Movie Review #32 / 250 : ‘INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’

You already have the song in your head.  Don’t even deny it.  You can already see the enormous boulder running down the hill, Harrison Ford flinching at snakes, and Alfred ‘Doc Ock’ Molina being impaled by arrows.  Spoilers?  Nah.  That last one happens in the first ten minutes… and if you can’t see it coming, you need to watch more films.  And that’s coming from me.

It turns out, just about everyone bar yours truly has seen the first Indy flick, though I’m not entirely free from having witnessed the world’s most indestructible archaeologis – I saw The Last Crusade a few years back and can’t remember much about it barring Sean Connery and some dodgy goblet of some sort.  But, hey.  I didn’t care much for films back then.  Twas a different time.  Raiders of the Lost Ark is the original, and apparently best film in the quadrilogy (with the most recent offering, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, being the least popular – at least according to word of mouth and IMDB review, which, obviously, equal truth).

Harrison Ford, Han Solo, is a passionate and almost-fearless archaeologist and historian, who’s never slow to jumping off cars, running through dart-firing corridor, nor beating up a couple of Nazi sympathisers twice his size – all in the name of rescuing a precious artefact for the good of the museum trade.  I say good on him for treasuring the arts (NO PUN INTENDED).  This particular escapade sees Jonesy disposed to seek the fabled Ark of The Covenant, a long-buried artefact that is said to wield godly, immortal powers to its bearer.  However, there’s another bunch of folks after the Ark – a sleazy French treasure hunter by the name of Bellog, and… the Nazis.  It’s the 1930s, and Hitler has decided that he wants the promised immortality of the Ark for himself.  Because, you know, he’s a monster.  But I didn’t need to tell you that.

So, naturally, a chase ensues – between Jones and the ransom Nazis / Bellog, traipsing across the world trying to trip the other up along the way.  This is an adventure story at its most basic, and therefore at its most thrilling.  The plot is basic, well-paced, and full of very few diversions.  At only 140 mins long, it’s not a long slog (hey, it’s for kids too, y’know).  Fairly enough, some of the twists and turns are predictable and long-since-outdone, but this kind of high-budget-swing-about-and-kick-folk-about melee is still rare to behold.  You’ll still get half-baked stool calling itself an action flick winging direct to DVD (or XxX*), but you’ll rarely get an all-out adventure with the brains behind it – which is exactly what this first Indy is.

The acting doesn’t need to be particularly snazzy – there’s enough backstory, lavish scenery and all-out-action to shade a few dodgy lines (and by god, there’s a couple).  It struck me halfway through watching that Indy himself isn’t much of a talker, not much of a quirk – he just cares about history and he’ll fight to the death just to get his hands on a shiny nugget.  Compare Indy to Han Solo – same actor, obviously, but Solo is miles more interesting, because he’s flawed.  Jones is a perpetual hero, putting himself on the line, getting the girl and passing off a few mildly life-threatening injuries.  He’s got the presence, and the physique, and everything else – but he’s a bit boring.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  This is not a boring film.  Not in the slightest.  I just find the central protagonist needs a bit more of a personality.  Then again, when he’s busy ducking aeroplane propellers, trying to out-pummel a ransom goon that looks like Soda Popinksi, it’s hard to care about his internal machinations.

Otherwise, what can I say?  Not much, really.  It’s non-stop, high-octane, and it’s got a clever plot at its heart, which is genuinely something to treasure (PUN INTENDED).  I could go into the sheer lack of a female presence, or the fact that the only female with screen time is horribly annoying, but I’d probably never stop talking.  Are you looking for a family-friendly action flick with a great story, lots of wacky Nazis (no scalping) and one of the most iconic musical scores in cinema history?  Get on board.  Oh, wait.  You already have.

PROS: Great story, great stunts, good pacing.

CONS: Weak central character (seriously), some dodgy acting in places.

OVERALL : 8/10.
Easy to see why it’s regarded as such a classic – I think this is the sort of thing I could watch on a loop and I’d struggle to get bored.  There’s a couple of things here and there I think could’ve been done differently, buch it’s such a defiantly fun film that I’d be soulless to give Indy 1 any less than an eight.

*(XxX was awful.  I could talk about it, but I don’t want to.  So there.)

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