few movies are as iconic as Raiders of the Lost Ark. combine Ford, Kasden, Spielberg and Lucas and you have the development of something really tremendous, one of the all time great movies, a nonstop kinetic thrill ride of entertainment satisfaction. In some ways it's one of the most pure 'movie movies' ever made.
The script is an element of this film that often gets overlooked. The dialog is spot on, but the plotting and continuous creative movement keeps things flowing so beautifully you only have time to reflect on implausabilities on repeat viewings. Lawrence Kasden wrote the screenplay (and cowrote Empire Strikes Back with Leigh Brackett) so the dialog is full of wit and sparkles off the screen. Lucas came up with the idea, but he smartly handed the direction and writing of this film off to others, allowing the film to shed the cheese Lucas loves so much (see Crystal Skull) and take on a more rough edged realism. Spielberg says Kasden made it Preston Sturges meets Michael Curtiz, which is a rather succinct and accurate way of combining the manic energy and action of the film.
Which is not to say this film is flawless, its story is in a lot of ways pieced roughly together to support the set pieces--the second film exacerbates this problem, and the third film backs away from it, building a story around the triangle relationship of the grail, Indy and his father and filling in the set pieces within that story. What's similar about this film, but doesn't work quite as well, is the story of Indy and Marion. Kasden does a huge amount with a very small amount of dialog to characterize them swiftly and bring us in on their history, mostly in what is unsaid between them in their initial argument. That she was enraptured with her father's assistant and he took advantage of that and they fell out or he was thrown out. So much delicious drama is kept just off the table, tantalizingly out of reach. Still, the chemistry of Indy and Marion is so great that it makes up completely for any lack of time and screen space for developing their story. This is primarily a run and gun film, moment of action after moment of action, with barely a breathless space for anything else in between. But what makes this film so special is that every little piece fits together perfectly and builds and builds and makes the whole vastly greater than a sum of its parts. it's what separates this film from so many other action adventure clones that have come after this film. Lightning in a bottle so to speak.
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