For me, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” ranks right up there with the best movies of all time. It’s the perfect blockbuster: Highly entertaining from start to finish, with great, varied action, many memorable moments, lots and lots of ingenuity, one of the best scores of all time, a great sense of fun and adventure, as well as one of the most iconic heroes in cinematic history.
Even though George Lucas was initially reluctant to cast him, because of his role as Han Solo in the “Star Wars”-movies, Harrison Ford proves to be the perfect choice for the lead. His laconic manner, dry sense of humor and exceptional charm fit the character well, and make him very likeable. Plus, despite the fact that he’s fiendishly good looking, he’s believable enough as average man-type of hero– which is one of the things that sets him apart from supermen like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, who reigned through much of the 80s. Indy, however, is just a normal guy, who bleeds, struggles, and gets outwitted. However, he’s also dedicated, persistent, resourceful, and quick on his feet. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” sometimes gets criticized for the fact that in the end, Indiana Jones had no influence on the proceedings. You take him out, and everything ends in exactly the same way. I don’t see that as a flaw, though, not least because of the reason why he ultimately doesn’t succeed: It’s not because he’s incompetent, but because he’s human. He had the chance to destroy the Ark, but ultimately, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Failing, ultimately, is his choice, and not something that just happened to him because he wasn’t equal to the challenge.
I could go on and on about the things that I love about this movie. The great way we’re introduced to Indiana Jones. The Bond-like opening sequence. John Williams’ unforgettable music. The nice setup of an archaeologist fighting against Nazis. The great costume and iconic choice of weapon/tool, the whip. The great characters, especially Marion (who definitely isn’t your typical damsel-in-distress), as well as the wonderful performances from all the actresses and actors involved. The varied and imaginative action scenes. So many great ideas (like the slow dissolve of the Paramount logo to an actual mountain, to name just one tiny example) that show how much deliberation and diligence went into the movie. The sheer amount of memorable moments, like the bowl, or Indy simply shooting the swashbuckler. Steven Spielberg’s great direction, as well as the exceptional camera work by Douglas Slocombe, who give us some beautiful images (like Indy’s shadow on the wall at Marion’s bar, or the sunset-shot at the dig). The big, lavish sets and art direction. The great location work and the impressive amount of extras. And, most of all, the sense of fun and adventure that the entire movie exudes from start to finish. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a cinematic treasure that, even 35 years on, has lost nothing of its sparkle.