MOVIE DOUBLE TAKE REVIEWS AFI'S 100 GREATEST AMERICAN MOVIES: #66 Raiders of the Lost Ark
We're reviewing every single movie on AFI's List of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. We'll tell you why they matter, how they hold up, if they belong on the list, and then re-rank the 100 movies by quality! Today's film: Raider's of the Lost Ark. Find the master-list here.
Release Date: 1981
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas
Run-time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
How to Watch: Netflix
Fun Fact: Indiana Jones was originally called Indiana Smith in the original screenplay.
Historical Context: One of the most lamented trends in modern cinema is the relentless production of remakes and sequels. Instead of producing an original idea, studios and filmmakers instead recreate the things we already like.
Back in George Lucas' day, you didn't remake the things you loved as a child, you just ripped them off with a thinly veiled imitation. Such is the case with Indiana Jones. In an attempt to recreate the thrilling film serials from the 30's that he loved as young lad, George Lucas wrote the screenplay for what would eventually become Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Years later, hot off the success of Star Wars, he persuaded Steven Spielberg (already a box office star), to direct. Steven Spielberg wanted to direct a James Bond movie, but Spielberg convinced him that he had an even better character than James Bond. (This insane, unchecked confidence is surely what made it possible for Lucas to create something as ambitious as Star Wars, and is also surely what allowed him to make something as horrible as Howard the Duck, or the Star Wars prequels.) So, was he right?
Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark is so influential and so ingrained into the pop culture psyche, it can be hard to separate its influence from its influences. Usually, when this is the case with a film or novel, the source material inevitably suffers. What may have seemed groundbreaking at the time seems cliched and exhausted when viewed through contemporary eyes, if only because so many works have aped what made the original work.
Miraculously, this is not the case with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Although it has inspired countless adventure films, the original still holds up as an inventive, exciting, funny, thrilling adventure. While many of the scenes have become pop culture wallpaper, they still hold up well. It's still fun to watch him run away from a boulder and still amusing to see him shoot a challenger swordsman. The effects obviously don't hold up (at all), but visual effects aren't as integral to Raiders of the Lost Ark's charms as it is to many of its blockbuster contemporaries.
If there's one part of the movie that doesn't hold up so well, it's the pacing. The movie is nearly two hours long, and it can feel torturously slow in parts. The modern blockbusters are much more judiciously edited, and you can't help but feel that certain scenes would be mercifully shorter if they had been produced today. Still, there are enough clever, exciting moments to keep you entertained throughout in spite of some of the slower stretches of the film.
Shia Labeouf and aliens may have damaged the franchise, but the original film remains a priceless gem.
Does it deserve a place on AFI's 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time? Yes. It's both culturally significant and a great film in a genre that usually gets slighted by critics.
Is it One of My 100 Favorite Movies of All Time? No. It might have been had I seen at is a child, but this was the first time I saw it. While I enjoyed it a great deal, it didn't quite have the emotional resonance (or the equally important timing of being a developmentally important film) to be one of my all-time favorites.
Must-See, Worth Watching, or Pass: Must-See.
How does it rank among the other films in the AFI's Top 100 Greatest Films of All Time?
Of The Films Reviewed So Far:
#3: American Graffiti
#2 City Lights
#1 Raiders of the Lost Ark