RE:View Raiders of the Lost Ark

RE:View Raiders of the Lost Ark

You’ve been waiting for this one.

In 1899, Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Junior came into a world where there were still big spots on a world map marked Unknown. He was as drawn to those places as instinctively as a Salmon is to the stream where it was spawned.

Indiana Jones was born to be a man with one foot in two worlds.  On the one hand, he was a serious academic from a line of career college men.  This was back when colleges were the backbones of civilization and education was rigorous.  In that bygone world, if you couldn’t speak, read, and write in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic you were at best a functional illiterate.  This is the world of Law.

His other home was in the lands of Chaos. He would dive as deeply as he could into that realm to find broken remains of the cities that had once been centers of Law but had fallen to Chaos. 

In Indy’s world, Chaos was a place where you could find ancient and unknowable power.  The unscrupulous and the evil would seek it out for their own ends.  It was his purpose to find and remove them in order to protect the innocent.  His job was archeologist but his purpose was to enforce the border between the realms of Law and Chaos

Indiana Jones was without question an Explorer Hero

Indiana Jones was the last generation of Explorer Heroes. After 1945 there would be no place left on land that belonged to the realm of the unknown.  

I honestly, feel this was one of the (many, many) reasons that Crystal Skull was received so badly by the fanbase.  Sure, there were a few pockets of primitives, but they existed at the sufferance of Law, not in defiance of it.  If the realm of Law wanted them gone, they’d be gone.  By the 1950s there was no realm Chaos and hence no need for an Explorer Hero to define the border of it.*

But the realm of Chaos was still easily found in the 1930s and that was when Indiana Jones was in his thirties and in his prime as a man.  And that was when we were first introduced to him.

This film was started life on a Hawaiian beach where Spielberg and Lucas were discussing what they would do next.  They decided to collaborate on a quickie take of the 1930s jungle film serials and the Adventures of Indiana Smith was born.

Most of the film crew from Star Wars was rounded up to include writer Lawrence Kasden, who immediately scratched out Smith, replaced it with Jones, and got to work.

Up and comer Tom Selleck was offered for the part of Indy but Magnum PI got picked up and he became unavailable.  Spielberg wanted Robert De Niro, Lucas wanted a fresher face than that so he went with their compromise choice of Harrison Ford. Nobody was really happy with it to include Ford, who wanted to move on to something more serious, he only took the part because he had bills to pay. 

Indiana Jones had one of the greatest character reveals of all time.  First, we see the Paramount logo which fades into a green jungle mountain peak.  The music is as John Williams perfect as ever, English Horn and Oboe playing flat notes that race up and down the scale quietly suggesting menace and building tension.  You see a man leading a small expedition, just a few bearers, and pack mules.  You never see his face while the opening credits are running, just a leather flight jacket, khaki pants, and wide-brimmed fedora.

I wore it better in Secret of the Incas

Shut up Heston!

Jump Scare! And a native guide from Peru ((?) Okay, fine whatever) screams in terror and runs off into the jungle when bats fly out of the mouth of a stone idol.  The man in the Fedora calmly walks up to the idol and examines it.  He is clearly unflappable.  Satisfied the reduced column moves on.

The expedition is getting smaller the closer they get to their mysterious objective.

 Shortly the man in the Fedora finds a poisoned dart in a tree, which he briefly examines and then dismisses as unimportant.  This was all done without showing his face.  The two remaining guides are highly flappable, they look over the dart and then we hear our first bit of very worried dialog.

Satipo: Hovitos are near! Still fresh. Three days.  They are following us.

Barranca: If they knew we were here, we’d already be dead.

Holy crap, Satipo was played by Alfred Molina?  Okay getting back to the scene. This establishes an imminent but not immediate danger.  Chekov’s gun is now in play, the audience knows they are going to be seeing angry natives. And we still haven’t seen the Fedora Man’s face.

The Fedora Man reaches a stream and he consults his notes.  Barranca makes his move he draws his pistol and makes the fatal mistake of cocking it.  Indy hears it and lashes out (literally) with his whip, striking the pistol from Barranca’s hand.  Jones starts to recoiling his whip and finally, at long last steps into the camera and we finally see his face.

Absolutely brilliant. You knew everything you needed to about this man before he said a word.

Idgits will start going on at length over how there is no way in hell all those temple traps could work after hundreds of years in the jungle and besides almost no archeological find has ever had any kind of a trap on it.

