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Raiders of the Lost Ark (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on September 27, 2012

I don’t have many “nostalgia favorites” — The Wall, Thief, Wizard of Oz, maybe Airplane.  Films for which a large portion of my affection stems from my youthful associations with it.  Films that are impossible (or nearly impossible) for me to judge as a first-time viewer might.  Raiders probably belongs in that special group.  I’m certain there’s no other movie I saw as many times in the theater.  I have vivid memories of seeing it frequently in the summer, usually by myself.  Even sitting straight through to the next showing.  How many times this happened, I don’t know.  It feels like a lot, but it’s probably inflated through memory.  It’s also the first movie we ever owned a bootleg copy of (courtesy of my cinephile uncle) and I watched that videotape many, many times.

Nostalgia blinds you to a film’s flaws.  Is Indiana Jones a thin character, as Michael Phillips charged in a recent episode of the Filmspotting podcast?  I don’t see it.  To me, he’s one of the great icons, a shining example of the fallible but endearing hero.  But I do acknowledge a few weak spots.  A lot of the action is highly implausible.  Most of this can be forgiven, but “They must have switched baskets” is pretty weak stuff.  Switched baskets?  Come on, that’s an easy out.  And the truck sequence seems to go on rather long, especially in a film that packs so much action into such brief scenes.

But that’s about it.  I love everything else.  I don’t feel the need to enumerate its positive qualities, they’ve been spoken of at length.  Even with its scattered gross-out moments (of which there are many more to come in the first sequel), it’s an exceedingly comforting movie for me.  It slips on nicely, like an old sweater that smells like home.  Or a pair of fuzzy slippers that fit your feet just right.  Or perhaps a battered fedora that’s as much a part of you as your own hand.  Rating: Masterpiece (96)


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