I’ll be cold in the ground before I recognize the title Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. As we kick off looking at the recently released Indiana Jones 4-Disc 4K UHD Collection, we start in the film that chronologically came second. I don’t know what it was with Lucas and screwing with timelines. But, at least he didn’t make The Rise of Skywalker.
Indiana Jones is one of those pillar characters of modern American cinema that has crafted so much of how we experience action. While borrowing heavily from Spy Smasher and other serials, the character wasn’t that novel back in 1981. However, it was the perfect character type to mine the best of what made Harrison Ford tic. Han Solo is a great character, but he plays a supporting role to a larger ensemble.
It’s not secret why Harrison Ford prefers Indiana Jones and keeps returning to the role. Raiders of the Lost Ark is all about debuting a hero and making him the man that everyone loves. It’s a giant ego stroke, but years later I wonder why? What is it about the character that just works?
Harrison Ford was born to play Indiana Jones. By that, I mean he is cut from the same mold as a handful of classic film actors before him. However, he got the mental footwork and related methodology that makes these characters function. Leaning on the help of costume designer superstar Deborah Nadoolman. It’s somewhere between Jones mimicing classic serial stars and that fedora, whip and jacket that the character was found.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are the founders of the modern blockbuster that has now given way to the financial formula shared universe projects of today. The fact that we’re coming into a time when movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark are seen as quaint classics makes my brain hurt. It’s like when you see hipster kids crapping on The Beatles or The Stones. Yeah, you have a take so old and moldy that it will tell you about the time it met Lester Bangs at Creem magazine.
Raiders of the Lost Ark has a history onto itself that plays super weird when examined in 2021. While it’s a big deal now, the Summer 1981 season was rather dead and nobody was expected to beat Superman II in America. The Muppets and Bond were expected to compete, but finish behind the Last Son of Krypton. CinemaScore even showed that audiences weren’t really aware of Raiders of the Lost Ark even a week or two before its release.
It was a recipe for disaster that ended up working well. Yet, nobody wanted to acknowledge how significant it was back in 1981. 40 years later, you still have people decrying it as this overblown classic or the beast that helped bring blockbuster popcorn cinema to the forefront. But, even Picasso had to get his name schlepped around with all the crap of his era. What do I mean? Well, while blockbusters are big and plentiful…there’s a difference between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pearl Harbor.
Raiders of the Lost Ark began as a Post Star Wars and Post Jaws attempt to mine and create a new kind of hero to inspire ala old serial types. Spielberg wanted an American James Bond that could woo the ladies, Lucas wanted a 30s throwback. A compromise was made after several writers including Lawrence Kasdan hammered down what could make the character work. He would be a vulnerable leading man that could woo the ladies, but also make mistakes.
As time permits and as much as I make people nuts, I try to watch films like this with people in demographics outside of mine. COVID has changed a lot of these protocols around, so I have random trusted people watch the film and give me their takes. While it doesn’t influence my feelings on the film, it lets me know where a wider swatch of people are coming from when seeing certain classic films.
The result was Raiders of the Lost Ark still has that appeal on a sheer action level. However, I found one wiseacre kept asking why there had to be Nazis in the movie. Well, you’ve seen what happens when Spielberg doesn’t have Nazis to fall back on with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. B-movies and their big budget homages needs absolutes to connect. The more ambiguous you get or high minded with things like Trade Federations, then the underpinnings of what makes the film function falls apart. But, I’ll carry on about this in future Indiana Jones reviews.
Paramount brings Raiders of the Lost Ark to 4K UHD with a tremendous package. You get all of the amazing special features from the last Blu-ray release. Plus, you get digital copies in 4K UHD. There’s a fold-out map of all the adventures and even more behind-the-scenes peeks. The A/V Quality is reference material with among the best 4K 2160p transfers ever cut to disc. Plus, that Dolby Atmos is among the best audio Paramount has ever produced.
What is even crazier is that Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn’t the best disc in the set. We’ll keep highlighting, as long as you keep reading them.