To which I reply, go be stupid somewhere else!  Raiders was obviously not that kind of movie.  There was so much riding on that scene.  Lucas and Spielberg were both saying, we don’t get the shot, we don’t get the movie.  Spielberg built miniatures to practice this scene.

Indy gets the idol but his sand measurement was off because he sets off the doomsday trap.  Idgits will complain about Indy throwing Satipo the whip, but he was right to do so.  Maybe, Indy could hold on to the idol and cross the pit with one hand but it was safer to gamble on Satipo’s loyalty and cross with both hands on the whip.  It was a gamble he lost, but he was right in principle. And it didn’t matter since ADD Satipo forgot about the spike trap.  Adios, Alfred Molina. 

We meet Barranca again and boy do those darts work fast.  We also meet Indy’s first real obstacle Belloq. Clearly, a frenemy. Belloq relieves him of the idol but gives him a sporting two seconds head start before sending the Hovitos after him.  Maybe he didn’t mean to give him a head start but it always felt deliberate to me.

The next shot is of pilot and fisherman Jock Lindsey.  Whose bi-plane only has two seats, strongly indicating that Indy had no intention of bringing his expedition out of the jungle with him.  Maybe he knew something about them we didn’t.  Or maybe he had a ruthless streak we never saw on camera. We will never know.

Establishing shot of Marshal College, which does exist.  Doctor Jones has been punished for his tomb raiding by being forced to lecture to undergraduates, which is hell on Earth for any tenured professor. 

He is rescued from this horrifying fate by two government agents who want him to chase after the Ark of the Covenant. Anything to get away from cloying coeds.  This is a world without the Pill after all. 

He has to go to the Lost City of Tanis.

So he goes off to see his old girlfriend in Nepal. 

Yeah, I know about the released transcript but is about the myth of Indiana Jones, not the disgusting perversions Lucas was writing into the character’s bible.  

We get to meet the heavy of the picture, Toht, a Gestapo officer of the Major Hochstetter mold.  Jones saves his ex but burns down her livelihood in the process. 

Regardless, they have the amulet…

The one they stole from Secret of the Incas?

Damn it Heston! Shut up about Secret of the Incas!

…so it’s off to Egypt. Say, “hi” to Gilbert and Sullivan superfan Sallah, “the best digger in Cairo,” devoted family man, friend, and first-rate Bravo Male.  Not a guy you would want by your side in a bar fight but he is seriously connected.  There is nobody’s cousin’s cousin that he doesn’t have an arrangement with.

Marion acquires an adorable pet monkey and Karen Allen is clearly trying to keep a smile glued to her face as the little beast tries to claw her eyes out.

Indy and Marion go for a walk in the bazaar and the monkey reports back to it’s master. Woah it’s Barranca from the opening scene.  What does it profit a man to lose his eye though he gains a monkey?  Sinister Germans show up and the monkey gives them a Nazi salute?!?!  


On to the comedy market brawl.  You can’t really sympathize with the giant wielding the scimitar.  He brought a sword to a gunfight.  

Oops, Marion appears to be out of the movie but frenemy Belloq is back in.  A little mutual taunting and then Sallah has to save Indy’s ass.  

An old Iman is deciphering the amulet and Indy like any Alpha has forgotten all about Marion.  They find out where to use the amulet Heston keeps bitching about.

And Sallah saves Indy’s life for the second time in five minutes. Damn, I’d keep Sallah around too. 

And the filthy, degenerate Nazi Monkey is dead. Excellent!

The next day Indy and Sallah head for the Lost But Now Found City of Tanis.  Marion is back in the picture, but the based Indiana Jones just leaves her tied up.  He’s got work to do.  He’ll be back when it’s convenient for him, not her.

Indy uses the amulet in the iconic map room scene.

Great, now I’m doing it.

Seriously though, Lucas appears to have lifted large portions of the Secret of the Incas including the costume for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Marion has a date, whether she wants one or not, with the surprisingly Gamma for a Frenchman, Belloq. Seriously creepy.  When Major Hochstetter shows up she’s actually relieved to have him as a chaperon. Belloq is friendzoned

Indy, and Sallah find the Ark. Yay.

But promptly lose it to the Nazis. Boo.

Belloq has beaten our boy again.  He is going to be left in the snake room.  Hochstetter is apparently tired of the girl cramping his swag, so she gets chucked in with Indy, while Belloq whines about her.

