Raiders of the Lost Ark Reviews
Raiders was the first film of a very iconic, well-praised and well-known series with other films consisting of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The film has now been marketed under the title Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it originally didn't have that name and was simply known as Raiders of the Lost Ark and I imagine that was the case because the people behind the film weren't sure how big of a success Raiders would become. BTW I am not going to refer to the film as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, I will only refer to it as Raiders of the Lost Ark or Raiders for short because I am an old school kind of guy.
Harrison Ford begins the iconic franchise with his first film as archaeologist Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr., who is put up against Nazis in a race to find the lost Ark of Covenant, which is believed to still hold the Ten Commandments. Jones' sidekick Marion (Karen Allen) joins him in the mission and many dangerous, thrilling adventure are encountered in their incredible quest. Jones must use his knowledge of archaeology to get himself and Marion out of these dangerous situations and find the lost Ark.
Raiders of the Lost Ark's first ten minutes is full of some of the most iconic moments in Indiana Jones history and, in some cases, cinematic history in general. In the opening scene, Jones is in Peru and must retrieve a golden idol, but this isn't as easy as just picking up something and leaving. The cave throws everything at Jones, including arrows, skeletons, webs, closing doors, gaps in the floor and, most iconic, a giant boulder. After that, he must escape the native people from Peru who are trying to stop Jones from taking the golden idol. This whole beginning holds some of the most iconic movie moments of all time.
After finding the golden idol, Jones is told by his assistant Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) that he must find the lost Ark of the Covenant so that he can bring it to a museum. This starts a whole series of misadventures for Indy who wears his trademark leather suit, hat and whip as he finds his way out of treacherous situations, also including some little humorous lines amongst all the thrilling yet cartoonish and silly parts in the rest of the film. For example, when Jones and his group had managed to dig and find the Well of Souls, they had enter it to get the Ark, but Indy's fear of snakes catches up with him when he sees snakes and he says "Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?". That alone gets a chuckle, but then Sallah, who Indy thinks is the "the best digger in Egypt" says "Asps. Very dangerous. You go first" to Indy. The film is full of occasional laughs, action sequences, some thrilling moments, but a lot of silly and cartoony ones, too.
Raiders is a good experience just for a bit of fun, but I personally think it's overrated as hell. There are quite a few exciting and adventurous moments in the film you might like, such as the opening scene and some of the other action scenes in the film, but I'll admit, yes I know it's an Indiana Jones film so I expected it to be a bit silly, but there are some moments for me where it got really silly in this film simply by not showing things such as how Jones got on the submarine so easily, what happened after before they got on land, what happened in the process of going to another completely different land I don't know the name of and just how the hell Jones managed to just so happen to have a bazooka.
Another issue I noticed with the film is some of the over-the-top aspects about it. The supporting actors (except for Karen Allen) tend to overact, the set pieces can be a bit too brightly-coloured and cartoony at times (which I've noticed is a bit of a trend with Steven Spielberg) and some things that happen in the film can make me feel like I'm watching the Three Stooges. For example, when Marion is being chased and manages to lure a man inside a building, she smacks him in the face with a frying pan and manages to hide in a barrel afterwards. I know it's Indiana Jones, but Jesus Christ. Also, in terms of acting, I've talked about the supporting actors, now I'm gonna talk about Harrison Ford. I think he's overrated. Sorry, but I do. I'm gonna be honest here and say that he underacts woefully 95% of the time and then he overacts 3% of the time, being just right only 2% of the time. I will give him credit for the fact that he does pick roles where you can get away with it, though, which is why I don't think he's terrible, I just don't think he's very good. Sometimes it can also make you laugh, now sometimes I mean that in a so-bad-it's-good and I rarely mean that in a genuinely good way. In Raiders, though, I will admit, his acting is okay and he did certainly suit the part, I'll give him that, but it's not a Ford performance without at least some classic disinterested Ford moments.
Sometimes in the Indiana Jones franchise, though, there can be some scarring and creepy moments, too. Raiders is no exception to this. BTW, here, I will be revealing the end so if you wan't to see the film and don't want it spoiled for you, I'll give you 10 seconds to click off the video to avoid the spoiler.
The Nazis die at the end. Indy and Marion are tied up by the Nazis and the Nazis wish to open the box and see the Ark and what's inside. Indy tells Marion not to look at the Ark, as it will melt them if they do. The Nazis, however, don't know this and look at the ark while opening it, causing them to melt and die. While it can be looked at as silly and cartoony, definitely, it's also quite a graphic moment that will definitely scar younger audiences.
Another thing, though, that I do like about Raiders is the way that it is made in other areas. As it is a film released 36 years ago in 1981, you wouldn't expect it to have shaky camera and quick cuts all the time like movies nowadays do, and it doesn't, which is what I like about it. It only has quick cuts when needed and only has a couple of shaky camera shots, and they are also when needed as well. Also, I admire the fact that, again because it's a film from 1981, it has very little computer-generated imagery (CGI) and all of the scenes use practical effects in favour unless CGI is ever needed, but it's rarely used in this movie.
Sometimes, though, it can be confusing which audience the Indiana Jones franchise is aiming for. Raiders is mostly a light-hearted action-adventure film that can be silly, cartoony yet thrilling, but it can also have its scarring, creepy moments as previously mentioned. This is kind of a model for the whole saga, not just Raiders. Indiana Jones typically is a light-hearted saga, but it can have its dark moments like the Nazi death scene in Raiders, all of Temple of Doom, the "He Chose Poorly" scene from Last Crusade and nothing from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The only thing that scars me and creeps me out about that movie was how anyone was stupid enough to allow it to be made.
There are definitely more good moments in the film than the opening, but I feel like that was the best part of the whole film because it was most full of the iconic, exciting scenes Indiana Jones would become famous for, but the rest of the movie isn't quite as good, I'll admit. It was fun to watch some of the action scenes, but the film definitely had its issues.
I did laugh at some of the lines, though, and some of the moments in the film.
All in all, I give Raiders of the Lost Ark 2.5 stars out of 5. I think it is a fun and adventurous, generally well-made, iconic film to watch, but it can get silly and cartoony, isn't fantastically acted and directed and it can be even a little creepy at times.