We seem to be standing and staring at a mountain, seemingly lost in our ways, immediately a trio of men arrives into the frame with such purpose, admired by their direction, we distinctively follow them. It was the figure with the fedora that stood out, he reveals a sense of confidence in the way he navigates through the Peru jungle, despite us unable to predict what exactly we are searching for; we follow because we need a hero to endure such a canvas. As one of the hero’s companions begins to display his loyalty, he immediately strikes with his whip, one that catches you off-guard; a tool that acts as his weapon and shield, an unorthodox apparatus that has never been utilised to the fullest in cinema history. Then we see our hero faced with the death gripping challenges as he slowly travel through a temple, hoping to reach its end where obviously a prized artefact would be waiting for the victor. It was in his elusive ability to anticipate the traps set by its makers that impressed me the most, challenges that pushes his body to the pinnacle of its limits, and motivated with such passion to the end that we rooting for him is inevitable, despite the cold truth that he is a thief of culture. In his success he finds himself outmatched by his devilish competitor Rene Belloq, unfortunately forced to return back to his haven and routine as a Professor at Marshall College empty handed.
An introduction of a character that is unforgettable, conveying almost every element of him in a nutshell, one that catches our admiration before the central plot even begins to stir in motion. This the pure example of the outcome that occurs when two cinematic giants collaborate instead of face one another, matching each other’s sensibilities and surging it all into its identifiable lead, carried by the outstanding Harrison Ford, who has already placed a stamp in cinematic and pop-culture history through his portrayal of the self-confident and greedy Han Solo. Indiana Jones is his name, and much like what Lucas has achieved for Star Wars and Spielberg for Jaws, they have created something so identifiable and worthy of admiration that his entrance into our pop-cultural atmosphere is immediate. A character who embodies the qualities of a true hero, without the agenda of patriotic murder, staying true to his goals as an archaeologist and placing these rare artefacts to where he believes they truly belong, the museum; which is why he rises above every other hero that has ever been fabricated in cinema.
The goal is the lost ark, competing once again with Belloq in the expanding desert of Cairo; Indiana is now supported by Marion Ravenwood, a tough young woman who carries a romantic past with our protagonist, and Sallah as Indiana’s advisor and navigator of Cairo’s mirroring dunes. Spielberg wraps them around a grand adventure that requires multiple bypasses that elevates the film’s sense of urgency, we see them rise and we see them fall, it plays with our hearts like a ping pong, creating tension that are short-lived but undeniably entertaining. Once again, Lucas and Spielberg display their inspirations within their product, harnessing their cherished memories of film serials of the past, displaying grand action with heavy goofiness that ultimately comes off as comforting rather than isolating, mostly owed through the sensationalist musical score that frequent collaborator John Williams injects through every scene. Pacing is far from an issue with its almost wall to wall action that maintains the adrenaline thrills that we impulsively desire, cushioned with a comedic charm and enveloping photography that places its audience right in the middle of its mayhem.
Raiders of the Lost Ark certainly has proved influential over the years, re-defining the idea of an action-adventure, a testament of Spielberg’s knowledge of the genre and tweaking its dated elements in ensuring the maximum of an individual’s enjoyment. His target audience was not pinned by a single era; its broad humour and identifiable and admired figure allow the film to potentially capture the hearts of every soul that it comes across. During the production of Raiders, I believe Spielberg was feeling the pressure, he has found himself in a critical situation where the underwhelming disappointment of his previous feature, 1941; a situation where his next feature would define the presently hanging faith that his employers and fans have for him, and what way is there to remedy his predicament than to collaborate with another blockbuster legend, George Lucas. As spectacular the film truly is, it is far from the tense-inducing fear that Jaws was able to create or the hopeful emotion that runs within Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but nevertheless it is deserving of the accolades that it has gained since its release.
Another highlight within Spielberg’s early career, further extending himself above many of his peers at a rate that would make any filmmaker envious; much like the films that preceded it, Raiders of the Lost Ark is an inspired and entertaining feature that once again re-defined a genre that seemed to have reached its full potential.