PG, because Temple of Doom isn't out yet. That's the story, right? I know that someone is going to call "apocryphal" because I'm posting a secondhand story on the Internet. But Raiders of the Lost Ark is 21st century (not the studio) PG-13. There's some icky stuff I'm going to discuss. But this is some old-timey Fangoria Magazine gore. Like practical effects can get pretty gross when it comes to rotted bodies. Heck, even the doesn't-look-like-Alfred-Molina corpse is still extremely effective. So, technically PG, but I'm not showing my kids this one for a while.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
We had an argument on the podcast about which Indiana Jones movie was the best. People swear by Raiders of the Lost Ark. They say it is a perfect movie. There's even the documentary about the remake that swears by the same thing. I really wanted to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark again to see if it was as good as I remembered. Well, thank goodness for a night class the deemed it necessary to watch it for the first class. That was one think off of my pop culture To-Do list. While Raiders is still an absolutely phenomenal movie that deserves its place in the pantheon of great movies, I'm going to be the unpopular voice to say that it might not have held up nearly as well as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, my favorite in the franchise.
I know that this isn't an interactive blogging experience. I welcome your comments and will try to respond to them, but I'm asking you a favor. If I start dogging this movie, stop me. (That's how how chronology works, thank you!) It really is a phenomenal film that I absolutely love. But time hasn't been kind to all of it. Since it's topical, I want to break down a line that I never really noticed before. I completely misunderstood the Indiana Jones / Marion dynamic. I always read their history as a messy breakup. I put it down as a story of Indy abandoning Marion to live a life of adventure. While there is an element of that, I never heard the line, "I was a child! I was in love!" followed almost immediately by "It was wrong, you knew it!" Indy actually dismisses her in the middle of it by saying, "You knew what you were doing." A Google search took me to an even ickier place. George Lucas wrote it as the initial relationship taking place when Indy was 22 and Marion was 11 or 12. Spielberg put it at 25 and 15, which is still icky but 1920s less gross. (Nope, the more I think about it, still pretty gross.) The boys club then say that 17 or 18 would have been boring and I'm shook. It's such a weird element to add to the movie. Why couldn't Marion still have the same dynamic as a spurned lover. Indy is still a jerk for abandoning the woman he loved for adventure. Or just have him be a cheat. But child molester is super gross. This definitely made the movie way grosser for me. I'm actually mad at myself for never catching that line beforehand. It's even weirder keeping in mind how their relationship ends up continuing in Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. But this also opens doors for things getting politically dated. I think I'm changing my mind on how to view certain movies. I know that everyone seems to be getting upset about everything nowadays, but I might be one of those people who is upset about things in my past. This is the '80s. It's not like we were living in a pre-civil rights America. (Or are we still? Think about it!) There's a lot of weird ethnic choices that might come across as fun. After all, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were inspired by the serial action stories of yesteryear for Indiana Jones. Jones is in the '30s. But that doesn't mean that people actually acted like stereotypes. Also, Alfred Molina and John Rhys-Davies are cast for looking vaguely ethnic.
Okay, that's out of my system. Let's counter the negative stuff with some positive stuff before I go into one of my more controversial complaints about Raiders. (It's a matter of taste versus moral content.) It's so amazing how this character works. This kind of ties into my thoughts on more Indy movies. Bear with me. The original trilogy is very special to me. I actually really like Temple of Doom along with the other two, so I'm one of those guys. But Indiana Jones is a movie with a very specific tone. It takes all of this dark stuff that you normally wouldn't put in an action movie and makes it entertaining. I think Indiana Jones is the reason that people learned it was okay to be scared. A lot of people tell me that they don't like scary stuff; that they don't like to be scared. I never really understood that. Film scares are some of my favorite things in the world. It is this adrenaline rush followed with the instant gratification that you are okay. Even a rollercoaster doesn't offer that. You have to go through the whole rollercoaster along with the inner-ear stuff that 35-year-olds get to get an adrenaline rush and EVEN THEN there's a chance you wouldn't survive. There's nothing really clever about a rollercoaster. I'm not saying that you shouldn't like rollercoasters. I used to love them before they became ways for me to throw up my lunch. But a good scare in a movie is about tricking me. It's a magic trick. All of the elements are set up for a great execution. It's probably why people don't like jump scares that much because they are unearned in comparison. But any of the Indiana Jones movies wouldn't be considered traditional horror movies in any respect. They are adventure / action movies. Yet, Spielberg does this great thing by making me scared for a few seconds every so often and that's great. Like, I'm not showing any of the Indiana Jones movies to my kids right now. But when they pre-teens or teens, that is happening. I won't feel all that bad about showing them something scary. It's not like I sat them down for a horror movie or anything. (Golly, I hope Henry gets a little backbone before that happens because I need to have Indiana Jones bonding time with my kids.) The scares that happen in this one don't really translate as well into Crystal Skull. There's something uncanny valley about the digital stuff in part 4. That ant scene should have crushed, but it did nothing for me. I've seen Raiders at least a dozen times in my life, probably more. I still got pretty jumpy when Alfred Molina gets run through. But contrasting the scary thing, the movie doesn't let you exist in the scary moments. The movie is far from a compilation of scary moments that you are living in horror suspense. Rather, Spielberg makes the movie primarily about a competent (sort of) hero who enjoys navigating these scary moments...minus the snakes. Apparently, he hates snakes.
