Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones Marathon: "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

In anticipation of the new film, I, like no doubt so many others, am partaking in a Indiana Jones marathon. The Indy trilogy, even with the weak middle link, is still one of the best adventure trilogies of all time. I was a little surprised that the effects in Last Crusade seemed so dated (nothing embarrassing though), but on the whole Indy has withstood the test of time.

My next three blog entries will be my take on Indy 1-3, in capsulated reviews.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
An adventurous “obtainer of rare antiquities” named Indiana Jones, who daylights as a archeology professor, is hired by American authorities to stop Hitler’s Third Reich from discovering the Ark of the Covenant which holds the original tablets on which the ten commandments were written.

A brilliantly conceived globetrotting adventure, that never slows down. A throwback to the serials of the 1930s, it nonetheless remains timeless. Characterization is not left behind with both Indiana and Marian cleverly introduced (Indy through an opening adventure and later at his university and Marian in a “drinking game” with the locals) and fleshed out throughout the film by strong performances by the leads. The incorporation of the forbidden nature of the discovery of the ark and the limitations of man’s spiritual knowledge gives the film thematic depth. A sense of humor throughout, particularly when spoofing movies themselves (Marian blows smoke in the villain’s face and he coughs; Indy handles the master swordsman; “I don’t know I’m making this up as I go.”). Also nice sight gags (the monkey gives a Nazi salute, “Why did it have to be snakes?” Indy sees a motorcycle and sidecar in the rearview mirror of the truck and gives them a ‘bump’; Marian flips the mirror). A wonderfully menacing henchman villain adds to the fun (“shoot them, shoot them both”). Belloq as the "shadowy reflection" of Jones both exposes Indy’s darker side and the darker side of man in general. The sound design and musical score are blended perfectly and give the film a majestic sweep. One great action sequence follows the next (all intrinsic to the plot), the best of which is the truck sequence (with a nifty homage to John Ford’s Stagecoach). Final shot (a reference to Citizen Kane) has itself been the source of countless references. A classic.

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