When I was little, I was seriously confused by this movie’s title. For a long time, I thought it was Raiders of the Lost Dark, and I could never figure out how the dark got lost. When I finally figured out it was Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was still confused. There was not a single reference to Noah in the entire movie. That didn’t keep me from liking the movie; I just ignored the confusing title and went along for the ride. And what a ride it is. Raiders of the Lost Ark remains one of the most purely fun movies I have ever seen, even though now it appears to have a new title: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So what’s the story? Dr. Indiana Jones, a professor of archaeology, is approached by two United States government officials. It seems that the Nazis are looking for the Ark of the Covenant because they believe it has mystical powers. Jones’s old mentor, Abner Ravenwood, is the world’s foremost expert on the Ark, but no one can locate him. Jones is tasked with finding first Ravenwood and then the Ark so that the Ark will be kept out of Nazi hands.
The Good: The thing that really sticks out for me in this movie is the pacing, which is kind of an odd thing to notice first off. But there is never a dull moment. It jumps from action scene to action scene. Even when there is a break from actual action, the scenes aren’t dull. The screenplay is fun enough and light enough to make even the longest talking scenes entertaining. It also means you can’t look away; you’ll miss something important if you do.
The characters in Raiders of the Lost Ark are very well-written, well-rounded characters. Marion Ravenwood is one of the best action movie heroines ever, I think. She never stands around and waits to be rescued. If there is danger, she always jumps in and gives as good as she gets. Yes, sometimes she does end up having to be rescued, but she only gets rescued after she’s done everything she possibly can to get out of the situation herself. She’s kind of an anomaly, not just for action movies, but for movies in general. Karen Allen played her perfectly. Indiana Jones is also a good character. He may be a terrible archaeologist since he is willing to destroy ancient temples to get the artifacts that he wants, but he’s still a good character. He can use a whip and shoot a gun and ride a horse and all those other things that good action heroes can do, but he’s also smart and not invincible. He gets hurt more than once. He would have completely lost that fight against the bald muscular German mechanic if not for the airplane propeller. I like that. What can I say? I’m a fan of imperfect main characters. Harrison Ford was a fabulous choice for the part.
I found myself admiring the production design that had been done for this movie. The designers not only had to make the audience believe that the action was taking place in the 1930s, but in various countries in the 1930s. It was really well done. Everything from the cars to the clothes to the buildings added up to a convincing 1930s.
John Williams wrote an amazing score for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s kind of dramatic, but so is the movie. The music underscores the action at the right moments and helps convey emotion. It’s very good, and it’s held up well. It’s as much fun to listen to now as it was thirty years ago.
The Bad: The action moves quickly, which prevents the viewer from asking too many questions. But something has always bothered me: how does Indiana Jones survive on the outside of a submarine that submerges? I know he’s pretty awesome, but I don’t think he can hold his breath that long. There might be other plot holes, too, but the awesomeness of the movie prevents me from thinking too hard about them.
The Ugly: If you don’t like spiders or snakes, beware. Raiders of the Lost Ark has plenty of both. It also has some graphic violence and special effects which hold up amazingly well. When I was a little girl, my parents would always tell me to close my eyes at certain parts so I wouldn’t get scared. As I grew up, I would close my eyes at those points out of habit. I don’t think I had seen the whole movie until I watched it this week. Sure enough, it is not much fun to watch faces melt and heads explode. (Honestly, though, it’s not the most violent or the worst violence I’ve seen in a movie; it’s not even the worst I’ve seen in the Oscar nominees. But I had to find something to put in The Ugly.)
Oscars Won: Best art direction-set direction; best sound; best film editing; best effects, visual effects.
Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best director; best cinematography; best music, original score.
Other Oscar Won: Special achievement award to Ben Burtt and Richard L. Anderson for sound effects editing.