Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – IMAX Review

We review Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX, the first Indiana Jones adventure to hit cinema screens back in 1981

To celebrate the release of the Complete Indiana Jones Adventures on Blu-Ray, IMAX is offering a limited release of 1981’s classic Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on their truly big screens.

Back when blockbusters were original works of both visual and economic beauty, and not the endlessly recycled franchises, comic book adaptations and re-makes of glories gone by as they are today, audiences were always in for a treat when paying a visit to their local cinema.

From the thrillingly clever Jaws to the out-and-out marvel of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, this was a genre to end all genres. In the midst of these achievements walked in the silhouette of everyone’s favorite archeologically adventurer: Indiana Jones (a part that proved for Harrison Ford that not everyone’s careers were damaged by Star Wars).

Right from the very opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, audiences were plunged into a world of intrigue and adventure, and introduced to a character that remains in the public consciousness even to this day.

The plot follows Professor Jones as he is drawn into the cultish designs of the Nazi party in the early stages of World War II as they search for the ultimate power: the Ark of the Covenant, an object of myth, legend, and huge potential for destruction. You may remember that the third installment of the series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), had a similar plot concerning the Holy Grail. This opening film however adds greater intrigue as it is a holy relic which is not as well known, and therefore more mysterious.

Along the way, Jones picks up fiery ex-squeeze Marion (played by Karen Allen, who reprised the role in the disappointing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and bumbling sidekick Sallah, played wonderfully by John Rhys-Davies, and must confront Nazis, religious legend, and, worst of all, snakes.

The film moves from scene to scene effortlessly, with only a few obvious plot devices present to keep things moving. Filled with iconic imagery (an airplane’s flight path has never been so stylishly visualised), the film may not have you rolling in the aisles but constant chuckling is guaranteed.

For those of a more obsessive nature, the extra pleasures of the film lie in the on-screen clues which give away the close working partnership of director Steven Speilberg and friend George Lucas. The appearance of C3PO and R2D2 as Egyptian hieroglyphics is particularly charming.

In the IMAX format, Raiders is a visual treat. Many may wish not to part with their money for a film seen countless times, but from the opening rolling boulder to the skull-melting finale, the experience is one of immensity and joy. The transition to the larger screen is not perfect, as occasionally the image will become grainy and slightly distorted, but this is forgiven thanks to the surging John Williams score. The sound quality is crystal clear and booms around the auditorium to perfection.

As one of the finest examples of exhilarating, comical and truly excellent blockbuster film-making, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a film well-worth seeing on the majesty of an IMAX screen. This is a film made in the traditional sense; billed as a family favorite but with enough subtle humor and outlandish and likable characters to please everyone.

Best bit: Of all the memorable moments of the film, the simple pleasures of Indy chasing after Marion being carried away in a wicker basket are wonderfully constructed.

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