#34: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

When and how did I watch this?

March 27th, 2017, on Hulu.

Had I seen this film already?

Perhaps, but I don’t remember.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

The subsequent Indiana Jones films are fresh in my memory, and they’re all breathtaking in their own ways: the dark and violent Temple of Doom, the high-speed Last Crusade, and the effects-laden and Apocalypse Now-inspired Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The latter two are heavily saturated with cliches and really looking to carry the momentum of the previous two, clearly the frontrunners and most innovative installments of the series. Raiders of the Lost Ark, from what I know, is the symbol and brainchild of the whole anthology.

What do I know about it now?

The film is catchy and gets your adrenaline going from the outset; we learn that Indiana Jones (Ford) is handy with the whip, always has folks out to get him, and is virtually immortal. Then we find out he’s a dreamboat archaeology professor, and a bit of a womanizer as the supporting lead Marion (Allen) attests. So begins the adventure, which is a relentless sequence of near-death experiences, clever retorts, gruesome demises, and a nearly-preachy treatise on the consequences of pride. We get so wrapped up in Jones’ international pursuits that we forget he’s still an employee at an American university, and we wonder (at least, I did) how he keeps his job and maintains his health. The baddies are the Nazis, universally maligned but outnumbering/outarming everyone present, but arrogant and stupid to levels that make us question their ability to maintain an empire. The ridiculousness reaches cartoonish levels at times, as multiple characters survive for an extended time in a snake pit full of poisonous cobras, and Indy himself manages to drag himself under a moving truck from bumper to rear, climb back aboard, and kick the driver out of the vehicle, all while evading potential gunfire. Han Solo was foolish and lucky; Indiana Jones is crafty and even luckier. But this is exactly why we watch movies: the situations and the hero are larger than life, and our hero avoids inevitable disaster by a hair and comes away with the girl; in the end, everything is alright.  It’s so clean, at times corny, and totally engrossing. I dub it Pirates+.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, love, career versus passion, the supernatural

Did this affect me personally?

The legendary boulder scene is memorable, along with some more frightening moments involving long-dead corpses and melting faces that are hard to forget. Overall, it was a bombastic fun experience.

Why is this ranked #34?

Indiana Jones is an icon of American culture, a smarter-than-the-other-guy defy-all-odds sidestep-death and get-the-girl character that we may not necessarily identify with, but is all wish to be or, for the other gender, wish we’d be swept up into the arms of.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She was out to dinner with a friend.  Bummer.

Would I watch it again?

Absolutely.  Roller coasters are great.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

You know who Indiana Jones is, but I bet you haven’t seen this one.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Indeed, as all movies ranking this high should be.  Raiders is not your classic caper or earth-shattering drama or thriller, but it’s something that hadn’t been done before and has only been duplicated or copied since (see Die HardRamboNational Treasure).  You could say it draws from Clint Eastwood westerns or even Stallone’s lovable Rocky character to a very limited level, but there’s only one Indy, and he’s one of the perfect screen personas in cinema history.

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