Jones breaks out by committing crimes against archeology and cultural vandalism and don’t pretend you would do anything different.

The German Flying Wing’s pilot is played by super-producer Frank Marshall.  It’s his only acting credit ever and he only did it because all the stuntmen were sick from food poisoning. Everyone on that set was sick with it at one time or another except Speilberg who had brought a lifetime supply of Spaghettios with him

 The giant German decides to retrieve the lost honor of his fallen brother in largeness; Scimitar Dude and spends a couple of minutes knocking Indy’s teeth in.  Marion mans the machine gun and ups her XP by taking out a bunch of NPCs while Jones continues his boss fight.   A 1980s gross-out scene later and the plane blows up. 

 One extended chase and the Ark is in Indy’s clutches at last.  The ever-connected Sallah gets them passage on smuggler’s tramp steamer.

Indiana and Marion reconnect and have off-camera sex.  But then the Nazi’s find them… Through Nazi magic? I guess?

Anyway, the Krauts board the ship and the never-lucky Marion is reunited with Beta Belloq.  The Germans swipe the Ark and then head off for Nazi Island with the U-Boat the production company boosted from the set of Das Boot. And I’m not joking about that last bit. Lucasfilm stole that U-boat set from Das Boot.  Jones was clinging to the back of the sub and somehow didn’t die on his way to Nazi Island.

Jones almost blows up the Ark with a Panzerfaust but chokes and gets taken, prisoner.  Marion probably tells him, you get used to it.

Rabbi Belloq opens the Ark and the Nazis all get melted.


Think about it.  If Jones had done nothing in this story but teach at Marshall, he would have changed nothing that eventually happened.  The Nazis would have grabbed the amulet from Marion, found the Ark and melted themselves without any help whatsoever from Indiana Jones. 

Okay, the one thing Jones did do was somehow get the Ark from Nazi Island to Washington.

The End.

So, does it hold up?

Oh, Hell yeah.  

This film was meant from the start to be a pastiche of the old Republic serials, and nobody is better at polishing pastiche than Stephen Spielberg.  The effects aren’t as stunning as they used to be but the cheese factor more than makes up for them. The practical effects and stunts are still picture-perfect. The cinematography remains stunning.  

Indiana Jones, after the movie, became a mega-monster is a pretty mixed bag.  He has appeared in every type of media, known and unknown.

 His adventures prior to Raiders have been covered in several novels and a short-lived TV series.  None of which matter because George Lucas controlled the character’s bible, and he was always striking other people’s contributions from canon.  He could be disengaged with Indiana Jones for years and when he would re-engage he would bulldoze everyone else’s work. Indy’s life was whatever Lucas said he was.

The other films in the series have likewise been mixed.  One, great (Temple of Doom). One, okay, I guess (Last Crusade). And one, why did you do this to Indy? (Crystal Skull)

The unwanted fifth installment is currently stalled.  Given the behind-the-scenes political struggles there is a better chance of getting this film restarted than average.  However, it will have a major problem if Harrison Ford can’t recover from his injury and that is very much on the table.

So now we will end with the big question:  Can anyone besides Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones?

The short answer is, Indiana Jones already been played by four different actors; (River Phoenix, Corey Carrier, Sean Patrick Flannery and George Hall) five actors if you count the guy who did the voice over in the Lego version.

But of course, those don’t count, it’s the movies that matter.  Can anyone replace an actor that has made a part his signature role for forty years?

Not easily, but yes it can be done. 

The next question is the dream killer.  Can a good Indiana Jones movie be made today?

You already know the answer to that one.

Okay, I’m done here.

*People were frightened of Chaos but there was no land where it held sway.

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Comments (15)

  • Chris Lopes Reply


    In fact you could make an argument that he may have made things worse. Without Indy chasing after the Ark, the SS dude might have taken over the project (by killing Belloq after finding the Ark) and brought it directly to the Austrian corporal. Once opened, the guy with the funny moustache (along with his command staff) melt away and we just might have missed WWII.

    July 2, 2021 at 2:13 am
    • Talos Valcoran Reply

      Of course, none of the characters in the movie know that at the time – everyone is acting rationally and in ways loyal to their own ideology, and only Smart Boys would look back with 20/20 hindsight and smirk, “Oh, but Indy didn’t have to do ANYTHING!”

      This “argument” is more annoying than “Why didn’t the Fellowship just fly the One Ring into Mount Doom with the Eagles?”

