Raiders of the Lost Ark

I was thinking…

…in order to inaugurate the new Ammo Dump Reviews, I would start talking about a film I not only saw in the theater during its original release in 1981, but recently caught in the theater again: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s thrilling homage to the action-adventure serials of the 1930’s, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Yes, I know this film is almost as old as I am; but unlike me, it doesn’t seem to diminish with age. It’s still fun and exciting, whereas I groan whenever I sit down, I seem to be going to bed earlier and earlier each year, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting back out of that bed more and more in the middle of the night, if you know what I mean. Hmm, I’m reminded of a Harrison Ford quote from the movie: “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

Anyway, the Normal Theater (as opposed to an abnormal one, many of you are thinking) seems to get a copy of this film every year. And, despite the fact that I own both DVD and VHS copies of the film, I make an effort to catch it on the big screen whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Such an opportunity blessed me again about a month ago, albeit in a digital format. The era of film theaters is dying if not dead, and even a restored Depression-era theater like the one in Normal, IL has had to convert to a digital setup or risk total shutdown.

But I digress. Raiders (or Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark as it is now known–I believe this is mainly to appease anal retentive dorks like me who wish their movies to be in alphabetical order but still want all the films within a series to remain together)–anyway, Raiders remains a strong film by any standard. For those who have not seen it yet, I give it my wholehearted recommendation.

What do you mean, “For those who haven’t seen it”? I can hear some people saying. Everybody’s seen it.

Ahh, alas, that is not true. I have met, in my travels across the country, many, many people who have not only not seen Raiders, but have never caught any one of the original Star Wars films.

Shocking! you say.

Yes, it is shocking, but nonetheless true. The popular CBS sitcom Big Bang Theory had an episode in its seventh season revolving around such an instance regarding Raiders. The episode began with Sheldon’s “girlfriend,” Amy, viewing Raiders for the first time. On the plus side, she enjoyed it a great deal. On the negative, she claims the titular protagonist is not germane to the plot–that the movie would have ended the same way had he been involved or not. The four original nerds debate this throughout the course of the episode and, unfortunately, come up with the same depressing conclusion.

I respectively disagree with them, or, rather, I disagree with the writers of the show. But, before I continue, in case anyone was actually hoping for a plot synopsis of the film, I’ll include a review I wrote for during the Raiders’ IMAX release two-and-a-half years ago.

And we’re back. So, after some thought, I realized Indiana Jones’ involvement in the plot is important. Unfortunately, it’s not in a good way. In fact, had Indiana Jones not gotten involved, it’s entirely possible World War II may have been prevented.

The only reason the Ark ended up on the island at the end of the film was because Indiana Jones blew up the plane meant to fly it directly to Berlin and Hitler himself. Had it been flown to the German capital, Adolf Hitler, not Belloq, would have opened the Ark and–voila!–Hitler melty-face time! No invasion of Poland and no WWII.

That is not to say there aren’t more holes. Like when Belloq tells Marion, “If you’re trying to escape on foot, the desert is three weeks in every direction,” but then Indy drives to a town in about 10-15 minutes. Or that the Staff of Ra is supposed to be five kadaams in length (about 60 inches or five feet, if you do the very simple math) and yet the staff Indy ends up using is easily seven feet long. Oh, and look for the bouncing sandstone when Indy and Marion escape from the Well of Souls. That’s not a hole, it’s just funny.

All that aside, Raiders does not fail to entertain, even after all these years. From the opening scene in the jungles of South America, where we are first introduced to “The Man in the Hat,” to the gunfight in Nepal, to the truck chase in Egypt, it is one of the fastest paced movies you could ever hope to see. The visuals combined with Ben Burtt’s sound design and John Williams’ musical score make this film an endearing and enduring action classic I will continue to shell out money to see on the big screen no matter how many copies I own at home.

Ammo Dump rating: 10 out of 10 bullwhips

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Rated PG
Run time: 115 minutes


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