#23: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

When I started this blog, way back when, my first assignment was to review Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), which it must be said, is not very good. The first instalment of this franchise, however, is on the other end of the scale. You couldn’t call it anything less than inspired. Harrison Ford plays adventuring archaeologist Indiana Jones, who, between lectures to sighing undergraduates, journeys off into the unknown to retrieve ancient and occult artefacts, all in the name of research and academia. And if he can kill a few Nazis in the process, all the better.
In our first adventure sprinting alongside Indy, we journey into a cave which, we presume, is somewhere deep in the Amazonian jungle. He clearly knows his ancient boobytraps, not to mention being pretty handy with a whip, but it’s equally apparent Indiana has no mind for strategy - he’s frequently outplayed by assailants, even in this first scene.
Indiana, then, is dabbling in a world he can’t quite keep up with. Yes, he’s a genius in his academic field, and he’s not afraid to shoot a gun, but he just doesn’t know how to get one up on those baddie Nazis. We root for him, hoping he gets to the Lost Ark of the Covenant before his opponents, but this loyalty on our part is more due to his dashing gallantry and cheeky smile, rather than him particularly deserving to win. In fact, I’d say it was mainly due to that incredible theme music he has written for him - I’d be a lot more popular and influential if that followed me around too.
My brother and I had a lengthy and heated debate about whether Indiana has any ‘bearing’ at all on the plot (prompted by a similar discussion on the Big Bang Theory TV show). My brother was adamant that Indy helped the plot along in no way at all, that he was simply a tag along like us. My only retort was that Indiana’s frequent and catastrophic messings-up helped the Nazis significantly. Go Indy!

So ultimately, a less than perfect hero, but a hero nonetheless. Aided by Egyptian associate Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and followed everywhere by feisty love interest Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), Indiana faces his fears and relentlessly chases down his opponents. To what end… well that’s never really in doubt is it? But the bizarre, jarring gruesomeness of it all is worth waiting for (and a vital reason not to watch this film on daytime TV over the Christmas break - get the DVD).