Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark; adventure, USA, 1981; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Wolf Kahler, Alfred Molina

Peruvian jungle, '36. Archaeologist Indiana Jones manages to enter an ancient temple, take a golden statue and get out, avoiding all the booby traps - only to find his nemesis Belloq outside, who steals it from him. Returning to the US, Jones gets a new assignment: to find the Ark of Convenant containing the Ten Commandments in the Egyptian desert before the Nazis, who work with Belloq. Jones picks up his ex-girlfriend Marion and goes to Tanis. He manages to find the Ark, but the Nazis take it away. On an isolated island, the Nazis open the Ark and unleash the spirits that kill them. The Ark is then brought to a giant government warehouse.

Maybe I'm wrong, and I know I will stay in minority here, but I could somehow never quite warm up for Indiana Jones and the "Raiders of the Lost Ark". The movie is undoubtedly a very well made piece of work, a fine adventure film with just enough professional talent to lift it above the B-movie serials it was inspired by. The sole concept of finding the Ark of Convent is a truly stimulative and imaginative idea that bravely goes into the pseudoscience territory and tickles the imagination, but it's, unfortunately, crumbed down by unserious action and a hero who always "gets saved in the nick of time". It's obvious that Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas intended to put humor in the story, but the beginning is so over-the-top the whole thing seems like a parody: who can seriously believe that ancient Indians could build an ancient temple in the jungles of South America, thousands of years ago, that has such high-tech booby traps? Jones even raises his hand in the temple, but as soon as his hand touches the light from the Sun, it activates a sharp spear. When he tries to walk through the path, it activates arrows from the walls. With such system, they didn't even need lasers or heat detectors.

Harrison Ford is undoubtedly great as the legendary Indiana Jones, rightfully winning the Saturn award as best actor in a Fantasy film, while Karen Allen is paler and her role seems hardly useful in the story. The whole film is somehow split: on one hand, it's dynamic and has style, but on the other, it's dry and tiresome. The action sequences are exciting, but for such a story it would have been better if it wasn't so simple and mainstream, revolving just around who steals the Ark from whom, but more philosophical. It also seems rushed and heavy handed at times. The only two scenes that really let the fun out are the one where a tired Jones just lazyly draws a gun and shoots a swordsman opponent in front of him and the one where he secretly dresses up as a Nazi soldier in the submarine, kicking an oblivious superior who was shouting at him for looking like a pig. Even other scenes are interesting, but some of the stunts Jones does end up feeling cheesy. The final scene raises a lot of questions and makes you wonder what Spielberg was trying to say, which is great, but the finale where the Nazis open the Ark is pure trash. "Ark" is a fast, unpretentious and impersonal film that will please a lot of people, but it could have been made in a more caring way.


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