A Perfect Film™: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

indy2It was wintertime. I was holed up during a storm with little to do. I had worn out my parents(recorded off HBO) video of Star Wars, so my dad saw fit to introduce me to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I like to imagine he struggled with how I might react to faces being melted off. I know it impacted me, to say the least. But, why is Raiders Of The Lost Ark a perfect film™? Because it never loses sight of the audience. Spielberg and Lucas and Ford, together, brought us an enduring character in Indiana Jones. He is resilient. He is smart. He is witty. In short, Indiana Jones is the man an 8 year old wants to grow up to be. And the story we are treated to is kind of crazy, sure, but hits every emotional beat it sets out to.  You care about the characters in this movie. You want to see Indiana Jones get the girl, even if his character is kind of a jerk at some points…just like a real man. It’s not his defining characteristic, but as a man, I can say I can be kind of an asshole sometimes. Overall, Indiana Jones wants one thing: to see whatever he’s chasing in a museum. His great tragedy is that nothing he ever finds seems to make it to one. The entire first act is beautiful in setting this up. All that work, just to have some snooty frenchman steal the idol. And while he seems to be the underdog, he never gives up. Indiana Jones is tenacious in pursuing these artifacts. He is up for anything. He loves a good challenge, though he doesn’t go looking for trouble. It just seems to find him. And he reacts accordingly. The beautiful moment when he is challenged to a sword fight, only to pull out his gun and shoot the guy: unscripted, and perfect. The truck scene is not so much a character piece, but is worth mentioning on the sheer stunt work alone. Name a movie that has that level of non-CG stunt work going on today? I’s another perfectly edited and thought out sequence that is exciting and contributes to the story more than any CGI creation could. The best part is Indy’s reaction when it’s over. Those little character touches are what take this film from great to legendary, in my mind. The other strong character in Raiders is undoubtedly Marion Ravenwood. Rarely in film do we get to see such strong willed women leading the story. Which, she does. Indy’ motivations are divided between her and finding the ark. He has found her, and left her to be seduced by everyone favorite frenchman, Rene Belloq. And does she cower and fall into damsel in distress mode? No. That she is unsuccessful in escaping on her own is not the character’s fault. While she is ultimately in that role of damsel towards the end of the film, she never inhabits it. You always think she’s a capable person. These two strong personas are the driving force behind the action in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. And we care what happens to them. This is the success all films hope to achieve, and sadly, so few seem to. In the end, while the stakes seem huge, the ending is somewhat melancholy. Again, perfect. It plays to Indy striving, yet never quite reaching the goal. But never quitting. The stage was set to tell a hundred stories with this character. And while we got two pretty damn good sequels and one pretty damn terrible one, I still find myself thinking, as Harrison Ford is now in his 70’s: has he got any more? I’d love to have one last perfect adventure with Indiana Jones. Something that would rival what Raiders laid the groundwork for. And while it may never happen, I love that I can pop in the DVD, sit on my couch, enjoy some popcorn, and re-watch raiders Of The Lost Ark again and again-until the day I die-because it really is A Perfect Film™.

JB Written by:

Joshua has been an avid fan of movies since he first saw Indiana Jones escape that rolling boulder and resoundingly punch Nazis to death. Forever wrestling with the notion of "why" in movies, he believes there is such a thing as "A Perfect Film."