Steven Spielberg’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark sort of classified how high adventure films of the new generation should be envisioned and filmed. It was the film which not only spawned a number of adaptations and inspirations but also served the primary task of why it was made in the first place, which is entertain. The film starts off with introducing us to its protagonist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) who retrieves a relic after much deliberation only to be taken away by a much puny individual who achieves that by virtue of knowledge of the native tongue and using the natives as his mercenaries. An unlikely beginning for a film which is supposed to glorify its hero in order to make an impact.
Jones is then contacted by the US government, who have information that the Nazi’s have found the city of Tanis which is known to have been the final resting place of the Ark Of The Covenant. Fearing that the Nazi’s might use the power, if they posses it, to dominate the whole world, the Government employs the services of Jones to track down the Covenant and bring it back to the US. But first he must retrieve another relic from his ex-girlfriend without which he cannot find the Ark. As a long lost love suddenly finds wings in a quest for the ultimate prize in human history, Jones finds heavy odds stacked against him as a whole Nazi division is hot on his trail to dispatch him back to God. What happens next forms the story of this adventure.
Drawing inspiration from a number of high adventures that have thrilled readers over the years, Spielberg is able to create a balanced dose of action, adventure, comedy and even a spat of romance. It takes place in Africa, Nepal, Egypt, at sea and in a secret submarine base. It contains trucks, bulldozers, tanks, motorcycles, ships, subs, Pan Am Clippers, and a Nazi flying wing. It has snakes, spiders, booby traps and explosives. The hero is trapped in a snake pit, and the heroine finds herself assaulted by mummies. The weapons range from revolvers and machine guns to machetes and whips. And there is the supernatural, too, as the Ark of the Covenant triggers an eerie heavenly fire that bolts through the bodies of the Nazis. Many have sighted the fact that this film lacks depth and character development. To this all I have to say is that this film is all about adventure. We only want that the Ark should not fall into the hands of the evil Nazi and we want Indy to save it. That’s about as much depth as you can have in a film of this genre.
The film successfully recreates the magic and entertainment value of some of the more popular tales of the wild wild west and yet remains rooted to its principal characters and plot. The action is almost relentless. It is safe to say that action of this proportion and ferocity was not seen in a film of this genre before. The action choreography and the notch editing help to make it as contemporary as it can get. Even while watching it today, I felt the same sort of charge that I feel watching films which have similar type of actions made in recent times. The special effects also deserve special mention. This was one of the first films that ILM did after the Star Wars saga which sort of set them up. They are able to successfully create a visual which is reminiscent of the power of God by the end of the film.
Harrison Ford turns in an extremely entertaining and heroic act which went down to inspire young men for ages. While on one side he was a marauding and stop at nothing adventurer, he also slipped into the tuxedo and held a chalk and duster in his hands to teach a class of love struck girls who were more interested in him than his class. He was also vulnerable to his antagonists who at many junctures go the better of him, but he always won in the end. Karen Allen as his love interest and fellow adventurer is the next most noticeable. He free flow act adds dynamics to the plot and also their emotionally charged relationship on-screen.
The set pieces are fantastic, and although some of the wilder end sequences are slightly dated now, it hasn’t lost the excitement factor. It’s a perfectly crafted movie as well, moving from location to location without any distraction or superfluous scenes, it just feels like it’s all there for a reason and that it belongs there. To sum it up Raiders of The Lost Ark is one of the most deliriously funny, ingenious and stylish American adventure movies ever made. It is an homage to old-time movie serials and back-lot cheapies that transcends its inspirations to become, in effect, the movie we saw in our imaginations as we watched. Go for it, and be consumed by its power and entertainment value.