The year is 1936 and an adventurous archeologist named Indiana Jones is asked by the U.S. government to seek out and find the lost Ark of the Covenant, the biblical chest believed to contain the fragments of the Ten Commandments. After travelling to Nepal, ex-girlfriend Marion Ravenwood ends up joining Indy in his search. The two are later joined in Cairo by Indy’s old friend and “the best digger in Cairo”, Sallah who had been previously hired by the Nazis. Finding the Ark and bringing it to the U.S. isn’t quite that simple though, because working against Dr. Jones is Dr. Rene Belloq, a rival archeologist who’s assisting the Nazi regime in trying to find the Ark for Adolph Hitler, who believed that the Ark contained powers of the occult and that acquiring the artifact would make his armies invincible.
Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn’t exactly what Steven Spielberg was looking for at the time. Spielberg wanted to direct a ‘James Bond’ film, but was convinced by writer/producer George Lucas to direct the film after Lucas proclaimed that he’d come up with something “better than James Bond.” Spielberg, who was coming off the disappointing 1941, easily redeemed himself and found himself back on the path to the eventual superstar director status he would gain. Spielberg would go on to direct all four films in the franchise.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is rich with characters, beginning with Professor Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. or ‘Indy’ as he’s known worldwide, played magnificently by Harrison Ford. If there was any doubt about Ford’s popularity coming off his role as Hans Solo in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, there wasn’t any longer after his appearance as Indiana Jones. Indy, as the character was known, was an easy character to like because he’s a regular guy; he’s flawed, doesn’t have any special abilities, and is filled with determination. Aside from his fear of snakes, Indiana Jones is almost a man without fear. Whether he’s running from a boulder chasing him down, dodging poison darts shot at him by South American natives, being enclosed in an Egyptian tomb, or swimming aboard a Nazi submarine, Indy never gives up regardless of the obstacle. Arguably, Indiana Jones is the greatest movie hero of all-time.
Although the film is an Indiana Jones adventure, the film wouldn’t work without a well-rounded supporting cast, led by Marion, played wonderfully by Karen Allen who displays excellent chemistry in her pairing with the iconic Ford. Easily a character that could have become nothing more than comic relief, Marion at times provides the film with some levity in the way she seems to be more trouble than she’s worth, but proves a perfect match for Indiana in her wit, charm and ability to throw a punch when necessary.
John Rhys-Davies, whose voice may be more recognizable as the dwarf Gimli in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, plays Indy’s endearing and lovable friend Sallah.
Every hero needs a good foe, and Indy’s nemesis is Belloq, played by Paul Freeman. Unlike Indy, who wants the Ark found for its historical significance, Belloq wants the Ark for the chance at power; and at one point uses Indy’s resolve against him. Freeman is perfectly cast and does an excellent job of playing the evil archaeologist versus Indy’s good.
Having seen the film in IMAX, I have to make mention of how impressive the film looked. For a 31-year-old film to be shown in a format that allows for even the most minuscule flaw to be easily spotted, the picture is stunning. As beautiful as the picture looks, the John Williams score left me speechless. At one point I closed my eyes and felt as though I was sitting in the middle of an Orchestra playing a concert. It was the most beautiful sounding film I’ve ever heard, and one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had in a theater.
I mentioned in my ‘The Movies and Me‘ article that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first movie I’d ever seen in theaters as a kid back in 1981. It’s safe to say that although I remember being there with my family, I have no recollection of anything but the opening scene of the movie. When the announcement came that prior to the Blu-ray release of the Indiana Jones series, the original film would be shown in IMAX theaters for 1 week; I was immediately interested! There are several people who are going to say “why should I pay money to see this in theaters, when I’ve seen it a number of times already and I can buy the Blu-ray next week?” My answer is simple: This is may be the best adventure movies ever made, it has one of the most iconic characters ever written, and has one of the most recognizable scores ever recorded. Experiencing at home is one thing, but experiencing it on the big screen using the greatest film technology going at the moment in IMAX is an opportunity I wouldn’t suggest passing up.
Awards: Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Effects, Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and a Special Achievement Awards for Sound Effects Editing. Also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Music-Original Score, and Best Picture.
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