Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) perfected the adventure movie and broke new ground on the relic hunting culture we see on our screens today. Let’s face it: Without Raiders, there would be no Dora the Explorer, National Treasure, Nathan Drake, or even Animal Crossing!
The hunt for the holy relic is in our blood, and no gigantic rolling boulder, legion of Nazis, or pit of snakes are going to stop our legendary hero, Indian Jones.
After probably my dozenth viewing of this action-packed classic, I am still in awe at not just the tangible filmmaking effects, pyrotechnics, and actual stunt work (no CGI in 1981), but also John Williams’ complementary film score.
This is Director Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, no doubt, but the correlation between melodic theme and characters (the leitmotif) is just as exciting as the action, and Williams deserves all the credit. Heck, even The Ark gets a theme, and when it is first seen in a dusty textbook at the Marshall College lecture hall, the music becomes hauntingly cerebral, foreshadowing doom and gloom for poor professor Jones.
Burly, dusty-mugged Harrison Ford is fantastic in the first of the what is to be a 5-movie series. His straightforward reaction in the infamous Sword vs. Gun scene is just as priceless as his “No ticket” response in “The Last Crusade.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark is Spielberg’s ode to his favorite movie, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), with the additional touch of a B-movie blockbuster. (“B-movie” was actually his intention.) Spielberg and producer George Lucas ended up creating an adventure movie travelogue for dozens of movies, television shows, and video games to follow. Arrow-spray booby traps, Luftwaffe aircraft explosions, and a non-stop car chase continue to flood our memories and hold their place in Hollywood lore.
For me today, it’s all about John Williams’ music, which acts like a second character and further intensifies the archeological hunt. With leitmotifs attached to clues, we hear just as much adventure as we see. And, yes, what we see is a bit dated when compared to the overabundance of CGI in today’s movies. But, when Indiana Jones is your protagonist with a built-in musical theme most moviegoers recognize, this quickly becomes more about the adventure than the special effects.
Thank you for reading and keep watching those movies!