Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark ★★★½

I was steeled for the poor archaeological practices and extolling white man's pillaging of other cultures--that's just, like, the series, you know?--yet I still came away from the first Indiana Jones pretty horrified. Middle Eastern characters played by white actors really threw me for a loop. (In hindsight, it probably shouldn't have surprised me--Hollywood has been much slower to respond to Middle Eastern-facing than other types of facing, a practice that I can specifically cite as recently as 2014's Noah, which means it probably still goes on in stuff I haven't seen.) Then there's several lines of dialogue towards the beginning--as Jones meets Marion for the first time in a decade--that imply their former relationship happened while she was underage. Which--yuck.

Which is a shame because, as simple adventure entertainment, I enjoyed Raiders of the Lost Ark a lot more this time around. Like, it's just fun. Running around jungles with gold idols, traipsing about Cairo while knocking baskets off people's heads, covertly trying to dig into a temple just a few hundred yards from your competition. So fun! Throw in snakes, traps, drinking games. Even the action has a pulse to it: Wrestling around a taxiing airplane takes the cake here, but the bar brawl is also great, as well as the on-wheels battle as Jones tries to reclaim the ark.

Harrison Ford really sparkles in these kind of roles. Light, popcorn-chomping adventure romps where he can play straight man with gruff--the latter implying a comedic undertone that Ford can occasionally exploit to great effect. If you teeter his roles too much (more comedic, more dramatic) a lot of his charm disappears. Conversely, Karen Allen is wonderful as Marion, providing a perfect amount of feisty pep to play against Ford. (I realize that describing her this way suggests her perceived value is what she does for Ford, rather than her own place within the film, but the film itself demands this perception: That is Marion's role, halfway love interest, halfway damsel in distress to be scooped up at Jones's whim.)

Yeah, not a great film for exploring gender roles or anything particularly progressive. But when Ford smiles that disarming smile of his while flipping his whip about, it's hard to be too mad.

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