Indiana Jones and the Exploding Heads (Raiders of The Lost Ark review)

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

This week is going to be an Indy week in terms of blog writing and reviewing, so any of you who don’t like Indy movies (the few of you) will probably have stopped reading by now. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t like them, they’re fantastic movies, but each to their own, I suppose.

The first movie is my second favourite movie across the four, if that’s not confusing. I would explain the order here, but I’ll just let it become clear over the next few days.

Let me just start by saying that this is a great movie for armchair adventurers, anyone who feels inspired whenever they see great feats in film and characters journeying to undiscovered lands. There is something bizarrely timeless about these films, considering they’re set in the later half of the 1930’s. I think it’s the way that they use the Nazis as the stock villains, and I think it says something that the two less-liked films don’t have Nazis in them. It could also be that it packs action, romance (albeit typical action-movie romance) and mystery into a movie the whole family can enjoy, and even if you watch these when you’re a small child, you’ll still enjoy them well into your adulthood.

So this movie is about the titular archaeologist racing against the Nazis to find the Ark of The Covenant, which contains the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from the mountain. Won’t spoil it for you, but there are three more films, so that should give you some idea of how it turns out. As you follow Indiana on his adventure, the action rarely lets up, only doing so to provide plot points and dialogue, with lots of locations, suspense and drama. I think it was this movie that really established Ford’s appeal as a leading man. He fulfils the stereotype of ‘men want to be him, women want to be with him’.

One thing Indiana Jones has always been good at is stunts, stunts by the barrowful. In this one, Indy goes under a moving truck and fights a human tank in front of a rotating aeroplane that is being steadily approached by fire. Of course, it’s not just Indy that has to perform stunts. Don’t forget the enemy soldiers who get killed or disarmed in dangerous-to-stuntman ways. One guy looked like he broke his spine when he fell out of a moving vehicle. In fact, several guys look like they broke their spines when falling out of vehicles.

Unfortunately, where this movie falls down on today’s viewing standards is the special effects, although that’s true of the whole original trilogy, really. Until the new one, they didn’t really produce convincing looking effects. One only has to look at the exploding and the melting heads to see that. Part of me wants to see a special edition with updated effects. But then again, the sane part of me says “Quiet, you and go back to the cellar with your special editions.’

John Williams excels himself (although in a rather contradictory way, as he does that on all his movies) as the composer for the film’s score, with beautiful, epic themes. The Raiders theme is something that pretty much anyone can hum on command, because it is so iconic that they would have heard it somewhere, and the romantic themes are appropriately uplifting.

With everything said and done, this is a great movie, and one you can enjoy time and time again. If you haven’t seen this film before, by God I recommend it. Much like Indy, it’ll whip you off your feet and charm you into liking it.

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