Hot Take: Very good, fun, action-packed original with a compelling central character. Iconic. Not great though.
When I was 5, Raiders of the Lost Ark was amazing. It was released the day before my 5th birthday and while I don’t remember when I saw it first, I know it was in theaters and my recollection is having the highest praise a 5-year-old could have for it. I loved the movie and couldn’t wait for more. When I was 15, it was still fun but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a better movie and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had a better story. Still, it was the first and nothing can take that away. In my early 30s, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out and really made me respect what we had with the first three films. Now, with a planned Indiana Jones 5 and an opportunity to see Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen again, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. (That and my only new first run feature to see was Kung Fun Panda 3.)
It’s tough to watch a 25 year old film and not judge it based on things we know now. Watching Raiders of the Lost Ark felt a little bit like playing Pitfall for a few hours after playing Tomb Raider for a week. Sure, it was fun but the obvious challenges the film has with effects due to the technology of the time were glaring. This film is a lesson in how far we’ve come with technology. Sure, if you’ve been to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there’s something really cool about how you’re able to re-create the stunts of Raiders of the Lost Ark in a live stunt show. Considering this was the winner of the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing, you could say this was the Mad Max: Fury Road of it’s generation. Side-by-side these films would be drastically different in comparison. Then again, maybe this is a little too critical because this video from CineFix in which they cover the famous boulder scene gives that scene in particular a lot of respect:
There’s the storyline problem, too. Pointed out by reviewer Jeffrey Westhoff in April 10, 2003 and probably someone before him, Indiana Jones has nothing to do with the outcome of the film. If he doesn’t exist, the Ark is still found, the box is opened and the Nazis die. So, I guess if it weren’t for Indiana Jones knowing to close his eyes, there would have been no one around to tell the story? Anyway, this “glaring story problem” was played up in an episode of The Big Bang Theory (although it is often credited to the show when the criticism was already out there).
With all it’s flaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a lot of fun and Indiana Jones is a great character. It may be blasphemous to say but it’s not a great film but a very good film with great influence on future films that likely spawned a lot of interest in filmmaking in general. It’s fingerprints are on tons of future films. Without Raiders, many films don’t get made or look very different and that’s essentially what makes the movie iconic… but it’s still just a very good film.