Summer of Action: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Once upon a time summer was the perfect breeding ground for action movies. To a certain extent that is still the case with movies like Skyscraper, Mission: Impossible- Fallout, and The Meg all hitting theaters this summer. However, the long history between summer and action releases has led us to believe that we should revisit and pay homage to some of the most iconic action films of all time. With that notion, there’s no better place to start than Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Written by Lawrence Kasdan and directed by Steven Spielberg, few movies are more action-packed that this archeological professor who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. It, of course, stars the iconic Harrison Ford, and in addition to being one of the highest grossing films of 1981, it also took home five Academy Awards for its technical achievements.
So, why does Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark still rank highly in the world of action/adventure films?
1) The Opening Sequence
I love the way that this movie opens with its mystery and intrigue. Now it’s a familiar opening, but as the first in the franchise, this was moviegoers’ first glimpse of this character. Navigating the jungle is the easy part as he finally encounters the ancient booby-trapped temple. He jumps over chasms and avoids poison darts and spikes to finally retrieve a golden idol. Of course, that does not go quite as planned either, and his hurried running from a giant boulder is an iconic moment. Once you also consider his escape from Belloq and the indigenous people and his experience swimming to the plane, this is one of the strongest opening sequences. It sets up the world, but it also alerts the audience to the action-packed adventure that is to follow.
2) The Practical Effects
This movie has a lot to enjoy in terms of practical effects, and through the years, I have come to appreciate the various stunts showcased throughout the movie. Jones is never without a physical challenge, so there are multiple fights, car chases, and various explosions throughout the film. Of course, now when I see this I think of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! at Walt Disney World. In that show they reenact the fight scenes from the market square as well as the explosion of the truck at the end. They also reenact on a smaller scale one of the greatest action sequences of the film when Jones is fighting a German mechanic around, under, and on top of a plane where Marion is stuck inside. In the movie, this moment is fun and intense, and it only becomes better as we watch them successfully run away before another large explosion occurs.
3) The Resilient/Resourceful Professor
We all need a hero to root for, and the character of Indiana Jones is a unique one. Not only is he an intellectual with his vast knowledge of history and archaeological finds and theories, but he also knows how to survive a fight. I mean, sometimes he takes a beating in those instances, but he manages to walk away. He somehow survives one dangerous situation after another using his wits, and one has to appreciate his resourcefulness. One of the best examples of that is when he is faced with an intense fighter wielding swords in the market square. He could have tried to fight him, but instead he pulls his gun to eliminate the threat. It’s a memorable and hilarious moment, but it also showcases his character and mindset.
4) Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?
I don’t know what I love more about this part; the line itself or the concept it represents. It is a known fact that all heroes must have their weaknesses and downfalls. Now, as the Indiana Jones franchise continued, it became quite clear that one of Jones’ weaknesses was beautiful women, but his original downfall always comes back to snakes. He freaks out about the one in the plane during his escape in the opening sequence, and he almost has a mental breakdown later when the Well of Souls is filled with asps. The way the filmmakers play with this weakness is fantastic, and it adds a little something extra to several action scenes.
So, is Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on your list of favorite action films? What are some of your favorite moments?
Be sure to share them in the comments below, and be on the lookout next Friday as we explore another action film favorite.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.