RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

(1981)
With Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot, Alfred Molina
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Reviewed by JB

     In the 1970s, directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola made the movies the critics raved about, while Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made the ones audiences flocked to.  As a collaboration between Spielberg and Lucas, featuring one of the hottest stars of the day in Harrison Ford, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC is one of the defining movies of the 1980s, an old-fashioned tribute to movie serials of old, the kind in danger is around the corner at every turn for the hero, who nevertheless never loses his hat. Indiana Jones, an original creation of producer George Lucas and director Phillip Kaufman, immediately enter the pantheon of great screen heroes, owing to the performance of Harrison Ford, for whom the part is to his career what James Bond was to Sean Connery.  The story of an archeology professor who travels to the Middle East to keep the famed Lost Ark of the Covenant out of the hands of the Nazis, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK further redefined the summer blockbuster and was so successful, it spawned two immediate sequel plus a third two decades later.  Any movie fan worth his salt should be able to recall the highlights of RAIDERS, including a car and truck chase along the desert and Indy's unique solution to a sword wielding giant.

     It may very well be Spielberg's most fun film, while simultaneously being his shallowest.  Although filled with countless moments that will make audiences whoop, holler and cheer, there is no "there" there in this film.  Cardboard, one-dimensional characters are brought to life only through the excellent performances of the cast, especially John Rhys-Davies as an Indy ally and Ronald Lacey as a Nazi agent, torture a specialty. Dialogue is simplistic, character development negligible, and the closest we get to knowing anything about Jones himself is that he doesn't like snakes. The film is as deep as a slice of baloney, lacking the heart of such previous Spielberg blockbusters as JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.  Several of the fist fight sequences are poorly choreographed, and the special effects-laden climax has Jones tied up while the bad guys are dealt with and disposed of by other means.  Overall, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK plays like an above-average James Bond film of the Roger Moore era.  It's still a splendid time guaranteed for all, and is right up there with DIE HARD and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD in the list of greatest action - adventure films of all time.  But, in truth, RAIDERS has lost a little of its luster luster over the years.  I was ready to give it the full five stars before rewatching it.  Now I take one star off.  So sue me. 4 - JB

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