Now something else negative, and this is something I've held onto as long I've watched the Indiana Jones movies. Raiders drags a little. I KNOW! I KNOW! I hate me too. I don't want to be the guy who says it. I don't mind borign, but I've watched this movie so many times. There are moments that rock in the dragging section, but I genuinely want twenty minutes knocked off of this film. I don't even know where I would do it. There's something that happens to me every time I hit a certain part of the movie. Once they are out of the map room until after the submarine, I find myself getting restless. It might be the fact that there is too much action at one point that I need emotional resonance, but Indy doesn't really have a time to grieve. He drinks for a little bit in the bar after he thinks Marion is killed, but that just throws him back into conflict with Belloq. (I thought it was spelled "Belloc", which explains Sallah's pronounciation of "Bell-osh." Thanks, IMDB.) The thing is that some of my favorite scenes are in the dragging part of the film. Indy pulls the Ark of the Covenant in the Well of the Souls. He does the fight with the airplane (my favorite part of the movie) and gets dragged under a vehicle. I get it. I have no argument except for the fact that I keep checking the time once they get out of the map room. I honestly think that it might be too much time in Egypt or just that I need Indy to grab a good meal and laugh with friends. Heck, this is even the part with Sallah, one of my favorite characters in the franchise. I never really get bored with Last Crusade. Maybe because it gets way less funny during this sequence. Harrison Ford is still pretty great with his treatment of Indy, but a lot of the jokes are earlier in the film. I also don't know why I get invested again. Every time it happens. Indy is holding a rocket launcher and I care all over again. The end is exciting to me, but I don't know why I find one section to drag. Overall, this isn't the worst complaint. I admit that I still like the moments and the scenes. It must be something biological that I can't handle this sequence. You can actively ignore me or you can tell me the same thing happens to you.
But outside of the statutory rape (which I want you to never ignore), Harrison Ford as Indy is super fun. (All I can think of is Carrie Fisher's affair with Ford and how young she was now.) There's something compelling about Indiana Jones. It helps that Harrison Ford was also Han Solo because the best parts of Han Solo are in Indiana Jones. There's the rogue element that he has, despite the fact that he has a very clear moral code and he is part of the establishment. Would Indiana Jones be a rebel archetype? I have to think so. The very nature of tomb raiding has a certain degree of seediness to it, despite the fact that the protagonists that we like who tomb raid are often doing it for noble reasons. But Indy seems to play by his own rules in a way that is extremely entertaining. Indiana Jones doesn't have the best direct characterization until the third movie, but there are so many moments that just speak wonders about the character. That opening sequence sets a tone like no other. Yes, I'm talking about the big rolly ball part. But a lot of that comes from how he takes losing to Belloq. It's weird to think that the hero of this franchise is first introduced losing spectacularly. It's the anti-Bond opening. (Okay, Skyfall would eventually adopt this attitude.) Indiana Jones is shown as savvy, demonstrating the rules of this fictional version of archaeology. Everything is shown in this enhanced universe and he still loses. For all of his skills, he still has to run out of the jungle a buffoon. Then the snakes thing and that's just fun. But then he's completely juxtaposed with his classroom where girls find him dreamy and he just wants to teach about archaeology. Then it goes into action movie fun times. But that's a lot of stuff we learn just by seeing him do it very quickly. It's the rule about "showing not telling" done in master class form.
I don't know if I'll get around to watching Last Crusade any time soon. While I really enjoyed watching Raiders, I'm not in binging mood. I want to watch some more art films and other stuff. I think Indiana Jones might be a once in a blue moon thing. But again, if someone tells me that they want to come over and watch Temple of Doom, I won't even blink an eye. It's just too much fun.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.