RE:View Raiders of the Lost Ark
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 backbone 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.*
But lands that belonged to the realm of Chaos were 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 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 the part of Indy but Magnum PI got picked up and he became unavailable. Spielberg wanted Robert De Niro, but 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 job 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.
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 recoiling his whip and finally, at long last steps into the camera frame 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 the Attention Deficit 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. Indy escapes while revealing his kryptonite in the form of crippling ophidiophobia, (even if it is just Reggie).
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 this 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…
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 its 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?!?!
IT’S A NAZI MONKEY! K-I-L-L IT!!!
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, Indy found her tied up in a tent 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.
Sigh, yes Charleton, pretty much.
Seriously though, Lucas appears to have lifted large portions of the Secret of the Incas including the Indie’s 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 the 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. One 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 a smuggler’s tramp steamer.
Indiana and Marion reconnect and have off-camera sex. But then the Nazis 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 a 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.
Which means INDIANA JONES’ ADVENTURES WERE COMPLETELY POINTLESS IN THIS MOVIE!
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 once the war was over.
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 became a pop culture mega-monster. 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 mattered 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 will be bombing shortly. This is the one where Kathleen Kennedy’s retarded dream of replacing Harrison Ford with Phoebe Waller-Bridge will be smashed like fine crystal by the end of the second week in July.
So now we will end with the big question: Can anyone besides Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones?
The short answer is, Indiana Jones has 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.