Every now and then, me and a few friends from work get together for themed game nights, and this month our theme was Indiana Jones, coincidentally around the same time that Indiana Jones 5 was meant to hit cinemas.
In preparation for said game night, and in commemoration of the planned movie, I decided to go back and watch and review the original Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.
RELEASED: June 12th 1981
DIRECTED BY: Steven Spielberg
WRITTEN BY: George Lucas, Phillip Kaufman & Lawrence Kasdan
PRODUCED BY: Frank Marshall
MUSIC BY: John Williams
STARRING: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot & Alfred Molina
Conceptualised by Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas, Raiders of the Lost Ark sees the debut of Harrison Ford’s second most famous character after Han Solo. The film follows adventurer and archaeologist Indiana Jones after he’s hired by the U.S. Government to retrieve the legendary Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis acquire it.
While there have been arguments made that the plot of the film could function more or less the same without the inclusion of Jones himself, one of the main reasons this motion picture works so well is because of the characters. Indiana Jones, Marion, Sallah and Belloq are all well realised characters whose interactions remain continuously interesting and their reactions to the various situations they find themselves in fascinating.
Indiana isn’t your standard action hero, and often proves he’s just a regular man. A charming, intelligent and physically capable man, but a man nonetheless. He’s not an invincible action hero who can shrug off any competition. He’s often on the ropes, and as a result is relatable. Similarly, Marion isn’t your standard damsel in distress, as although she does often need saving, she also continuously proves herself to be a vary savvy person, not unlike Princess Leia in Lucasfilm’s other major hit Star Wars.
This is helped enormously by the casting of Harrison Ford. Ford easily won audiences over with his portrayal of Han Solo in Star Wars, and here he retains that same affable quality that makes him such an enjoyable on-screen presence. He channels that weary, aloof nature that Ford often shows in real life, but balances it out well with a wealth of heart that’s vital to charismatic action heroes.
The rest of the cast are also excellent, with the actors of the aforementioned characters all displaying great chemistry with the lead and their co-stars, and it’s these portrayals that help make the characters as memorable as they are.
What’s also interesting is the way the film blends action, adventure, fantasy, mythology and horror. The different genres make Jones and his adventures stand out from their counterparts, and very much influenced other popular adventure stories such as the video-game franchise’s Tomb Raider and Uncharted.
This all works so well because the script is excellent. There are a couple of awkward moments, as you might expect from something that is now over thirty years old, but overall, the writing is very tight, slick and witty. Laurence Kasdan brings the same level of quality to his works as he did previously in The Empire Strikes Back, and you can tell that this is a project that he, Spielberg, Ford and Lucas are all passionate about.
Furthermore, John Williams once again works his magic on the score, creating beautiful music that’s almost as iconic as his work on the Star Wars series. It’s an excellent blend of triumphant fanfare and more low-key character pieces, that help elevate the film from a well executed action-adventure to a classic piece of cinema (among other elements).
All-in-all, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a creative and enormously entertaining romp that helped redefine the action genre, and as such, I give it: