Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark ★★★½

Raiders of the Lost Ark has always been my Spielberg bête noire. I cannot quite understand how beloved it is. I agree that it is good, an excellently paced film, that is blessed with a number of fine action scenes. From the opening moments with the famous boulder chase, to the snakes of the Well of Souls and impressive truck chase.

However, the film is also overly mechanical, as it progresses scene by scene without breath, and basically without character. The Indiana Jones character is a one-line creation, who is never fleshed out till The Last Crusade (an infinitely better film). So it is something to say, that he is also the most interesting character on show.

Marion Ravenwood is basically a cypher, an attempt at a Howard Hawks woman, who may drink a lot in the first scene but gets increasingly cringe as she goes along (running into skeletons repeatedly, like Sideshow Bob and his rakes.) Karen Allen is given undue amounts of praise for the film. I cannot understand it, she is mostly non-existent and when she is not, she is terrible. Critics seem to like her because she doesn't look like a blonde bombshell but rather a real person, which seems a spurious reason at best, in a film this ridiculous.

Denholm Elliott and John Rhys Davies are nice additions to the film, with Elliott scandalously under-used. His wry delivery in the first twenty minutes is easily the highpoint of the film. "Yes, that's just what the Hebrews thought." - easily the best line in the film; along with some throw-away moment from Ford.

Harrison Ford is really good in the lead role, basically giving the film any of its heart. Occasionally being able to get beneath the strict robotic plot surface, with a comic aside, or sarcastic comment. He is not giving much to do, other than to run and jump and punch and be punched. It hardly taxes an individual but no-one could have done it better.

The plot, as I said, is just a serious of events strung together. Carefully. It has little imagination. It is too strict a film, limits character at every turn. People talk about Jaws and Star Wars destroying the 70s filmmaking golden periond, but I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is the real end point. It is a rollercoaster. A videogame. A series of lined up fireworks. It is for people with the attention spans of goldfish. It does all of this expertly, it is a technical marvel. But it is also almost completely soulless.

Enjoyable, fun, mechanical and soulless. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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