I tried to watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom last night and this morning, but I just couldn’t get past the cold open. It was the obvious attempt at having Indiana Jones move in on the James Bond franchise. It was also a prequel that had a troubled production since Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were both going through some dark times and one of their go-to writers Lawrence Kasdan wanted nothing to do with it. Regardless, I wanted a more solid and enjoyable film since nothing is better when you’re home sick. So I went back a movie but forward in time and decided on Raiders of the Lost Ark. The last time I saw it was about 5 years ago when it was re-released in theatres, but it gets mentioned frequently on most of the movie podcasts I listen to so that has definitely piqued my interest in a rewatch. So how does it hold up?
I would give it 9 “messges on eye lids” out of 10.
FOR THE UNINITIATED
Famed adventurer, archaeologist, and professor Indiana Jones is tasked by the US Government with hunting down the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can find it. He will have to get through his mentor’s daughter / his ex-flame and his arch rival / French archaeologist Belloq as well.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writors: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, and Philip Kaufman
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Wolf Kahler, Ronald Lacey, and pretty much introducing Alfred Molina
What isn’t to love about this movie: the action, the setpieces, the sound effects that make the punches so loud and memorable, or the most popular diarrhea trivia there is? The thing I picked up on the most this time are the character introductions and their quirks which are carried throughout the movie. From Indy’s iconic introduction where we see all of his trademarks before we finally see his face … at the same time he whips a pistol from one of his guide’s hand. Then Belloq’s entry alongside the native people as he touts that he continually outsmarts his rival and takes yet another artifact from Indiana. Skip to Professor Jones as he teaches the dangers of grave robbing to mainly girls who are all infatuated with him. Brody comes in to give another him another job, buy more artifacts, and steals the apple of Indiana’s desk. Marion is introduced by drinking a Sherpa under the table, slapping Indy, and then standing up to a room of Nazis and Sherpa goons. Then when we finally get to see Toht (slimy Nazi in black) and get introduced to him, he pulls out an odd chain and bar contraption presumably to torture Marion … only to find out it is his coat hanger. There are several great character introductions and character beats. Add in the quirks like the fact our hero has no issue fighting dirty, Belloq’s innate sense of envy, or Sallah’s constant song and sense of companionship and you have fantasticly fleshed out cast.
When you watch a movie several dozen times, even the best of them end up showing flaws somewhere. Sure the effects are dated, but that is to be expected. My issues this time would lie with smaller details that end up being big conveniences. Like the escape room to the Well of Souls being excavated and right beside the airstrip with a conveniently dislodged non-weightbearing stone. The Ark killing all Nazis on the secret base that somehow still left a way for Indy and Marion to escape. The scalding hot medallion leaving a burn on Toht’s hand that is perfect enough for replication and transcription … or it having a lucky “-1” written on the other side. But none of this detracts from the movie enough to make it unwatchable.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic action adventure movie that has spawned several sequels, a prequel, and a few imitators. This helped establish Harrison Ford as a leading man, even if his roles don’t stray far from lovable scoundrel. It is worth watching if you haven’t seen it somehow or worth rewatching if it has been a few years.
Another great treasure hunter / adventurer is Benjamin Franklin Gates. While National Treasure is only a shadow of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it makes up for the serious nature with cheese. One hero is known for punching Nazis and the other for stealing the Declaration of Independence; but both have fun evading age old booby traps, getting the girl, and making a profit off someone else’s treasure. National Treasure is a fun movie that should be seen with a light heart if you haven’t already.