      July 3, 2021 at 1:11 am
  • doug whiddon Reply

    I remember seeing this movie on the big screen when I was a kid, and recently seeing it again on the big screen. Still holds up (mostly).

    July 2, 2021 at 4:06 am
    • Codex Reply

      Most excellent review.

      July 3, 2021 at 6:57 am
  • Shimshon Reply

    “Think about it. If Jones had done nothing in this story but teach at Marshall, he would have changed nothing that eventually happened. The Nazis would have grabbed the amulet from Marion, found the Ark and melted themselves without any help whatsoever from Indiana Jones. ”

    I’ve heard this said before. This isn’t necessarily true. The inscription from the half of the amulet that the Nazis didn’t get didn’t only discuss altering the height of the staff. As a fan site says:

    “The headpiece included a dire warning to not disturb the Ark of the Covenant, giving Indy the knowledge needed to survive the Ark’s power later, though this warning was either forgotten, not on the side that was imprinted onto Toht or simply ignored by Belloq and the other Nazis present.”

    I’m going with, this warning was not on the side in the possession of the Nazis, thus making the story have an actual point.

    July 2, 2021 at 5:04 am
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      Sorry, but no. Indy was recieving a stream of dire warnings for the entire movie. The warning on the amulet was just one more of them. All of Indy’s friends were telling him not to screw around with it. Belloq on the other hand was way too determined to dick around with the Ark to be put off by a warning label. He had Nimrod’s hubrus, he was going to use his “hotline for speaking to God” whether God wanted to hear from him or not. Indy learned a bit of humility but that was his lesson and his lesson alone.

      July 2, 2021 at 9:52 am
      • EXALT Reply

        You know, when you put it like that, this movie has a remarkably good message: God can solve the problem on His own – which is obvious once you say it – but chooses to do it in such a way as to teach a moral lesson to a few people.
        I don’t believe for a second this is what Lucas and Spielberg intented, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

        July 2, 2021 at 11:08 am
      • TroperA Reply

        Indy had probably also read the Old Testament,which had plenty of stories of people who f’d around with the Ark and found out that it either brought plague upon their village or just killed them outright when they touched it.

        July 3, 2021 at 5:30 am
  • John E Boyle Reply

    Great review, but…You can’t talk to Chuck Heston like that!!!

    I wonder if Spielburg & Lucas at least sent Heston, MacDougall and the others a thank you note.

    July 2, 2021 at 11:50 pm
    • Chief_Tuscaloosa Reply

      Seriously doubt it. And Heston was around 60 when Raiders came out…would love to have seen his reaction to the trailer on TV ripping off his earlier work. Then again, maybe nobody in that town expects moral behavior like giving credit where credit is due.

      July 3, 2021 at 2:59 am
  • Fractal Rabbit Reply

    Glad to see you giving Temple of Doom the credit it deserves. That movie is a lot of fun and way to many would be critics always rank it with Crystal Skull.

    July 3, 2021 at 3:05 am
    • Ty Ping Reply

      Except for Capshaw’s screaming all the time…
      Perhaps there is an edit available in which somebody has removed each time she shrieks “Indeee!”

      July 3, 2021 at 6:40 am
      • Fractal Rabbit Reply

        Capshaw never really bothered me. I can take her BS any day over the current year’s hyper-confident, I don’t need no man, Mary Sue women in fiction. At least she was feminine, if annoying.

        If I think about it, it was probably the most realistic thing about the movie. Take 90% of American women, subject them to night club brawls, imminent plane crashes, gross Indian food, jungle travel by elephant, snake surprise and chilled monkey brains, a horde of insects and homicidal Thugees, they’re going to act like Capshaw did. And maybe even worse.

        July 4, 2021 at 10:56 am
  • Chris Lopes Reply

    Of course no one in the movie knows that, but the people who made the movie did. They didn’t have to make everything Indy did pointless to the end result. They chose that path. The Dark Herald is suggesting a reason why they did it that way.

    July 3, 2021 at 4:32 pm
  • Neurotoxin Reply

    I think Indy actually does affect the outcome: IIRC, when he gets on the plane to find Marion a bad guy is following him. I forget whether it’s Toht himself or some other person blatantly identified as a bad guy (shifty eyes, ominous music in the background, etc.). That means the bad guys needed Indy to find Marion, or they never would have gotten the medallion, and therefore never would have found the Ark.

    July 3, 2021 at 8:46 pm

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