Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The Return of the Great Adventure!

Indiana Jones is my second favourite movie character of all time. My number one favourite is Han Solo. Yes, the same actor played my first and second favourite movie characters. I don’t care how many mediocre movies Harrison Ford may appear in during his later career, that’s like eternal levels of respect and a miracle that this is even the case.

The character of Indiana Jones is the ultimate escapist fantasy. A tough hero who goes on adventures around the world when he feels like it to obtain relics, escapes life and death situations, thwarts the bad guys and gets the girl in the end. Yet Indy is still human like the rest of us because of his overzealous confidence, thinking he’s several steps ahead of the bad guys when he is not, his ability to make mistakes and his irrational fear of snakes. If there’s a scene which I feel sums up the character of Indiana Jones, it’s when he pulls out a gun on the sword-wielding Arab, a moment which wasn’t even supposed to be the film (likewise that clothes hanger gag is also truly the product of genius minds.). Making the character an unassuming nerdy professor is the other stroke of genius; It’s the biggest contrast of personalities, yet entirely believable. Just look at any Han vs. Indy debate for people pulling every facet of this character’s personality apart but you can’t blame them. Would Harrison Ford have had the career he had if it wasn’t for Raiders? Or would he have faded away like his co-stars in a galaxy far far away?

Does Raiders of the Lost Ark have the best character introduction of all time? The opening of the film tells you everything you need to know about the character of Indiana Jones, as well as having the hairs stand up on your back. Just that boulder alone permeates our culture. Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those movies which everyone has seen, even those who haven’t seen it. So many frames in the film are ingrained into the subconscious of film buffs and the general public alike. I feel what makes a film moment iconic is when you’re pondering to yourself as you watch it of ways it could be parodied of spoofed; there’s no shortage of that in Raiders.

The action scenes, on the other hand, are unparalleled, full of clever solutions to “how are they going to get out of that moments” such as Indy climbing his way through the bottom of a moving truck. Nazis are the ultimate cinematic bad guys and this was even more poignant in 1981 than today when survivors of the Second World War were still alive. The movie captures and emphasises the fear of Nazis and their quest for world domination; “The army which carries the ark before it…is invincible”.

There are shots in Cairo in Raiders which feel very Lawrence of Arabia and I’m not talking about the grand landscape shots. Likewise, in Lawrence of Arabia, there are moments which I could swear could have been a shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark. As for the music, I can remember listening to John Williams’ The Raider’s March when I was younger simply to lift my mood and inspire me. Likewise, the Ark theme feels like a piece of music not of this Earth.

The genius behind Raiders of the Lost Ark is the same stroke of genius which made Star Wars so great; I believe it’s all to do with simplicity. They took such a simple B-movie level concept and glorified and made it larger than life. Spielberg and Lucas did it first and better than anyone has since and that’s why these movies have such a widespread appeal and endure the way they do.

Advertisements

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Now That’s What I Call Archaeology!

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade takes everything that made Raiders of the Lost Ark great, to begin with and builds on top of that. Last Crusade is unquestionably my favourite of the series, the main reason for this being the role of Sean Connery as Indy’s father Henry Jones Sr which I consider to be one of the greatest casting choices ever. This casting was largely due to James Bond being one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones although oddly enough despite my love of Indiana Jones I’ve never been keen on the James Bond films. There’s something about father-son stories that I’ve always had a particular affection for and the relationship between Indy and his father is so difficult to put into words how in-depth it is. They don’t get along despite being so much alike, at heart they are both being giddy schoolboys. Their scenes together are so melancholic and full of complex emotions which humanises the character of Indiana Jones. I really do think this may be the greatest pairing of two actors ever.

This ties in with the other aspect which elevates The Last Crusade, just how thematic it is. The search for the bond between father and son ends up becoming more important than the search for the grail; I always remember Henry Jones’ words of “Let it go” as legitimate life advice. The score by John Williams is not only one of his best but one of his most moving, perfectly capturing the melancholic and deep thematic nature of the film. I regularly listen to the movie’s soundtrack in moments of personal reflection, it’s that powerful.

The Last Crusade is also a comedy classic in its own right from the North by Northwest type moments (“No ticket!”) to more slapstick-oriented gags. The Forest Gump type moment in which Indy inadvertently confronts Hitler face to face is brilliant on so many levels. It works the same way the clothes hanger scene from Raiders did. I also love that Marcus gets to go along on the adventure, revealing that he’s a clumsy fool who once got lost in his museum. His line “The pen is mightier than the sword” always cracks me up with the manner in which he delivers it in an English gentlemanly way, or Indy Sr’s uttering of “Junior!”; music to my ears. Indy Jr, Indy Sr, Sallah and Marcus are simply the most fun group of characters.

If I was the make a list of my favourite action scenes in film, I swear my list would be dominated by scenes from the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Last Crusade was one of the last blockbusters to have such extensive use of practical effects, you know, before CGI had to go and ruin everything. Also, does anyone else think Donavan looks like Doc Brown after drinking from the wrong cup?

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of those rare movies which gives me everything I could ask for a movie. Like the filmmakers specifically made it just for me, encapsulating everything I love about cinema.