Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'80s Action Week: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

Yes, it’s still good. Steven Spielberg’s 1981 masterpiece hasn’t dated one bit, in part because it was already something of a throwback – a blend of cutting-edge effects and technique with a defiantly old-fashioned sensibility. Spielberg took the template of the action serial – those corny, disposable, cliff-hangery pieces of escapist pulp from the ‘30s and ‘40s – and crafted something whose speed, narrative shorthand, and element of surprise were very much of the moment. Its hero, wisecracking archeologist adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was a combination of Buster Crabbe, Clark Gable, and, well, Harrison Ford himself, whose cynical cool had just made Han Solo one of the most iconic heroes in movie history. In a sense, this is what Spielberg has always done. (Heck, he did something similar in Lincoln – mixing a post-Nixonian study of the infernal American political machine with an earnest, Capraesque belief that men of good will can still accomplish great things.)

But forget about positioning and context for a second. I think there are a couple of specific reasons why Raiders of the Lost Ark still sings to us, and why it remains one of the most influential blockbusters of all time. To begin with, for a film that at first seems so cartoonish, it’s surprisingly dark: Scary, gory, elemental. Remember, this is a film that essentially ends with a bunch of Nazis experiencing something akin to a reverse-Holocaust -- a climax that still hasn't been topped by any other action movie, in part because of its simultaneously ironic and poetic sense of catastrophe.

Secondly, Raiders is a setpiece-fueled dynamo. That is to say, the film builds its energy and its power through its own internal one-upsmanship: Each scene is more indelible than the last -- conceived, written, shot, acted, edited, and scored in such a way that the damned thing just winds you up tighter and tighter as it moves along. But, unlike its many imitators, Raiders’ setpieces themselves work because they have a strong backbone of character. While most filmmakers are content to let people take a backseat to the action – using their actors more like toy figures amid all the pyrotechnics – Spielberg uses action to explore and enhance his characters. Witness the shifting alliances between Indiana Jones and the treacherous Satipo (Alfred Molina) in the opening scenes in the South American jungle temple. Or Indy’s increasing desperation during the footchase through the Cairo bazaar, when he loses Marion (Karen Allen) – seemingly, he thinks, for good.

Or consider my favorite set of details: the clever back and forth between Indy and the various German soldiers he has to plow through to seize the truck carrying the Ark of the Covenant during the film’s unforgettable extended desert truck chase sequence. They seem like throwaway bits – grace notes, if you will – but they’re actually the building blocks of the sequence itself. No amount of pyrotechnics and effects can make up for that. (If you don’t believe me, track down that homemade, shot-for-shot remake, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, that a bunch of kids made in the 1980s. It’s silly and low-fi and goofy, yes, but fundamentally, it still works, because the film’s armature remains so wrong.)

Additionally, Spielberg, his producer George Lucas, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan understood (and, to some extent, helped define) what makes an action movie character truly relatable: Not just that we watch him experience the action, but that we experience the action through him. This is a lesson that later movies like Die Hard and Speed would take to the bank. But never was it more palpable – never more breathtaking and unforgettable -- than it was here. This is still the best film any of them -- Kasdan, Spielberg, Lucas, Ford -- were involved with.


  1. Sincerely i was so crushed when my Husband of 8 years left me and moved to Texas to be with another woman. The pains was just too much for me to bear that I couldn't just bear it anymore. I traveled to greet my friend and her family during Christmas celebration then i explained to her, how my husband has abandon me and my children for a period of time and be with another woman, and my friend told me about Dr Ogbefun the great spell caster who had helped her in the past before, when i contacted him with his email via ogbefunhearlingtemple@gmail.com i explain to him, how my Husband has been with another woman for two year now and that's the problem am facing in my marriage now and i need to end it by killing her, and i don't want to make use of assassin because it will be risky so i needed to do it in a spiritual way that's why i decided to contact him, he assured me not to worry as i have contacted the right person at the right time, i co-operated with him and in less than a week she die, she slept and never woke up, and truly my husband come back apologizing that he never knew what came over him my husband apologize to me and we are happy family now. all thanks to dr ogbefun you can contact Dr Ogbefun for any death spell, such as killing your superior in the office and take his or her place.spell for increase in salaries, spell for promotion at the office, spell to get your ex lover back, if things is not working well in your life then you need to contact him now via website https://ogbefunhearlingtem.wixsite.com/spell or add him on whatsapp +2348102574680

  2. i want to tell the world about the great and mighty spell caster called Dr .osofo my husband was cheating on me and no longer committed to me and our kids when i asked him what the problem was he told me he has fell out of love for me and wanted a divorce i was so heart broken i cried all day and night but he left home i was looking for something online when i saw an article how the great and powerful Dr osofo have helped so many in similar situation like mine he email address was there so i sent him an email telling him about my problem he told me he shall return back to me within 48hrs i did everything he asked me to do the nest day to my greatest surprise my husband came back home and was crying and begging for me to forgive and accept him back he can also help you  contact  him on Email ( osofo.48hoursolutioncenter@gmail.com ) 
    whasAPP him +2349065749952    

  3. Seriously, why would you even want these men back?

  4. Do you need Finance? Are you looking for Finance? Are you looking for finance to enlarge your business? We help individuals and companies to obtain finance for business expanding and to setup a new business ranging any amount. Get finance at affordable interest rate of 3%, Do you need this finance for business and to clear your bills? Then send us an email now for more information contact us now via financialserviceoffer876@gmail.com whats-App +918929509036 Dr James Eric Finance Pvt Ltd Thank