Raiders of the Lost Ark, as a movie, never really “clicked” for me. Then, to mark the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on DVD, it was given a cinematic screening. Being minus four years of age at the time of its release I, of course, had never seen it that way. It was the right decision, because suddenly I realise that it is, in fact, a very good movie. It’s very different to the sorts of movies I’m used to (but what does that even mean? What sorts of movies am I “used to”?), but it hit the spot right on.
As part of the screening (rather inexplicably, I guess, but I suppose it justified the occasion), an extra from the Crystal Skull was screened, showing the genesis of Jones and specifically the origins of the latest movie itself. When George Lucas was talking about aliens, the person behind me seriously yelled “fail!” at the screen. This is why I’m glad channers pirate; it keeps them out of my cinemas.
The extra was fun, though, and it did suggest that George Lucas is at least a little bit crazy. At one point the movie was called “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men”, for instance. Steven Spielberg was never sold on the idea of aliens; pretty much no one interviewed for the film was very keen on the idea. Spielberg even (presumably in 1995) told Lucas that the success of Independence Day would make the Indy alien idea seem too derivative. He also said that, in ID4, Roland Emmerich had made a great movie that had everything, so … by that logic, I figure, no further Godzilla features shoiuld have been produced.
The highlight really was the part where Lucas came back to Spielberg and said “how about, instead of aliens, we have, like … extradimensional beings?” Spielberg asked Lucas what they looked like, and he replied “aliens”.
I still don’t understand why so many people hate Crystal Skull, although, in retrospect, it doesn’t compare at all to Raiders, but it shows that good things can still happen in this world.
To the movie itself: I know that in this day and age, some people hate going to the cinema and instead either download movies or wait for them to come out on DVD (or, and these are the people I dislike most, they buy pirated copies. If you’re going to get a movie in a dodgy fashion, why are you paying devils for them?), but the fact is that it’s simply not the same as seeing something on the big screen. I got the distinct impression at Raiders of the Lost Ark that I was finally seeing it the way that it was meant to be seen. This, of course, doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you “get thee to a movery!” because you really can’t see every movie ever made in a large, dark room filled with strangers.
There’s just something about this movie that is so inherently right, and so much of it that I simply hadn’t noticed before (and some of that so obvious that I must have been concussed in previous viewings). From the moment that Indy picks up the goatse idol and is betrayed by Doctor Octopus, who almost immediately suffers the consequence, the action very rarely stops. The exposition manages to be interesting through Indy’s sheer enthusiasm for adventure (in stark contrast to his rather tedious lectures, which appear to be attended by smitten co-eds) and the Fed’s frank incredulity. Marion is an excellent combination of feisty, headstrong woman and damsel in distress (frankly, piggish Nazis are pretty distressing), and even the most throwaway of lines are funny (“Hahaha … Son of a bitch…“). Basically the movie and the victors keep jumping all over the place but they make perfect logical sense while doing so, even if the Nazis aren’t quite smart enough to pick up on Indy’s style of swerve driving. The man can hitch a ride on a submarine! He can therefore conceivably do anything.
After the movie concluded (and that final shot is actually really grandiose, even today, and far and away above the Area 51 scene in Crystal Skull [which you have to concede for reasons of practicality]), Karen Allen came out to talk for a good half hour or so. She mentioned that it took her years after the film was released to realise that Marion wakes up on the ship without her nightgown on, suggesting that something must have happened between her and Indy despite the previous scene ending with him going to sleep. She suggested that this may well have been Mutt’s conception, but that’s clearly more of a WWII thing.
She told the audience of terrible conditions in Tunisia and the Sahara, with Spielberg the only person on staff who didn’t get terribly ill during the production – and that this illness led directly to Indy shooting the scimitar wielder. Basically she came across as a really nice woman, who was unhappy with the Belloq and Marion tent scene to the point that she and Paul Freeman got together and workshopped the drinking contest that we see in the finished piece – it may have been hard, but it may also have been the time of her life. It makes me reflect how different the Star Wars, Blade Runner and Indiana Jones properties are to Harrison Ford’s more Amish entries in the cinematic pantheon.
Raiders of the Lost Ark finally proved itself to be a movie of pleasures both small and large. I’ll look on it next time much more warmly, but not to the point that my face melts.