03 September, 2014 / Ziqa'ad 7, 1435

Weekly Classics: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Published May 18, 2012 02:24pm

After pretty much conquering Hollywood during the 1970s, the grandmasters of blockbuster films George Lucas and Steven Spielberg decided to team up and make an adventure movie to top all adventure movies. While relaxing from the whirlwind of the ‘Star Wars’ phenomenon on a beach in Hawaii, Lucas pitched an idea to Spielberg about making a movie on a archaeologist adventurer who travels the globe in search of lost relics. Spielberg who had always wanted to make a James Bond movie, jumped at the idea. Initially, the hero was to be named Indiana Smith, named after George Lucas’ dog Indiana along with the common name Smith. Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, said he loved the entire idea except the surname Smith. Eventually the surname was changed to Jones, and thus an iconic movie character named Indiana Jones was created.

The two movie geniuses then teamed up with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan wanting him to write a script that incorporated all the cliffhanger thrills of movies serials from the 1930’s. The low budget movie serials were not top quality film making, but they did create a sense of adventure by transporting viewers to exotic locations where good guys and bad guys battled each other in search of hidden treasure in the far corners of the earth.

It was exactly this kind of thrilling movie making that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg wanted to recreate for a modern audience, but only on a much bigger scale. Lawrence Kasdan got the idea and wrote a script that incorporated all the excitement, action and adventure that the two movie makers wanted.

Next was the casting of the main hero. Initially the role was given to Tom Selleck, from the Magnum P.I. television series. Selleck was all set to do the role, but filming schedules collided between the TV show and the movie, and reluctantly he passed on the role. This in hindsight was probably the biggest career mistake that Tom Selleck ever made, because the role of Indiana Jones eventually went to Harrison Ford, who as we all now know, made it his signature role.

The plot of the film is fairly straightforward. Indiana Jones is a “Professor of archaeology, expert on the occult, and how does one say it, obtainer of rare antiquities” who gets hired by the US government to stop Nazi Germany from acquiring the fabled Ark of the Covenant. Indiana Jones may seem like a mild mannered professor when he is on campus. But when he puts on his fedora hat, leather jacket, khaki clothes and bullwhip, he suddenly transforms into the roughest, toughest adventurer there ever was.

Jones first heads out to Nepal to find his old mentor Abner Ravenwood, who holds a medallion that maybe the key to unlock the chamber where the Ark of the Covenant is kept. As luck would have it, Ravenwood is dead, but the medallion has been passed on to his daughter Marion, a feisty and volatile girl, who also happens to be an old flame of Jones.

After a shootout and fistfight with the Nazis, the two then head out to Egypt and the city of Tanis where the Ark is reputed to be buried. It’s in Egypt where the real search begins and movie viewers are taken for one wild ride.

Whether it’s dangling over a pit filled with thousands of snakes, getting into more fistfights or chasing a truck in the middle of the desert, this film has one action scene followed by another, each one topping the one before it. It’s like a roller coaster ride that thrills audiences with a relentless pace. Add to this John Williams’ now classic Indiana Jones theme music, along with the right mix of comedy, romance and an element of the supernatural, and you have one of the greatest adventure movies of all time.

Much credit for the success of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and the subsequent Indiana Jones movies must go to Harrison Ford and his pitch perfect performance as the swashbuckling archaeologist. The role fits him like a glove and has now become his most famous screen character. Kudos must also be given to Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, John Rhys Davies as Sallah and Paul Freeman as Rene Belloq, who is Indy’s nemesis in the film.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas not only managed to create a character that was equivalent to James Bond in this film, but also created a genre of adventure movies that has been imitated repeatedly in numerous mediums. Whether it’s ‘The Mummy’ movie series or the ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Uncharted’ video games, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ had a long lasting effect on the way audiences viewed escapist adventure. It also raised the bar on blockbuster entertainment, a standard which Spielberg and Lucas themselves set.

Still a classic over 30 years after its initial release and along with its sequels, great spirit lifting entertainment which has probably inspired more people to want to become archaeologists than anything else.

View Dawn.com’s weekly classics archive here.


Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at Dawn.com


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Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at Dawn.com and can be reached at rsayeed1984@gmail.com

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (13) (Closed)


Malone
May 18, 2012 08:03pm
There is a racist angle to the Indiana Jones movies taken together that has been missed by most viewers. In the first movie Jones goes to retrieve the ark, and he and his girlfriend are tied up by the Nazis, who then open the ark, and of course the ark is real and the curse, whatever that is, turns to the Nazis to dust. In a different movie (second? fourth?) Jones finds the cup from which Jesus drank during the last supper, but leaves it in place and does not bring it back out of respect. Note how these ``real'' religion(s) - Judeochristinity - are treated. BUT in the Temple of doom, Jones goes inside a Kali temple and successfully brings out various rocks that had been offered to the goddess by the pagan Hindus. He even throws one to a neighborhood kid as a gift. Indian Hindus and Buddhists, who are largely vegetarians, are shown to be slurping down soup containing eyeballs and chomping on snakes. I was a raised a Hindu but am a confirmed atheist. Nevertheless the racist angle bothered me. You can steal from Kali because She is a false pagan god with no power, while Jesus' cup got to be respected did not go well with me. On the positive note,. Hollywood will never again be able to show disrespect to Hindus like that - money talks!
Bina
May 18, 2012 07:51pm
Agree with your assessment, clearly classic material for someone like you would be Salman Khan's body guard.
m.bilal
May 18, 2012 04:37pm
if you are writing a column, it must also tell the true intensions behind that movie as well. indiana jones was not just an archeaology movies, it was based on jewish concepts of fidning the hidden relics which are supposed to give power to jews over rest of the world (as per future predictions in jewish religion). so my advice to the newspaper editor and columnist is please do a proper reasearch before falling in love with these dodgy and propaganda movies. thanks
Sandeep
May 18, 2012 06:50pm
Ali, you are not being fair! It is not "Classic" as other classics like Lawrence of Arabia but I am sure you did enjoy it and was on the edge of your seat all through!
Syed M. Rehan
May 19, 2012 09:26am
Great Movie of all times
Shavi
May 18, 2012 10:44am
Loved this movie ever since i first saw it as a kid. The famous scene when Indy shoots the swordsman in the marketplace has been copied in virtually every adventure film but fails to capture the spontaneity and humor of the original. Its sad they waited so long to make the 4th one as it can't hold up to the originals.
Mashhood Abbasi
May 19, 2012 05:35am
Great Movie of all times. Love it
Freedom
May 19, 2012 06:04am
Harrison Ford is the inalienable mark of the Ark series. He was simply indispensable. I enjoyed the original one a great deal. But after having enjoyed not this movies, but also so many others of Harrison Ford, it was a painful finding for me that he had made derogatory remarks about Muslims and Islam. Now whenever I see any of his movies, I still enjoy them, but at the same time cannot shake off what he said about Muslims.
Ali
May 18, 2012 12:56pm
One of the most overrated movies, clearly not a classic material
irfan
May 18, 2012 01:57pm
Great movie. Above all a great performance by Harrison Ford makes it a classic undoubtedly.
irfan baloch
May 19, 2012 07:05pm
I beg to disagree, re the cup, it was the earthquake that resulted in the cup falling into the ditch and the girl thought she could risk herself to get it but she died in the process. regarding the arc, well he witnessed (heard) the consequences of opening the arc that resulted in deaths of the Nazis so it was actually stored in America's area 51 or some other unknown storage facility not back to its temple. re stones, it was not about Kali being a false or true goddess, the point movie made was that those stones belonged to the people of the village and they were stolen by Amresh Puri. & they reacted by turning into fire when he tried to steal them from Jones. I do agree about you point of Indians eating reptiles and guts etc that I found very demeaning & insulting, there is always an element of dark humor in Indiana jones movies so Indians were the target in temple off doom movie, you might have missed but in this very movie (the lost ark) Arabs/ muslims are constant butt of the joke so you are not alone in there
irfan baloch
May 19, 2012 06:48pm
apparently it was spontaneous as well. Harrison came up with that himself. just like in Starwars when he was captured he replied "I know" to Lia when she said she loved him. here too he just pulled off his gun and shot the guy although in the script he was supposed to fight with him. the movie right from the start to end is seamless and a treat, not a single moment of boredom. I saw it back in the early 80s and I was blown away. I still wonder about the contents of the arc and I never understood why there were ghosts in the arc that sucked the life out of the Nazis. were the Nazis expecting a treasure trove of knowledge or technology which changed into sand and then ghosts because the "bad guys" opened it?
Ali
May 21, 2012 08:45am
@Sandeep - Yes I did enjoy it like I enjoyed 'Cliff Hanger' or 'Vertical Limit' or 'Thor'... and many other movies but the way it is featured as classic is beyond logic... and I hate Salman Khan. I won't offend you to rate IJ belonging to the same cadre of Sallu's movies.