Not Rated. For the most part, the movie is pretty innocent. There is some mature content, but that's just talk about dark times in the boys' lives. Also, the actual Raiders of the Lost Ark movie has some questionable moments.
DIRECTORS: Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen
It's a documentary about a bunch of guys getting really passionate about movie making. This should be my film bible. This should be the movie I watch when I feel down in the dumps and despondent about the state of filmmaking today. If I nailed down all of the elements that would make a documentary with the intention of inspiring me to do better with my life, this should be it. So...why isn't it?
I suppose I'm going into light spoilers about this documentary, but the movie lies in the premise. Three best friends in traditional '80s best friend style decided to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark. That shouldn't seem crazy. We tried remaking Goldfinger in a weekend. I'm sure that other kids with a camcorder have tried remaking their favorite films. The big difference between their movie and ours (okay, there's probably a lot of differences between their movie and ours) is that they decided to go shot-for-shot with their remake, without the benefit of having a way to rewatch the movie. This is the pre-VHS era, so they boys had to reconstruct this whole major blockbuster movie using things found around the neighborhood from memory. See, now I'm jazzed to watch this movie again, even though I know that it didn't really hit all of the buttons it was supposed to hit. See, there is one problem to the movie and this unravels the whole thing: they didn't finish the movie. There is one shot that is beyond filming for kids in the '80s and that was the airplane sequence involving the big, bald, shirtless Nazi. So as adults, the guys decided to come together and film such a massive scene to outdo other fan films. I have problems with this.
Watch Son of Rambow. That movie rocks. I have to disclose that this movie is fictional. I'll also throw Be Kind, Rewind into that film festival. Both movies focus around guerrilla filmmaking in an idealized world where people are full of heart and know the meaning of sacrifice and art. Oh, there's that new movie about the release of Star Wars? Same deal. When it comes to this happening in reality, it somewhat comes across as a little sad. I love all of the kid stuff. I'll talk about that hopefully at length in a minute. It's the adults who are throwing tons of money at a screen that might be more telling about the nature of filmmaking today that disheartens me. I honestly doubt that the filmmakers were going for that, but half of the movie surrounds three very privileged individuals --Chris, Eric, and Jayson -- and how they can abandon their lives and their families' futures to film a scene for their own gratification. I'm always a big fan of the "following your dreams" route, but this almost just seems selfish. The world doesn't need the scene to be perfect. Eric is a perfectionist, which I totally relate to. Sure, he doesn't wear shoes when it would be perfectly reasonable to ask him to do so, but he knows what he wants and he is going to pursue it come Hell or high water. The thing is that the movie making was about their friends coming together and to do something that linked them forever together. When their friendship started to dissolve, Eric should have realized that this was more about what they could do with Jayson and Chris versus making the same mistakes that they had done as children. The first time that they filmed the movie, it became "not-fun" because of the fact that it became a chore. When things started going badly in the present, it also looked really not fun. Sure, the scene was accurate. In fact, it was scary accurate. (I admit that I enjoyed how much attention to detail was put in the remaking of that scene.) But what is the point. They almost blew a guy up for this and spent ungodly amounts of someone's money to make a scene work. This was a Make a Wish Foundation for rich guys with few problems.
So the present sucks. I'd like to think that the old me exists somewhere today, despite the fact that I hate him and I know he has a dumb haircut. (Maybe I WILL see that therapist.) But their childhood was pretty great. Part of the snobby version of me would like to think that they picked a more obscure film to make their favorite film, but that's because I walk around with my nose in the air despite the fact that I think that Raiders of the Lost Ark was absolutely great. But that is the story that is interesting. What kind of freedom were these kids granted? Honestly, they set each other on fire. Watch the original film! Those stuntmen are doing absolutely crazy things in that movie. If you saw Harrison Ford actually doing those stunts, it would make major news. I remember watching the last entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise and seeing Tom Cruise actually strapped to the side of an airplane and it blew my mind. That was at least months of training alongside a whole stunt team with rigs and harnesses. Just think back on the original Raiders and your mind kind of melts thinking about the things they did. The drag under the car scene? Yup. That kid should be dead, but thankfully he's not or this documentary would be a real bummer. Considering that I watched this movie on Netflix, I'm a little bummed that I couldn't just watch their version of Raiders. But their weird wacky childhood didn't end where our Goldfinger did, mercifully forgotten at someone's house never to be seen again. Instead, the movie eventually got passed onto some major Hollywood directors (okay, Eli Roth...) before becoming an underground classic and meandering into the hands of Steven Spielberg. I do wish that there was a map sequence showing the movement of the tape, but that might have been a little too on the nose.
The movie does have a little heart to it though. The boys were growing up on screen and friendships at that age don't always last. I already discussed Eric's perfectionism when it came to making the movie perfect. A third of the trio, Jayson, is socially uncomfortable to say the least. But he was also the smartest of the three on the set. He loved Fangoria influenced special effects and knew how to make them on the cheap. Jayson might have been the secret weapon on this movie, but I got the vibe that he was bullied and treated differently because of his awkwardness. Also, many of Jayson's plans were way more practical, but would have pulled away from Eric's epic vision of doing it the exact same way as Spielberg did however many years ago. That idea hasn't really changed as the guys grew up. Quite the opposite, unfortunately, because it seems like Jayson had some hindsight about the whole film project. He seems very bitter about how things went down and is weirdly the most forgiving of the group. But they treated him the same way as before. When coming up with the model solution for the film scene when the weather wouldn't cooperate, the boys once again ignored him. Eric was portrayed as noble for risking his career for a shoot that mattered not one bit and Jayson was again ignored. Then there is the sadness of Chris's drug addiction and the movie really becomes a bummer at a point. I also have to mention again that Eric nearly got a guy killed on set. (But part of me questions whether that was staged because what are the odds?)
I found it really weird that Spielberg himself doesn't really play a part in the documentary. He is involved in the story and I know that this documentary had to have had his blessing. Even weirder, John Williams's iconic theme doesn't make an appearance. LucasFilm released footage of the movie, but the actual Raiders theme doesn't appear, even when people talk about how important that music actually is. Even worse, the filmmakers decided to use a very weak soundalike and that made me even more sad.
There's some fun to be had with this movie. But my brain got too involved. They guys kind of seem unlikable now. Eric wears Indiana Jones themed tee-shirts all day and seems super-dee-duper serious. Chris partied hard and didn't really develop the personality that seemed super interesting. Jayson made me nearly shut off the movie a few times with his awkwardness. And none of this really needed to happen. Yeah, the reshoot drives the narrative for the documentary, but I don't care at a certain point. The scene is cool, but who cares?
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.