I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 49

Day 49: Indiana Jones and the Lack of Scope

The film Raiders of the Lost Ark contains two images that I feel people associate with it more than any other. I'm not talking about action scenes, or fun exploding heads, or even glamour shots of Harrison Ford posing for promotional purposes. I'm speaking specifically about single frames that everyone takes away from the movie and identify with it more than any other image. The first, and it's no coincidence that this is the frame that you see more often than on any other when people want to show something from Raiders of the Lost Ark, is Indiana Jones crouched in front of the gold idol preparing to switch it for a bag of sand.

The second image is the one that closes the film: is a matte painting of the storage facility (which Crystal Skull identifies as "Area 51") where the Ark of the covenant is being housed. It's a captivating image that slyly suggests the futility of all Indy's death defying feats while at the same time leaving the audience with the slightly unsettling question of what other items of occult significance the government has stacked up in the facility.

It's such a powerful image that I can't help wonder why the makers of this film made no attempt to exploit it when given the opportunity. And believe me there is an opportunity. In fact, sitting in the theater watching the characters approach the warehouse entrance I could already imagine exactly what the next shot was going to be. Harrison Ford and the Commies go walking through the door and the camera pulls back and cranes up, matching the angle of the matte painting as we observe the majestic moment as Indiana Jones finally makes it to the final resting place of the lost ark. Hell, if they wanted to go all the way with it, they could have used the actual matte painting and digitally blended the actors into it.

But that didn't have happen. In fact, there is no shot in the film that tries to give any sense of awe to the warehouse - no shot that even attempts to reference that iconic image from Raiders of the Lost Ark, nothing. The ark warehouse is treated as just another location for a chase scene to take place in, and even while that chase is going on the audience never gets a good look at the environment it's taking place in.

Sure, a lot of my arguments in dissecting this film can be boiled down to "it's not Raiders of the Lost Ark" and perhaps it's a little unfair to set the bar so impossibly high. What I can't understand, though, is why, when even though they couldn't possibly have hoped to make a film that good, they find themselves going out of their way to reference the film, they don't take the opportunity to go that extra mile and directly reference the second most famous shot in the film. Maybe it wouldn't have worked, but they should have at least tried to rub some of that magic off on themselves. Speaking as a member of the majority of the world's population (i.e. people whose hearts are made of 99% stone, and 1% love of Raiders of the Lost Ark), we would have appreciated the attempt.

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