Conceived by Star Wars creator George Lucas and Phillip Kauffman, and brought to the screen by writer Lawrence Kasdan and director Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a fun, action packed adventure film that features suspense, romance, courageous heroes and dastardly villains.
Along with Lucas’ Star Wars and Spielberg’s Jaws, the cultural impact of Raiders of the Lost Ark is huge. It is a movie that can be enjoyed by all and –along with the Star Wars movies - a rite of passage for young viewers.
Set in the 1930’s, Raiders of the Lost Ark stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Indiana Jones, a professor of archaeology and expert of the occult, who is tapped by the U.S. Government to find the lost Ark of the Covenant – a chest that contains the Ten Commandments – before the Nazi party does ,thus giving Hitler unspeakable power.
Travelling to Egypt and infiltrating an archaeological dig sponsored by the Nazi’s, Dr. Jones is joined by his estranged love Marion (Karen Allen), and old friend Sallah (John Rhys Davis), who must help him find the ark and transfer it to the United States. All the while, Dr. Jones must contend with French archaeologist Dr. Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman), who has his own aspirations of using the Ark for world domination.
Essentially a b-grade movie premise created with a big budget, Raiders of the Lost Ark still remains one of Spielberg’s best and influential directorial achievements, successfully bringing Lucas’ vision to life with an array of impressive set pieces, the clever use of props such as spiders, snakes, booby traps and skeletons, and a momentous, rousing score by John Williams.
It has withstood the test of time extremely well, it’s old school effects easily matching up to today’s high tech CGI standards. But more than anything else it is a fun, entertaining piece of cinema.
Harrison Ford, who although not the first choice for Indiana (Nick Nolte and Tom Selleck both turned down the role), gives proof that there are some roles some actors were born to play.
With cowboy hat, leather jacket and bullwhip in tow, Ford plays the adventurer with equal doses humour and heroism. Ford has described Indiana Jones as someone who “is always getting in way over his head and just barely getting out by the skin of his teeth.” He is basically making it up as he goes along. He is not a hero out to save the world, but an archaeologist who loves his job and is more than willing to risk his neck to save these important relics not for fame or money, but for their historic value. It is an admirable and affective quality that wins the audience over instantly.
Karen Allen gives much spunk to her character Marion, a woman who is far from the stereotypical damsel in distress usually associated in these films, John Rhys Davis gives a good performance as the warm and affectionate Sallah, and Paul Freeman is wonderfully slimy as the sleazy Belloq.
The choice of Nazi’s as the bad guys works very well. Of course none of their extreme politics are mentioned within the film (it would just be way to out of place), yet they are still very effective with their power hungry, sadistic sensibilities the perfect villainous fodder.