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For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Raiders of the Lost Ark

It begins with a climax, thrusting us directly into a sense of heightened drama, then danger, with an adrenaline rush that drops, surges, then drops again only to surge as Indiana Jones ecounters his one true fear: snakes.

But it is the next scene, the Professor in his classroom filled with dreamy-eyed coeds brought up short by a love note pencilled on eyelids, that the movie takes off. Our hero can be taken by surprise, thus so can we.

Raiders of the Lost Ark can be viewed in many ways, but it is, without reservation, pure entertainment. It rumbles along in rollicking fashion, at an almost breakneck pace, leavened with flashes of humor. I still remember sliding off my chair convulsed with laughter as Indy shrugs tiredly at the antics of the black-robed swordsman, then casually shoots him. (Later I found out that Harrison Ford had suggested the scene because he was feeling ill.)

Movies in the 70s had been dominated by disasters, epics and special effects, and in that rush for box-office dollars, the industry had lost sight of what really matters: the drama of one person struggling against the odds.

In Dr. Jones, we have the ultimate “one against the odds.” The special effects--and they abound in the movie--take a clear back seat to the central figure as Indiana tackles natives, snakes, death traps, puzzles, an irate jilted lover (“God hath no fury…” you know), Nazis and even infiltrating a submarine as part of his struggles.

With a wink to the serials my dad watched as a kid, Indy punctuates the movie’s pace and style with wit as he replies to a question about his plans: “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along.”

And therein lies the hero, the man who will find a way, a true American icon. In Indiana Jones, the collective will, energy and “can-do” spirit that exemplified what the world began calling “the American way” gained a new face, one that even so seems bland without its hat.

Raiders blazed its way into my mind, and the minds of so many, with sheer energy, an electric thrill that reached deep into the roots of our best stories and flashed its modern essence on the screens of what was then our newest art form. It was also pure fun. In a way, the second is much more important than the first.


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