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. Bringing together two of the biggest creative forces in 1970s and 1980s Hollywood. While redefining the action and adventure genre in ways that continue to impact on modern filmmaking.
Let me take you back to 1977 and 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. Bringing back to the big screen the aesthetic of the 1930s and 1940s adventure serials they both loved. And this passion translated into into the idea of a travelling archaeologist in search of lost treasures. Mixing in aspects of Tintin, James Bond, 1954s Secrets of the Incas and Lawrence of Arabia. While in turn injecting an energy, humour and mythology that would go on to reinvent the public image of archeology.
In developing a screenplay for Raiders of the Ark, Lucas and Spielberg turned to Lawrence Kasdan. Who was also working with Lucas on The Empire Strikes Back. And it was within this three way partnership between Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan that magic was born. However, it was in the casting of Harrison Ford that Raiders were earn its legendary status.
Harrison Ford was not the first choice for the role, with Tom Selleck originally earmarked for the whip cracking hero. However with filming of Magnum P.I. stopping Selleck’s casting in its tracks, and time running out before filming. Harrison stepped in, fresh from his ongoing success as Han Solo. And thank goodness he did, as Harrison brought Indiana Jones to life in way Selleck could have never managed. Layering the character with charm, a cheeky smile and the charisma of a bygone age in Hollywood.
But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Raiders sits within its tale of Nazis seeking a Jewish religious artefact that could control the world. An artefact they did not have had the right to use or abuse for their own growth. With the films final act ensuring that the hatred they preach and glory they pursue is ultimately cut down by the power of the ark. All 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 matched Raiders of the Ark in shear 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