Raiders of the Lost Ark is far more than just one of the finest action and adventure movies ever made. It is one of the most culturally significant in the history of modern cinema. Here, two of the most influential creative forces in both 1970s and 1980s Hollywood came together. Both simultaneously redefining the action and adventure genre in ways that continue to impact modern filmmaking.
Let me take you back to 1977 and the heady days of post Star Wars success. George Lucas found himself propelled into a whirlwind of public attention. While his friend Steven Spielberg, fresh from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, equally found himself raised to the level of Hollywood royalty. Both men were nothing short of visionary, and both had a desire to reinvent the action and adventure film. The idea, to bring back to the big screen the 1930s and 1940s adventure serials they both loved as kids. And this passion translated into the idea of a travelling archaeologist in search of lost treasures. Mixing in aspects of Tintin, James Bond, Secrets of the Incas and Lawrence of Arabia. While, in turn, injecting energy, humour, and mythology in reinventing the public image of archaeology.
In developing a screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lucas and Spielberg turned to Lawrence Kasdan, who also worked with Lucas on The Empire Strikes Back. And it was within this three-way partnership between Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan that magic and ingenuity was born. However, it was in the casting of Harrison Ford that Raiders would truly earn its legendary status. Ford was not, however, the first choice for the role, with Tom Selleck originally earmarked for the whip-cracking hero. However, Magnum P.I.’s filming would ultimately stop Selleck’s casting in its tracks, Harrison stepping in, fresh from his success as Han Solo. And thank god he did; as Harrison brought Indiana Jones to life in a manner, Selleck could not. Layering the character with charm, a cheeky smile and the charisma of a bygone age in Hollywood.
But the most exciting aspect of Raiders of the Lost Ark sits within its tale of Nazis seeking a Jewish religious artefact that could control the world. An object they do not have the right to use or abuse for their growth and hate. The film’s final act ensuring the hatred of Nazism is cut down by the power of the ark and the word of god. A clear message from a proud Jewish director who would go on years later to direct Schindler’s List.
Raiders of the Lost Ark continues to provide the template for many movies. From Captain America to The Goonies and Wonder Woman, its cultural impact continues to be felt in modern cinema. However, no film since has managed to match Raiders of the Lost Ark in sheer entertainment, power and imagination. With the film standing as a testimony to the creative genius of Spielberg and Lucas. While also showcasing the power of finding the right actor for the right role.
Director: Steven Spielberg