Monday, December 22, 2014

Movie #287: Indiana Jones & The Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones & The Raiders of the Lost Ark (as it's known on the DVD case; in real life it's just Raiders of the Lost Ark, but again, I ain't waiting until 2018 when we hit "R" to watch it when I have the next two queued up now) is a 1981 pulp adventure starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot, Paul Freeman, and Ronald Lacey. If you didn't know any of that, I don't know what to tell you.

Ford stars as Henry "Indiana" Jones (Jr., but that's not relevant yet), an action archaeologist that we meet tramping through the jungles of Peru with a not-so-faithful sidekick (Alfred Molina in his film debut). He recovers a gold ingot, but promptly loses it to evil competitor Rene Belloc (Freeman) and runs for it. Back in the states, he and his museum curator Marcus Brody (Elliot) get a visit from the government: Hitler is romping around sucking up occult artifacts, and thinks he may have found a line on the Ark of the Covenant.

Indy, figuring he's on the cusp of a major and not really caring about the religious implications (he's a scientist, man), leaves to find his old mentor, Abner Ravenwood. Instead, he finds his daughter Marion (Allen), Indy's old flame, who isn't happy that Indy ran off 10 years ago (there are some creepy implications; Marion can't be more than 25, which means that Indy was indulging in a not-quite-legit relationship. No wonder Ravenwood was pissed). Anyway, Nazis in the personage of the evil stammery torture-guy Toht (Lacey) show up, bad shit ensues, they chase each other all over the Middle East until they wind up on an island where Belloc opens the Ark and holy shit everyone melts.

The story is pretty much pure pulp - not-terribly-challenging dialog bookended with nifty fight sequences. It rides the ragged edge between harmless action and "holy shit, that guy just got cut to pieces by a damn propeller), but as many folks have pointed out, it's not terribly responsible to make movies more appropriate to younger audiences by removing the messy consequences of violence.

For is perfect as Indy, and his sidekicks (Brody and later Rhys-Davies as Sallah) are loyal and display appropriate gravitas in talking about the Ark and its dangers (look, the Hebrew god did not fuck around). The traps and danger situations don't make whole lot of sense (how did the light-sensor trap work? What did all those snakes eat? How did a python get to Cairo - is it on holiday?), but that's not why you watch pulp.

I saw this movie when was six, when it came out in theaters, and I was utterly fucking terrified by the ending. Teagan watched it with me this time, and she liked it, though she doesn't know her history enough to appreciate some of the references and the adult dialog goes over her head a bit. And, she mentioned, she's not a fan of lots of people getting shot. But she did like the fight scenes and the intricate traps, and - and this amuses me, because I'm the same way - she loved watching Indy be competent and solve things and be all sciencey. The head-melting thing didn't bother her, but she also knew it was coming.

My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom