Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

This film is the shining example of an era of action adventure movies.

Steven Spielberg’s direction of a hero and his conquests, adventuring along-side his peers and contesting his foes, is the 1980’s archetype that imitators have tried to emulate (aka The Mummy).

It is the genre that filmmakers have tended to shun in recent times in favour of action spice (Stallone and Schwarzenegger films), television remakes (The Fugitive, Mission Impossible, Dragnet, The Flintstones), and Hong Kong martial arts flicks (the John Woo stylistic action-packed thriller and Jackie Chan extravaganzas).

Even Steven Spielberg himself has opted for the more serious-minded fare like Saving Private Ryan and Amistad.

It maybe that Raiders of the Lost Ark is the definitive adventure classic, at least of the 1980’s and maybe of all time, that no one dare come near its glory.

It stands alone as Spielberg’s foray into classical heroic story-telling, where the typical elements and exploits of the genre are utilised humorously and good-naturedly like never before.

It set a high standard for its prequel and sequel to follow, and both fall short of Raiders’ cinematic enjoyment.

It is during the 1930’s and Hitler has made his mark on the world and is in search of the ark of the Old Testament, as an army with the ark “is invincible”.

Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones, an archaeologist, “attainer of antiquities and expert in the occult”, on a mission to find the lost ark before the Nazis do. Baloque and his Nazi supporters want a taste of the power of the ark first, so dig in the desert of Cairo for the piece.

Artistic impression of Indiana Jones

Jones, Marion (an old flame who accompanies him on his journey) and some trusty sidekicks help the man with bullwhip, scholarly intellect and ruggedly charm to find the historic piece.

Liberty in story details is taken in Raiders like the location of the ark of the Old Testament being in Tannis, a place in Cairo, Egypt. The actual whereabouts of the ark in the film is located by a medallion and a rod with the help of the sun that act together as some kind of map, which acts to push along the story but doesn’t ring of credibility.

Spielberg seems to be portraying empathy for the Jewish and depicts Nazis as power hungry manipulators. What with Old Testament locations such as Egypt (where the Israelites were slaves), subtle jokes at the expense of the Nazis, and reverence for the mystery of the sacred all stir-fried together, there is reason enough to think that Spielberg is being tongue in cheek about this matter.

Raiders could be a precursor to the more explicit themes of universal oppression in later Spielberg films from the mid 1980’s onwards.

Raiders is peppered with one liners and dialogue about the mystery of the ark and Spielberg has again resurrected supernatural nuances to provide something mysterious and intriguing.

In this supernatural respect Raiders focuses on one Old Testament aspect of the power of God, and other elements of Old and New Testaments are disregarded to create something more in line with other Spielberg endeavours such as Poltergeist. Raiders is therefore more of a scatty and subtle scare feast, than a precise theological exploration of the supernatural.

All interrogation aside, the purpose of Raiders is to bring back to young viewers the magic of earlier adventure films that Spielberg and George Lucas, who inspired the film’s idea, once appreciated.

Avoiding any meaning, a viewer can otherwise kick back and enjoy from its memorable beginning to

its pertinent ending, one of the stories of Indiana Jones, maverick adventurer, flavoured with talented and professional story telling.

Starring: Harrison Ford
Actors: Karen Allen Denholm Elliott Wolf Kahler 
Director: Steven Spielberg 

Rated: PG
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan.
Run Length: 115 min

Published 2000,, and in 2020,

Published by peteswriting

Peter Veugelaers, Writer/Contributor. Blogger. Independent. Devotions. Reviews. Articles.

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