First of all, what was the MPAA like in the past? This movie has a PG rating? As I heard someone say recently, “PG in the 80s translates to a light R now.” Nazi faces melt off, a man gets cut into pieces by a propeller blade, there are innumerable corpses and there’s a foul-mouthed broad smoking and drinking … if I was 10 years old I would be losing my mind right now (with excitement). Actually, my current self was pretty excited, too. Raiders of the Lost Ark caught me immediately with a classic, old Hollywood shot of Our Hero Indy (Harrison Ford) emerging from the shadows. The music, the shot — everything was a classic set up of “this is the good guy, and he’s going to save the day.” What’s not to like? Then there are three corpses in the first ten minutes. Bring me some more popcorn. This just got real. Hit the jump for why I love snake barbecue.
I’m sure some people were expecting me to comment on how schmaltzy some of the acting and writing is in the series, but it actually harkened back to a period of film I love. It’s simple and a little dated now, sure, but I have to keep coming back to the word classic. Still, Raiders of the Lost Ark found ways to surprise me, mostly in its violence (that scene after they open the ark. Here’s a GIF of it. Because whoa). I also have to applaud the inclusion of a smart and resourceful female character in Marion (Karen Allen), even if she did have to play damsel in distress a number of times to establish Indy’s dominance as the true hero (much as Ford did as Han Solo for Leia — quite a few similarities, since Lucas conceived of both I guess, except here Marion was subjected to a nightgown instead of the slave outfit).
The plot was always going to be a winner — it’s something the late, terrible Zero Hour on ABC tried to replicate but misfired on totally. As I mentioned in my review of that show, the only thing people love more than conspiracy theories is hating Nazis. If you can find a way to incorporate both, you have gold (unless you are Zero Hour. Seriously, how did they go so wrong?)
I digress; Raiders was a lot of fun, because it felt a lot like something from H. Rider Haggard meets Johnny Quest. Plus it was a bloodbath. And it had a monkey that it killed off. Honestly, that might have been one of the most shocking, unexpected deaths in any film I’ve seen in several years. Who kills off a monkey? Even if he was a Nazi collaborator!
Had this been a one-off movie I would have found it satisfying to leave things here. I’m not surprised they made spinoffs, but I have no idea where they go from here, so, onward!
Bottom line: I can see why this movie energized audiences in 1981, because it still does it today. It kept a fast-pace (for the most part) and while you knew Indy would prevail in the end, you had no idea it would come via exploding Nazis. Nice touch, as was the ending that was a huge dig to bureaucratic incompetence.
Favorite Character(s): Marion, Indy, Belloq (because he dressed so well, and I just love Paul Freeman), Sallah (John Rhys-Davies, who should have been used more), his kids, and the monkey.
Least Favorite Character(s): Toht
Best Death: It has to be Toht!
WTF? Moment: Why on Earth, literally, does Marion have a bar in Nepal? Also, I thought that Abner Ravenwood was going to turn out to be an important character, but turns out he’s forgotten almost as soon as he’s mentioned. Once Marion is on the scene, apparently we have no use for her dad (and neither does she!)
What worked best: Sallah singing Gilbert and Sullivan.
What didn’t work: Indiana Jones doesn’t need to be a professor, and that transition never quite worked for me. The school scene was hilarious though, with the mooney-eyed girls with “love you” painted on eyelids, but it felt unnecessary. And if he goes on so many collecting adventures, what happens to his class? Does he have a regular sub?
Best Quotes: “Bad dates.”