Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Movie Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark 4 1/2 Stars

Whatever happened to the adventure part of action/adventure? Nothing’s wrong with action flicks that are purely action -- but adventure flicks are inherently filled with both adventure and action, and yet mysteriously missing from the box office landscape. No H. Rider Haggard tales filled with imminent peril at every twist and turn. The closest we get these days is The Mummy and animated versions of Tarzan.

The last truly great adventure films that didn’t feature pets trying to find their way home was the Indiana Jones trilogy, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ hommage to the serial heroes of yesteryear. The first and best in the series is Raiders of the Lost Ark, the harrowing escapades of Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), swashbuckling archeologist, as he battles Nazis and his arch-nemesis Belloq (Paul Freeman) in a race to find the mythical, biblical Lost Ark of the Covenant. Aided by his old flame Marion Ravenswood (Karen Allen) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Indiana Jones bullwhips, shoots and flaxen torches his way out of scrapes with Egyptians, fascists and cobras.

This is Steven Spielberg at his finest. The action sequences are superbly built, one nerve-racking danger on top of the next, scripted by Lawrence Kasdan, Willard Huyck and Philip Kaufman and brought to life by Spielberg. Harrison Ford’s Indy is the epitome of adventure hero, a self-confident swagger and smart-aleck delivery, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and inescapable pitfalls. Of course, John Williams’ memorable score rocks with his signature bombast, but thankfully, lacks his signature cheese.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was followed up by the violent, scary Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom in which Indy battles cultists and the lighthearted Indiana Jones & The Lost Crusade with Indy once again squaring off against the Nazis. The trilogy also spawned a fantastic TV series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

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