Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

by Josh Larsen
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raiders

MPAA Rating: PG
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
Run Time: 115 minutes

Quick Take: Good, old-fashioned action-adventure will become an instant favorite for older kids.

For a good decade, from 1981 on, you would have been hard-pressed to find a movie-loving boy who did not want to be Indiana Jones (or a movie-loving girl who did not want to be Marion Ravenwood, his feisty romantic sparring partner).

Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, an action-adventure film that brings to mind original family classics such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, introduced the world to Jones, the whip-wielding, wisecracking archeologist immortalized by Harrison Ford.

Like Ford, Raiders of the Lost Ark is goofy and adolescent in a good way. Though it has serious, adult concerns – Nazis, the Biblical Ark of the Covenant – the movie is first and foremost the sort of rollicking adventure a gaggle of innocent kids might dream up in their backyard on a summer afternoon.

That is, if those kids had the inventive mind and master staging techniques of Spielberg and producer George Lucas.

The pair aimed to make an homage to the movie serials of their youth -- action yarns that would spool out in weekly installments before the feature film -- and they've done a masterful job of modernizing the genre without lampooning it.

Raiders of the Lost Ark looks delightfully archaic, thanks to the silhouetted lighting scheme and all that well-worn leather. Yet the movie's pacing is thoroughly contemporary, even by today's standards. Hurtling from one clever predicament to the next -- during one day, Indy escapes from a buried tomb, boxes a hulking airplane mechanic and hijacks a Nazi motorcade before getting a single night's rest -- Raiders was (and remains still) one of the first feature-length films to literally leave you breathless.

Kids Will Love:
The numerous, booby-trapped vaults that Indy must survive will delight every kid who ever tried to build similar forts (I couldn't have been the only boy to recreate some of these scenes step for step).

Parents Will Love:
Ford is the main appeal to dads and (perhaps especially) moms. He's in his charming prime here – smart enough to have fun with the material while never letting loose with a full wink.

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