Monday, January 16, 2012

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. Directed by Steven Spielberg

I guess I happen to think they all deserve a place on this list, well, the first three, anyway---and for the record, Temple of Doom is my favorite---but I'll take this one any day. They're just brilliant and fun. And now that I have kids, this is even more fun because they like them all too, and in addition to the films, a parent can totally get his/her geek on by reading the chapter books or playing the Lego Indiana Jones wii game (which has Indy groaning anytime snakes pop up on the screen). Awesome.

Obviously this is a well made, well-written film, but my two very favorite things about this are Harrison Ford and the music. Props for Marion Ravenwood not being a marginalized female, too. But honestly, tell me there's not a better hero in the world . . . being intelligent and a professor win the nerd vote; being hot, ripped, and commanding (hello, whip?) win everyone else. Some of my favorite moments of production are the reaction shots----running away from the native tribe in the opening and later being overwhelmed by the multiple baskets as he frantically searches for Marion---the camera comes right up to him (or he to it) and he just sort of recoils with disbelief . . . it's cool. And he does it again near the end of Temple of Doom upon realizing the entire sword-wielding tribe of Kali is after him and then it happens to River Phoenix in Last Crusade ("everyone is lost but me!")!!

As for the score, composer John Williams has done a lot of brilliant stuff in his career, but I think this one is one of his best. The main theme is obviously what people remember, but there are secondary themes that get repeated that are pretty sweet, too; I'm thinking of that trumpet/chord-heavy accompaniment that usually plays when he's fighting someone, Nazi affiliated or not. He sort of changed  up the melody for Temple of Doom and had it a lot more Indian and glockenspiel-y but it was still awesome. And who could forget the music during the Nazi book-burning rally in Last Crusade? Damn, what a winner!

And how about the story and its characters?
The tricky effort to acquire the idol/unfortunate end of Sapito.
Pet snake Reggie: "I hate snakes, Jacques! I hate 'em!"
Introduction of Marion, her more than adequate liquor tolerance.
Sallah; "they're digging in the wrong place!"; date-poisoned monkey.
The adventure of the medallion/the asp-filled cavern.
Fighting Nazis/"Don't look at it, Marion!"

Among all the action scenes, which are killer (my favorite is right up there--- the nonchalant/almost annoyed shooting of the sword twirler in the middle of the marketplace) I really think that the film succeeds just as much by the chemistry of its actors. Some action films you just sort of allow for some clunkiness and focus on the doing rather than the being, but not this one. I *believed* all of them. Maybe it's that the script was exceptionally good, maybe the actors just knew how to get it done, or maybe Spielberg just knew how to guide all of it, but seriously.

Bravo to each and every---I will never tire of this series.