Whipping his way into pop culture references for decades to come, Harrison Ford and the contempt he displays for big-budget projects is wonderful. His disdain for Star Wars and his seemingly resigned approach to anything which obsessives bring themselves to define him with is legendary. But so too are the roles which do, for the broad viewers out there who recognise him through his works, make him a household name. A double-edged sword then is Raiders of the Lost Ark, a wonderful feature dipped deeply in nostalgia but standing up on its own without it. Great adventure movies are no more. The genre died its death after it transitioned from eventful, family-friendly but dangerous action to the gorgeous animations of the late 1990s to the inevitable, slow death through Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Dominating not because it is iconic but because the film is of rare and wonderful quality, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a feature which can be replayed beat for beat after a few viewings. Such is the life of a legendary feature, one seeped in well-earned praise. Natural little elements made this a household favourite, the little details which are poured over time and time again as soon as the film begins rolling. A film discussed to the point of no return, with every frame a painting and all that good stuff. Sometimes experiencing stuff in LEGO form first is the best way to go. Beyond the consistent chokehold Indiana Jones as a series has on its viewers, and on its generations of fans, it is probably one of the few to deserve it and consistently so. Confident swaggers through South American climates do not so much introduce Indiana Jones as it does the back of him.
Little details like this feel forgotten now. Heart and character are still found lingering right in front of viewers, and all it takes is a few months of absence from Raiders of the Lost Ark to really appreciate it all over again. It sets a standard, through sharp writing carried well by a boisterous Ford and an excellent Karen Allen, another championing of bold and courageous action heroes which was found in all the finest works of the 1970s and 1980s. What comes clear through Steven Spielberg’s direction is a desire to make his character destructible. Danger feels raw and real, the villains exploitative and a clear evil with goals broader than ever envisioned.
All of it comes together nicely and there is a sense of nostalgia talking for moments such as this. But how can Raiders of the Lost Ark be viewed any differently? It is a capturing of a time and a culture despite being sixty years before those joys took hold. Action at every turn and truly contemptible characters, the great Paul Freeman and Ronald Lacy are on hand to expose the surprise tribalism and commerce of archaeology. Who would’ve thought history, or those who choose to study it, could be so violent? People who took an A-Level in history are wise to those tortures, how desperate everyone is to steal some gold and make do with it for a cushy job teaching or displaying artefacts. Who can blame Dr Jones, the worldwide grifter? Spielberg grasps the tone, Ford brings it to life, and an incredible pairing is formed with great intricacies which capture culture, companionship and the real thrill of excitement in movies.