of love? Maybe it's both, combined with a great cast who can deliver even the silliest lines of dialogue in a believable fashion.
But the real star of the show, even above Harrison Ford, is Spielberg himself. I'm of the belief that Spielberg has never directed a downright terrible film. His worst ones are still well intentioned, but simply missed the mark. Raiders, however, is an absolute home run, right down to the opening scene in Peru, where Indy is escaping an ancient booby-trapped temple in pursuit of a golden idol. Scenes like that and the Ark of the Covenant scene towards the end were awesome to witness on the big screen, which is the best way to see this movie. Because he's such a household name, we often take granted what a great action director Spielberg can be, and this is pretty definitive proof.
Finally, I have to talk about John Williams, and what an amazing job he's done composing the score. Williams was recently awarded the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, which he most certainly deserved. Without his music, we probably wouldn't have the same movie. Nothing stands out more from this film than the "Raiders March," and all its variations. And then you have tracks like "Flight From Peru," "The Well of the Souls," "Marion's Theme," and of course "The Miracle of the Ark."
I don't know what else to say, Raiders of the Lost Ark is perfect. Without this movie, there'd probably be no Rocketeers, no Uncharted, no DuckTales, and possibly no Captain America: The First Avenger. The influence this movie had on pop culture is pretty massive, and for good reason. The cast was great, the writing was superb, and the action was fun and exciting. I'm so glad I got to experience this movie on the big screen, and I hope the next time it plays at your local theater you take full advantage of the opportunity!
Now I wanna hear from you guys! I know it's a stupid question, but have you seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, and if you haven't, you better have a good excuse for why not. Also, what are your favorite Spielberg films? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where aliens come back to take over the world in the much anticipated sequel, Independence Day Resurgence!