Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
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All right, listen up. Have you got your notebooks and pencils ready? Then take this down: This movie is probably the greatest action and adventure story ever produced.
Director Steven Spielberg and Producer George Lucas spared no pains to make this movie a credible descendent of the old pulps, comic books, and serial adventures many of us enjoyed as kids. Those of us growing up during the 40s through 60s can all remember the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or Tom Swift stories and the incredible adventures they had in each installment of their series. We can remember how we waited with eager anticipation to get our heroís latest book in our sweaty little hands!
The plot is pure fancy. Jones is a college professor of archeology. He is of the old school where they go dig up old tombs, rifle them, and put the treasures in a museum. His rival is Belloq, a French archeologist. Jones and Belloq, (as a representative of the Third Reich!!) are in a race to find the biblical Ark of the Covenant. So we have biblical history, archeology, WWII, and interesting characters all in one package. How can this combination miss? It canít!
It is obvious how Spielberg and Lucas thought through every scene of the movie and took the time to get each one just right. There is just so much care evident that these people can only be thought of as masters and the movie itself, their masterpiece.
Look at the masterstroke of the lighting. Every scene is lit to perfection to give it a pre-WWII look and feel. Set design is impeccable. Primary colors are used to give it a lush elegance we have only seen in old movies and photographs. It really has the look of the time period they are depicting. The special effects are astounding and yet credible. It really looks as if that big boulder is coming down after Indy and gaining on him!
The masterful music with the wonderful, catchy melody by John Williams is also a masterstroke. Every time I think of Indiana Jones, there goes that music in my head! What an infectious hook, guaranteed to evoke memories in every viewer.
The casting was also masterful. The selection of charismatic Harrison Ford as the enigmatic Indiana Jones ensured that the performance would be memorable. I have never seen Harrison Ford equal his performance in this movie, it is his finest. Karen Allen as his counterpart, hard drinking Marion Ravenwood, added just the right touch as Indyís gutsy sidekick. John Rhys-Davies was perfect as the character that added such color to the production; a modern day Sydney Greenstreet, if you will. Paul Freeman, as Belloq, was the perfect villain. Wait till you see what happens to him!
Tying all these wonderful elements together was George Lucasí script. There are moments of adventure, humor, terror, and tenderness, all following at a breathtaking pace.
Raiders of the Lost Ark should be a movie that textbooks use to describe the perfect action adventure movie.
There is really no criticism I can offer, except there can never be another one. The idea has already been done. And, in my opinion, even though I can understand the rationale for a sequel, or sequels, they just do not measure up to the impossibly high quality standards set by Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Messrs. Speilberg and Lucas: I salute you!
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