The hunt is on! Hitler and his nazi army are in search of the ultimate weapon, the Ark of the Covenant, the tomb of the Ten Commandments. The world’s only hope is the greatest adventurer and archeologist Indiana Jones. A man whose faced peril and danger before Dr. Jones must travel the world to discover the Ark before the nazi’s can use it against mankind. His journey will pit him against thugs, thieves, snakes, demons, and pirates. And he’ll have to use all his wits to stay one step ahead and save the world.
The name’s Jones, Indiana Jones. Back in 1980 Steven Spielberg was originally in talks with James Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli to direct the newest James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only.” While on vacation in Hawaii with his friend George Lucas, who was recovering from filming “The Empire Strikes Back,” Lucas convinced Spielberg to forget James Bond as he had a better idea. The two directors were making sand castles on the beach as Lucas laid out the idea of an adventurous archeologist.
Like Star Wars, Lucas gained inspiration for Indiana Jones from 1930’s serials he used to watch as a child. Another unlikely source for Indiana Jones was Scrooge McDuck comics which both directors used to read. In fact, the famous opening sequence with golden idol and giant rolling ball was borrowed straight from these Disney comics. Although Raiders is considered one of the greatest films of all time, it is really nothing more than a well made B movie.
In interviews, Spielberg has gone so far as to claim he only ever thought he was making a B movie. So what makes this B movie stand out? If you were to judge a film by its story alone than most of the classics would be considered B movies, a killer alien hunting down a space ship crew, mythical creatures destroying a ring of evil, robots hunting kung-fu humans in a computer program, a roman soldier defeating the emperor, and any number of people who dress up in costumes to fight evil.
Spielberg’s own previous film was about a killer fish, but Lucas and Spielberg took themselves seriously. They took a chance in creating an impossible story and didn’t take the time to explain giant rolling balls, snake pits, or an archeologist taking on a nazi army. They didn’t have to, it was fun. Despite all this no film studio wanted to make this film thinking it would bomb. It took both men (who came from recent critical and box-office success) much pleading and persuasion before Paramount studios picked up the film.
A film never usually runs as smoothly as the audience thinks. We can enjoy the final product and grin every time Harrison Ford cracks a whip or picks up his hat at the last minute, but most people probably won’t know Harrison Ford was only a last minute addition. Originally George Lucas wanted Tom Selleck as Jones, but he wouldn’t be available because of his television contract on “Magnum P.I.” Lucas actually wanted to avoid working with Ford because he had just made “American Graffiti” and “Star Wars” with the actor. Spielberg was in favour of Ford, but also considered Nick Nolte as the star. In the end probably because of convenience Harrison Ford won out. In a few short years Ford became one of the biggest names in movies staring in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” while in the middle of “Star Wars” franchise, and having just started filming “Blade Runner.” Along with Harrison Ford is the now famous character actor John Rhys-Davies playing Sallah. If the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell he would be recognized as Gimli son of Gloin from Lord of the Rings.
For this film especially, the music deserves a mention. Composed by John Williams who was basically in the middle of scoring “Star Wars” he again created one of the most memorable scores. It only takes about three notes till everyone recognizes the Indiana Jones theme. Indiana Jones was made at a time when a dream team of Williams, Lucas, and Spielberg were all at the top of their game crafting films that still resonate with audiences today. At the end of the day Raiders of the Lost Ark has become one of the great films while also creating one of the great characters, even to rival James Bond, Indiana Jones. It did so because unlike intellectual movies about abstract pretentious ideas, Raiders gives the audience what it wants: adventure. The hero gets the girl in the end, fights armies of bad guys single handed, and every once in a while you get the sense the Spielberg and Lucas are winking at the camera letting us know they are having fun too. Its absurd to watch an archeologist chase after a nazi convoy on a horse and steal the Ark of the Covenant, but its exciting every time to watch Indiana Jones trail behind a truck on his whip. And even though Spielberg thought he was making a B movie he put in all his effort filming memorable artistic scenes. One of the best shots in the entire film is watching Indiana Jones and a digging team search for the Ark against a deep red sunset backdrop.
Up in a month is the latest addition to the Indiana Jones saga with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Will this new movie be able to live up to the original, and will it live up to all the media hype that is sure to follow? As long as the filmmakers put the same fun and energy that they did with the first three it should be a great adventure movie just in time for the summer.