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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Sept 14: Raiders of the Lost Ark


Sept 14: Raiders of the Lost Ark

"Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis."
Directed by: Steven Spielberg, Rated: PG, 115 minutes

I must admit, I've been pretty spoiled this week when it comes to movies. Not only was I able to see The Princess Bride on the big screen but I was also able to catch Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX- glorious, glorious IMAX. How often does anyone get the chance to watch two movies that have been out for over 20 years on the big screen? Raiders of the Lost Ark is a film for movie-lovers and turns a regular theater-going experience into something memorable. And after seeing it again, it's even harder thinking that it's a thirty year old movie. It has stood the test of time in all its glory and reminds me of the good ol' days of Indiana Jones, everyone's favorite adventurer. 

As everyone knows, Indiana Jones is an archaeologist and treasure-seeker, always looking for the world's greatest artifacts for the sole purpose of knowledge. He doesn't care about the money or the fame, but simply wants to see our history in a museum for everyone to see. Known for getting the job done, Jones is approached by the US government, asking him to acquire the Ark of the Covenant, an artifact said to carry the actual Ten Commandments. The United States hopes to find the Ark before the Nazis, who are looking for the Ark to give Hitler the "unlimited power" the relic is said to hold. As any secret treasure would hold, the Ark is not an item you just find. You need the pieces, specifically the Staff of Ra, to discover it's location. So Indy heads to Nepal and asks Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the daughter of Indy's mentor as well as his former lover, for a piece of the Staff. She joins in the search with Indy and the two head to Cairo, where they gain another ally in Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), who's known as "the best digger in all of Cairo". The Nazis, led by rival archaeologist Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman) have already begun their excavating and Indy must race against the Germans, and time, to find the Ark before them. 

It's all goooooooooooooooolllllddddd.

The best part of any Indiana Jones film (except... yeah, we won't go there) is the action. Spielberg is an avid fan of using practical, live effects in all of his films and Raiders of the Lost Ark is a perfect example of that. Each sequence, whether Indy is running from a giant boulder or driving a truck along the cliffs of Cairo, implements some of the best stunt-work I have ever seen. As a lover of film and, in my opinion, somewhat knowledgeable about movies, seeing this technical aspect of the film on the big screen gave me the biggest smile you can imagine. Using stuntmen adds a level of suspense you can't achieve with CGI and seeing an actual person in peril, hanging on the edge of a cliff, running from a real explosion, or dragging his feet while hanging onto the back of a truck, leaves you in awe. I really wish more techniques used in Raiders of the Lost Ark were still used today, as they really look better than anything else you can create with a computer. 

Moving onto the acting, Harrison Ford is absolutely perfect as Indiana Jones. He's as iconic as the character and re-watching his introduction film reminds you that he's one of the greatest movie, nay fictional, characters of all time. Ford brings his charisma and machismo we saw in the Star Wars trilogy, and adds another layer of genius and courage that shows all of his motives are for the ultimate good. He can tell you the history behind Tanis, a lost city in the Middle East, and then the next moment go hand to hand with a bunch of Nazis. As good as any hero can be, he's never as strong without his allies, and Indy has quite the group of friends behind him. Karen Allen does a great job as Marion, kicking just enough ass and holding her own in a fight to be an equal match for Indy, as well as having her few moments of "damsal-in-distress-ness" to give Indy someone worth fighting for. John Rhys-Davis, best known for his role as Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is the jolly, loyal giant Indy needs in a strange land and proves his value on several occasions. He's a big lug you can't help but love and his excitement in the search for the Ark is a joy to watch. And, as always, a hero is nothing without a villain and Paul Freeman absolutely delivers as Balloq. He's just as charismatic as Indy, and even a damn good archaeologist in his own right. He just so happened to choose the wrong side in the fight of good vs. evil and plays Indy's counterpart wonderfully. 

He wears a white suit the only way a villain knows how- with Nazis in the background

Raiders of the Lost Ark is everything you could ask for in a movie. It's full of adventure, action, humor, and glorious set pieces you never see anymore and shows you what the magic of movies really is. Although Raiders has never been my favorite Indy flick (The Last Crusade for the win!), I still love the hell out of it and respect it on a technical aspect. Seeing it in IMAX made me appreciate every little detail in the film, from the exotic locations to even the costumes. But as great as the movie looks, it sounds even better. John Williams' iconic score inspires your own sense of adventure and hearing Indy's theme in a packed theater gave me all kinds of chills. Along with the suspense of the stunt work and action, Williams manages to heighten it even more, knowing when to hit the action and cue Indy's theme. 

Thank you, you musical wizard. 

I don't even think I have to go and say I'd recommend this movie. It's universally loved by practically everyone and it's place in cinematic history has been cemented for decades. It's a damn near perfect film that is like nothing we've ever seen (and still haven't seen) and reminds us what a true story of adventure holds. As a kid, I watched all of the Indiana Jones movies over and over, and as I can imagine the same with other young people, made me really, really want to be an archaeologist. Indy's main message is that knowledge is sacred and that the more we learn, the better we are as people. With all of the films, even though a dose of supernatural is added in the mix, the curiosity it inspires fits that message. Raiders of the Lost Ark, as a film, does exactly what the titular character wants, and encourages all of us to go on our own adventures and explore the world. 

Overall: 9.7/10


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At September 14, 2012 at 11:35 AM , Blogger the Dodger said...

A great review about a great movie. Keep them coming!

At September 14, 2012 at 11:37 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Thank you!

At September 14, 2012 at 11:38 AM , Blogger Joe Giuliano said...

It sounds like you and I both had exactly the same experience....I'm still blown away by how incredible the movie sounded.

I want all Spielberg's pictures in IMAX now, just so I can hear Williams' scores.

At September 14, 2012 at 11:42 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Jurassic Park in IMAX would blow my mind.

At September 14, 2012 at 3:48 PM , Blogger Sofia said...

Good review, it's exactly what I think! Raiders is such a classic. There's a certain magic to Spielberg's adventure films, it really makes us wonder, it's what he does best. And by the way, Jurassic Park in IMAX would blow my mind too, I'd die for that screening.

At September 14, 2012 at 5:30 PM , Blogger Nick said...

As would I, Sofia. As would I.

I wish Spielberg went back to films like this. He's getting too fancy lol.

At September 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM , Blogger Richard Kirkham said...

Love special event screening, especially of older films that do not get played on the big screen when that is the only place we really should be watching them. Raiders looked great. I had one scene where I noticed there was a little imperfection, I wonder if you saw it. In the opening cave/temple sequence, when Indy is clearing off the spiders from his traitorous companion, there was some fuzziness and blurring. I wondered if that was just our screening of if it is in the new print for the Blu Rays. Otherwise the movie looked great

At September 16, 2012 at 9:24 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I saw some blurs as well but attributed that to the fact the movie wasn't really filmed in high definition. A lot of backgrounds and such looked fuzzy but it all worked out.


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