I’m not one to rewatch movies too often — it’s simply not in my nature and I am still relatively young in my film affinity. That means there are still so many great titles to see and discover. But Raiders is one of the special films that I would gladly make room for every year at a couple times. Most of it has probably been said before, but to put it simply Spielberg’s collaboration with George Lucas is one of the greatest adventures put to film pure and simple. It takes inspiration from old action serials and there is something inherently classic about Indiana Jones and the world he inhabits. It is 1936, after all, and the perfect evil force in the Nazis is on the rise.
Raiders begins with an opening gambit that could standalone by itself with its introduction of Indy (Harrison Ford) as he tries to recover an ancient artifact. He dodges traps and outruns a boulder only to be thwarted by his old nemesis Belloq (Paul Freeman). That’s followed by one of the great cinematic panoramas as he makes a mad dance to his getaway plane where Jacques and his friendly pet snake Reggie are waiting. We don’t need much explanation because it just works.
From then on we get a little more about Dr. Jones’s background as a professor in archaeology who is enlisted by two government men to impede the Nazis. Their goal is to recover the Ark of the Covenant because its supposed power would make their military might unstoppable. But most of us undoubtedly know that. Indy ends up tracking down the daughter of an old mentor who also happens to be his former flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). They’ve got something still burning because although it is extremely volatile, you can see they still secretly care for each other. After they are paid a visit by the Nazis, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) acts as their host and loyal guide in Cairo. That doesn’t stop Marion from getting kidnapped or Indy almost getting killed more than once. One of these times involved an iconic duel between a sword and a revolver (certainly not a fair fight).
In fact, Raiders is made up of many of these memorable sequences that add up to something greater than their parts. It’s a full story surely, but it is built up from these varying vignettes. Indy gets thrown into a pit of snakes with Marion by his side. He nearly gets his head taken off by a chopper blade (you should have seen the other guy), and finally, he begins a high-speed chase for the ark on the back of a noble white steed. It gives him time to pull a few stunts on a truck as he whittles down the opposition single-handedly. The audience even gets an obligatory Wilhelm Scream once or twice.
What it all comes down to is tracking the Nazis to their island lair where they hope to test the great powers of the Ark. I’m not sure how biblical it all is, but it seems more like a Pandora’s box because far more trouble than good comes out of it when opened. But in his infinite wisdom Indy and Marion don’t do anything except keep their eyes shut. They’re tied up after all. And that’s how the raiders were stopped and Indy completed his treasure hunt. The Ark is in the hands of the government and they file it away with numerous other very important and highly secret artifacts. The perfect ending to a film that has humor, melodrama, supernatural power, and a good old-fashioned tale of good vs. evil.
It’s crazy to think that Tom Sellick was almost Indy if it were not for his commitment to Magnum P.I. Because Harrison Ford, despite his many iconic roles, will forever be Indiana Jones, thanks to that hat, that whip, and that revolver. He’s an awesome adventurer-professor type. You don’t see that every day.