Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

We are going to keep on with birthday boy Harrison Ford, who turns 68 today, for a while. Wow..68. Does that not make you feel old? All my childhood heroes have dentures.

Lest it appear I have been choosing bad movies that I can scribble poison pen reviews about up until this point, today’s film is a classic ’80’s film that set the standard for action adventure in my impressionable young mind--literally. Indiana Jones is a hero I various shades of gray. The guy is a grave robber who does not always fight fair and will kill in cold blood. Because he was one of the first larger than life characters I remember from my youth, I have always assumed that is what heroes have to be like. The boy scout types have always been corny because of my attitude.

Harrison Ford plays Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, a professor of archeology who often risks his neck in exotic places in order to steal rare artifacts. I use the term steal deliberately. As is pointed out to Indiana at one point, he is only one gentle push away from playing the bad guy. We only root for him because he is the lesser of two evils.

The greater evil is, of course, the Nazis. They are searching for the Ark of the Covenant, which will grant their armies invincibility. We certainly cannot have invincible Nazi armies marching across the planet.

Steven Spielberg planned for Indiana Jones to serve as homage to the action serials of the ’30’s. As one who has a more than passing interest in such serial, I will attest he and George Lucas well succeeded with Raiders. I am inclined to think subsequent installments took on their own “Indiana Jones” feel rather than imitating classic serials and did so with varying degrees o success, but that is an argument for another time.

In addition to the white knuckle, ever a dull moment action, I appreciate the light hearted elements, such as Indiana’s troubles doing nothing but increasing in every action scene and the tweaks of action movie cliché. At one point, Indians knocks out a Nazi and steals his uniform, but it does not fit. How many times have you seen stolen clothe serve asa perfect fit? I snickered when Owen Wilson lucked out in my Behind Enemy Lines review a few days ago.

Raiders is an iconic movie. Everyone remembers the giant boulder scene, which was filmed twenty times before they got it right, the initial escape from the angry natives, the shooting of the swordsmen, Nazi faces being melted off, and the final scene in which top men are investigating the Ark. It is difficult to criticize film that is so well imprinted on our psyche. Fortunately, I do not have to. It is about the most perfect '80's movie.

Can you picture Tom Selleck in the title role? I cannot.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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