Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers.

I had a liberating conversation with my brother about the unhealthy discourses the film community continues to tolerate. The so-called ‘filmbros’ are the outsiders and people of practiced taste are venerated. I understand the loathing. Some do feel that they are imposing, but I don’t think it’s always the case. To be fair, I’m no conciliator, I have done the same thing before because it’s so easy to label someone that.

Late critic Roger Ebert was right when he said we take Spielberg for granted. The name is the largest in Hollywood. He is the quintessential brand-name director: the expensive productions, all-American heroes, moments of blasting music in the backdrop and box office numbers. He was on a roll for decades. He was in command. When you’re that good, people get tired of you.

Watching a Spielberg movie is having the time of your life. You feel like watching a movie. It is the one lesson Raiders of the Lost Ark has taught me. Traditional cinema is a leap forward. The small intricacies of intellectuals and those shrouded in mystery provide information to force the audience to think, think and think. They ultimately lose their entertainment value. This is true but the real ones maintain the balance. Spielberg does the total opposite. No studies. All amusement. His cinema is like a video game. I cannot complain Jaws being there in theme parks.

People love drawing comparisons, people love Inglourious Basterds, the Raiders for the new generation. Quentin reminisces Steven in relation to entertainment without compromises. Tarantino’s filmography comprises of fantasies (through the Candyland mansion’s explosive end as a means to move on from enslaving blacks, the Manson family members getting banged up by a stuntman on acid to stop Sharon Tate’s brutal murder) no richer than a poet’s subjective reality. His films spark the power in me to feel whatever I want to. It’s awesome hearing the music playing, suspenseful dialogue and seeing close call scenes.

If you truly love cinema with all your heart and with enough passion, you can’t help but make a good movie”. Both Spielberg and Tarantino understood the basics of a movie. In the end, a movie is designed to be a movie. To be purely fictional for the benefit of people who wish to seek it. I just wanted to point out the impossibility of maintaining your same perception of what art is.

Disregarding an artist for the works he’s done is such an effortless job and Raiders of the Lost Ark humiliated me of my criticisms of the man. The art can be seen externally, not internally. The direction, as a tight action-packed movie. How the punches were thrown, truck chases are shot and cuts timed.

Gold temple artifact sequence, amazing. One of the best set pieces ever with an excellent tone-setting technique of lighting the characters first in darkness then exposing them to sunlight, or piling the obstacles, one after another.

Character as well as introductions are important to Spielberg. Say Hanks’ Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan. Hands shaking, a face expressing nervousness and camera moves back while soldiers in front are seasick vomiting. We are heading for the beach on D-Day.

Next thing we learn, he is an average archaeology teacher, not a full time whip cracking adventurer. I thought I was going to be bothered by the dumps, I can’t exactly remember. Revisiting helps, so no. Action movies would normally tell the viewer about the objective so much, the objective loses its goal--to educate the main character.

Indy’s sidekick was written to be individualistic. Allen’s Marion Ravenwood was never a burden for Ford’s Indy to carry. She is tenacious and obedient, almost like a boy scout, no wonder love between her and Jones resurfaced.

The whole revenge fantasy of Raiders is, I guess, Spielberg’s feelings towards the subject of painful historical memories. In an article I read, when Spielberg was young, he was afraid to admit he had Jewish roots, worse, he was embarrassed of their practices. This was his catharsis of letting go and letting it out. And boy, was the melting of the Nazis satisfying. Spielberg may not have experienced the Holocaust himself, but this is a brave way of expressing his creativity through non-gratuitous violence humanity wishes happened. It felt like a necessity. Not pro-vengeance though, but preservation of identity and honor for the Jews.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is beyond belief in all departments. Writing, directing, photography, performances and editing. Difficult to say what the best from him is, all we know is that he makes them timeless.

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