September 08, 2013
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The creators of this behemoth once again show their inability to restrain themselves, pulling in everything from the Ark of the Covenant to the ancient Egyptians to the Nazis: it's set in 1936, when Hitler was allegedly doing research on the occult, among other things. Thus, Indiana Jones becomes involved in one of those dreary races against time, fighting Nazism, venomous snakes, giant, fast-moving boulders, skilled Egyptian sheiks, and any other potential obstacle that can be put in his way. The film is best when it lets a little levity into the mix, but it's such a busy production that Spielberg and company barely have time for such trivial things as humor.
Ultimately Raiders of the Lost Ark doesn't capture as much of the exotic charm and fascination of Egyptian culture (much of it takes place in Cairo) as it would like, despite good set design and production values. It's too much of a pastiche of other films, mixing some Humphrey Bogart vehicles (The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca come to mind) with King Solomon's Mines. As overblown movies go, Raiders isn't offensive (despite John Williams' overbearing music score, which announces triumph at the drop of a hat); but the fact that its success (along with Jaws and Star Wars) has made modern movies what they are--too big, too long, and too cookie-cutter--is quite offensive indeed. Raiders still manages to be entertaining, with noteworthy scenes including the chase scene in Cairo and a descent into a snake-infested tomb. With Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Wolf Kahler, and Alfred Molina. ★★½