June 12, 2017
“Just when you thought it was safe to dig in the desert…”
From the makers of Jaws came a very good, very important film on this day in 1981. “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” was a premier action movie. Starring Harrison Ford as the title character, Indiana Jones, it was a wonderful action movie that helped kick off a decade that was almost defined by its action movies.
Just as things are getting going in the movie, we are introduced to a woman from Indiana Jones’ past: Marion, played by Karen Allen. Marion is a very capable woman who can keep pace with Indiana Jones. If one thinks about it, this should not be surprising in the least. One would imagine that being in proximity to Indiana Jones would inspire self-confidence and self-reliance. After all, Indiana Jones is not a classic hero. He does not move mountains. Rather, he is an intellectual. His day job is not that of bodybuilder or secret agent. What does he do to earn a living? He is a college professor, teaching archeology. Very occasionally, he goes out in the field and brings an ancient relic back home. Is he capable? Oh yes, he’s very capable.
How do we see Indiana Jones at the beginning of this movie? Not only is he out in the field, looking for a relic, but he is in a dangerous location, somewhere near the Amazon. After some build-up, we see him in full action-hero mode, running and jumping. The whole beginning sequence has been borrowed, parodied, and otherwise appreciated many times since it was filmed. It is a great way to start a movie. In-depth character-building can wait. Hook the audience on spiders, cave-ins, and poison darts!
The plot has probably been more heavily analyzed than most science experiments. Of course, I must mention the fight that defined the attitude of Indiana Jones as a practical, intelligent man. On the day that Indiana Jones was to film a sword fight with a master swordsman, poor Harrison Ford was sick. So the fight was abreviated in a way that spoke more about the character in a few short seconds than long, exciting minutes of swordplay. It not only explained the character, but reminded the audience that, yes, this man is not only an action hero, but also intelligent. The subtlety of this action-packed character development has rarely been matched, and remains a classic scene.
Once again, the German nazis were made the bad guys. They are easy to make bad guys. In this case, we are introduced to at least a few very capable nazi antagonists. Their shortcoming was in allowing Indiana Jones to out-think them. Sometimes, all it takes to defeat one’s enemies is to know something they don’t, or to believe something they don’t. The airfield strongman would make a “reappearance” in the “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” computer game. The hero must out-think his opponent when he cannot out-punch him.
For gore hounds, this movie contains some surprising gore effects towards the end, making the movie a bit strong for a PG rating. It surprised more than a few kids in the theater! It is one more classic scene in a movie that was filled with classic scenes.
Two swords up!