Raiders of the Lost (Oh My God...) (1981)
I didn't think I would ever have to defend Raiders of the Lost Ark, but apparently I do. Jonathan Rosenbaum has taken leave of his senses. Breaking from his usual role as informative, well-mannered film historian/autobiographer, he has taken a stand against one of the best action-thrillers in the history of film. He should have stayed seated.Valuing speed over sense, the movie is too energetically rushed to allow itself any detours into lyricism.Yes, I'm angry too because there just aren't enough scenes with Harrison Ford flying from one tree to another until I am half asleep. Not once does he pause to recite a bit of poetry, and there are no scenes with Harrison Ford and Karen Allen meditating. It's ridiculous. Rosenbaum then goes on to carp about a perceived lack of continuity:
Consider Karen Allen here, a likable, resourceful actress who gets used like one of those convertible stage units in a play full of short scenes. First she's established (in a drinking bout) as one of the boys, then as some perfunctory variant of the mannish woman (Joan Crawford as Vienna in JOHNNY GUITAR) running a Nepalese saloon, then as a background prop; whatever a given scene requires, she dutifully becomes. The same principle holds (more or less) for everyone and everything else in the movie, from hero Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to villain Beloq (Paul Freeman) to the Ark of the Covenant to somebody's pet monkey. Try to summon up a composite image anywhere, a feeling or idea that you can salvage when the movie's over, and you're mainly struck with an arsenal of disconnected poses and disposable functions.Hey bright boy, this is an action-thriller with a touch of quasi-historical pinache. This is not a Godard film. First of all, there is plenty of continuity in every character besides the example you gave. The characters of Indiana Jones, Belocq, the Nazis, and especially the monkey are as completely consistent as they are two dimensional, just like they should be. As for Marian, you've obviously never seen a 'mannish woman' captured by Nazis and thrown into a pit of snakes. These women always become hysterical and look for the nearest man in an authentic leather flight jacket.How deeply are we expected to get involved in a plot about the fabled Ark of the Covenant which doesn't figure a single Jew, with Arab (i.e. proto-Iranian) and Nazi villains galore?Umm, Jonathan, I'm not sure when you were in Jordan last, or Nepal, or Peru, or Cairo, but umm, there's really not that many Jews wandering around waiting for George Lucas to ask them to be an extra. Course I could be wrong about this. I suppose you and I will never know.RAIDERS somehow contrives to convert the Great Whatsit of KISS ME DEADLY (nuclear death in Pandora's Box) into the 10 Commandments of Cecil B. De Mille, without ever convincing us that either has the moral weight of Cheech & Chong's roach clip, or the 15 Commandments of Mel Brooks in HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART I. It mainly locates its few tokens of crunchy transcendence in its audience's unconscious and its promo campaign. On the screen, it sticks more practically and nihilistically to the short-range task of being a 'rattling good yarn'-one, indeed, that rattles and hisses at you in sensuous Dolby while boldly slinging you from one outrageously suspenseful snake pit to another. Before the movie's scarcely begun, Indiana Jones is being chased by a giant bowling ball of a boulder through a Peruvian cave that's otherwise characterized by tarantulas, treasures, diverse death-traps, and cave-ins.Your point being? Mine is essentially that Mr. Rosenbaum is equipped to handle films with characters who develop, plots which are constructed to be deconstructed, and themes which are weighty and moral.