Wednesday, May 21, 2008

REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Year: 1981
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies, Ronald Lacey
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA: Rated PG

Raiders of the Lost Ark came out after Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was another bold effort from director Steven Spielberg and one that worked perfectly. When Raiders release, it drew in alot of crowd. People were excited for this film simply because Spielberg was behind the directors chair and many were eager to see what new things he brings to the table. So when the film released in the summer of 1981 its no surprise that it was a box office hit. The film grossed an estimated $384 million worldwide on a budget of only $18 million. It made more than enough to warrant sequels, but Ill talk about that another time. The movie was also was well received by many critics averaging an 80% on rotten tomatoes.

Plot Outline:
It's 1935 and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is a professor of archaeology. Jones is a globe hopper who has a unique talent for acquiring rare artifacts. Jones' talents come to the attention of U.S. Army intelligence, who just happen to require a little assistance. It seems that Hitler and his Nazis have set out to recover the long lost Ark of the Covenant. According to legend the Ark will bring incredible power to those who possess it. To find it first, Jones goes to to Nepal to claim an ancient medallion that is said to point out the location of the Ark. Jones' problem is that his ex-girlfriend, Marion (Karen Allen), has it and she isn't so sure she wants to give it to her heart breaker. This changes when a Nazi named Toht (Ronald Lacey) shows up threatening her for the same medallion. Jones rushes in and temporarily saves the day leading to Marion becoming his partner as they travel to Cairo, the site of the dig, to win the race to the Ark.

The story of Raiders of the Lost Ark is fantastically entertaining. Raiders is almost 27 years old, but that doesn't change the fact that the films story is still a blast to watch even to this day. The movie has a wonderful plot that's filled with twists and action. The movie starts off with an intriguing introduction that shows Indy moving through the jungle with some other people. Don't let this be a problem because a good 6 - 7 minutes into the film, the movie picks up. I couldn't find one person that annoyed me or got in the way of the story. Whats another plus about the movie is that its got very elaborate stunts and traps. This is what Indiana Jones has been know for, the traps. Their all made wonderfully and are very creative. I was amazed on some of the things that go down in this movie. I also thought the ending to Raiders of the Lost Ark was nicely done. I wouldn't go as far as to call it impressive, but it works. Spielberg surprised me and the many fans out their when he directed this film. His directing and imaginative thoughts really makes this film a home runner. This film is nothing more than pure enjoyment and one that really works.

The cast of Raiders of the Lost Ark is just as impressive as the film's story. I found everyone to be perfect in this film. I hardly ever mention a film's cast ever being perfect because I always find something that bothers me, but I looked hard and found nothing wrong. Harrison Ford plays the smart and talented Indiana Jones. He does a fantastic job in his role and gives the audience the enjoyment they so deserve. I honestly cant imagine anyone else filling Indy's shoes rather than Ford. Karen Allen plays the beautiful Marion Ravenwood. Her character is so perfect next to Indy and the two of them have great chemistry together. Paul Freeman plays the evil nemesis Dr. Rene Belloq. I'm happy to say its three for three because this guy gives an enjoyable character. Playing opposite Indiana Jones isn't an easy task, but he certainly delivers. His smart and witty dialogue really pays into the story. We also have John Rhys-Davies playing as Sallah and I really liked his work here. I have never enjoyed this much from a cast of a movie since Pulp Fiction.

The visual effects in Raiders of the Lost Ark are pretty great. The films source is pretty good for the most part although I did notice grain here and their, but its nothing that's going to get in the way too much. Colors seem very saturated and kind of orange at time, but I think that's mainly to do with the films dessert settings. Detail seems good, but can also be pretty disappointing. Their are some occasional soft looks to the image. The special effects on the other look pretty great for the most part. For a movie that came out in 1981 and had a budget of only $18 million, the effects look wonderful. Some of the effects do look alittle clunky at times, but I cant complain. While the Indiana Jones trilogy has been released on DVD along time ago, it was only recently that Paramount decided to release them individually for a special edition version of each of the three films. Those special edition releases have the same picture quality found on the older box set release. This is really disappointing because it's in need of some remastering especially in high definition.

The soundtrack of Raiders of the Lost Ark is utterly fantastic. The films epic score is composed by John Williams who also composed great films such as Star Wars and Jaws. I honestly cant say anything bad about the music. I have praised Williams in the past for his beloved talent in coming up with some of the best scores I have ever heard for movies and he manages to surprise me once again. This is something people will remember Indiana Jones for. While the score is near perfect, the films bass isn't all that great. Again, I don't think it has anything to do with the movie itself, but rather the poor encoding on the DVD's. A film like this should have mopped the floor with anything else, but it just isn't as loud and full as I would have hoped for. This still has a great soundtrack, but It could have sounded much more better had Paramount remastered the sound in 5.1 DTS.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is an outstanding film. It introduced us into this universe of Dr. Jones, an archaeologist that goes out looking for adventures. This is a great film that worked really well in 1981. The story is imaginative and creative while being fun along the way. The cast is perfect with everyone giving a great performance that's sure to please you. The visual effects look wonderful for a movie of its age with bright colors and with occasionally fine detail. The soundtrack is amazing with John Williams impressing me once again with a score that's surely to be remembered. I cant say I have had this much fun with a movie in along time. Its full of laughs and excitement that makes for one hell of a ride. I was more than entertained with this movie and I can highly recommend it if your looking for some fun.

Grade: A-

No comments: