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Raiders of the Lost Ark Sucks / Rocks
© RevolutionSF
May 21, 2008

RevolutionSF re-watches Raiders of the Lost Ark. Is it excellent? That depends on how reasonable we're all willing to be. In other words, we give it both the idol and the whip.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Sucks

“Ha. See you tomorrow, Indiana Jones." Not sure exactly why, but even as a kid, Karen Allen’s delivery of this line struck me as cringe-inducingly cheesy. RevSF movie editor Jason Myers

Cartoon villains. Not every soldier in the German army tied virgins to train tracks and stole rent money from widows and orphans. -- staff writer Deanna Toxopeus

Marion Ravenwood’s fighting style. When Marion and Indy are first attacked in the streets of Cairo, Indiana throws punches, while in the background, Marion picks up what looks and sounds like an oversized lunch box and hits her attackers with it. In spite of the best efforts of the stuntmen, her swings seem utterly incapably of incapacitating anyone. What’s worse, it looks as if she isn’t even trying. You can actually see the moment the stuntman falls lower than the actress is expecting, and she delivers a hesitant and glancing blow to his elbow.

Following so close after this, it’s hard to believe that Marion has the stuff to lay out a thug with one swing of a frying pan.

While we’re on the subject, if she runs from him because she has a frying pan and he has a knife, then why, after he’s unconscious, does she keep the frying pan instead of taking his knife? -- Jason Myers

Monkey Murder Did they really have to kill the monkey? -- Deanna Toxopeus

Indiana’s feats of strength. He and Sallah, on their own, lift a huge stone slab. Not slide. Lift. Later, it takes him all of 15 seconds to topple a 40-foot snake-god statue with his mighty leg muscles. He’s an archeologist, not Conan the Barbarian. -- Jason Myers

Snakes in the tomb. How did they survive all those thousands of years? Wouldn't they be dead by the time Indy and Marion got tossed in there? What's a cobra doing in Egypt? -- Deanna Toxopeus

Raiders of the Lost Ark Rocks

Indiana Jones in silhouette. Watch the opening frames, when the man walks forward and puts his hands on his hips, that knapsack and whip hanging from his side, the fedora on his head. He’s a legend, a man of mystery, a trademarked icon, and it’s only been 15 seconds since the movie started.

Then he’s on the screen for three minutes before you even see his face. Raiders is defined by Indy’s silhouette: his shadow on the wall in Marion Ravenwood’s bar, the fiery Egyptian sunset framing him when he puts on his fedora during the dig for The Ark, and his outline in a tent as he wipes blood from his chin. -- Jason Myers

Master class in pacing. Action. Break. Action. Break. Action. Break. Filmmakers of today should take note. -- Deanna Toxopeus

The music. The best movie music. It tells you everything you need to know, and fires you up, because, man, it's Indiana Jones. Star Wars doesn't do that, and Superman has those little slow bits where they want you to think about flying and Lois Lane. But the Indy theme is all about whipping and fighting and killing. -- senior editor Joe Crowe

John Rhys-Davies as Sallah. From a plot perspective, Rhys-Davies has a thankless job. He’s a sidekick who doesn’t even get to stick around for the climax of the movie. He’s there to be Indy’s local contact and provide plot exposition, but he does it with relish, gravity and humor.

Watch his joy when he says “They’re digging in the wrong place", his hilarious fright-take when they open the resting place of The Ark, and his delivery of “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first." -- Jason Myers

Cutting villains no slack. In lots of movies, bad guys got off easy, by taking some gunshots or getting blown up, but here they they got chewed up by a helicopter blade and were melted by the wrath of God. That'll teach 'em. -- Joe Crowe

Major Toht of the S.S. He’s a sweaty, spectacled, balding toady of the Third Reich. He has no fighting prowess, and he has some sort of breathing problem. But he’s also far and away the most memorable and menacing of all Indiana Jones baddies. There’s that sequence where he takes a chained implement from a black valise, draws it tight, then twists it into a hanger for his overcoat. On repeat viewings, it’s easy to underestimate how well he sells that moment.

My mother remembers that moment in the theater in 1981, thinking “Oh man, I was really enjoying the movie until now." She was genuinely worried that things were about to take a really dark turn into sadistic torture.

Major Toht doesn’t perpetrate a lot of violence in the movie, but the sheer force of his casual intimidation, the leather-gloved threat of violence, is terrible to behold. He’s a man with no conscience, no mercy, no soul, and he loves his work. -- Jason Myers

Shooting the sword guy. The best 30 seconds in any movie. -- Joe Crowe


More time for love, Dr. Jones: Countdown to Indy 4 / Temple of Doom / Last Crusade / Crystal Skull

 
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