Welcome to the age of Spielberg and Lucas. They made two very different but very successful science fiction movies in 1977 – Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These two films basically catapulted science fiction into a dominant film genre for the ‘80s and beyond. Both of them continued to make sf films that racked up Hugos and Saturns and influenced most of the science fiction films that we see today. In 1981, they got together and made Raiders of the Lost Ark, an homage to the pulp adventure serials they grew up on.
I don’t really know what to say about this film, except that it really is fantastic. I’m hard-pressed to come up with critiques. Um…the pacing isn’t perfect in the second half…but it’s still pretty solid. There are a lot of stereotypes deployed in the portrayal of non-Western peoples – the movie has its fair share of savage Indians and “worthy Orientals,” but I’m inclined to give Lucas and Spielberg a pass because they’re just replicating the imperialist tropes of adventure serials and the H. Rider Haggard-type novels from which they descended.
I guess I should summarize the plot. Indiana Jones is an adventure-loving, artifact smuggling archaeologist….oh, who am I kidding? Everyone knows the plot. If you somehow haven’t seen this film, and you have any sense of adventure, drop what you’re doing and go see it.