Thirty-one years later, adventure still has a name. To celebrate the release of all four “Indiana Jones” films on Blu-Ray, the first and best of the series, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” returned last week for a brief run in IMAX theaters. And seeing Dr. Jones on the largest screen imaginable with the best possible surround sound hit me like the face melting ghosts from the Ark of the Covenant.
Of course everyone knows Indiana Jones, the whip wielding, fedora wearing professor famously played by Harrison Ford. “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” aside, Indy is still a Hollywood icon, and seeing him again in IMAX reminded me of why this film is so endearing in the first place.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” for those in need of a refresher, is the tale of Indiana Jones and his battle against the Nazis to reclaim the Ark of the Covenant, the chest containing the Ten Commandments that the Nazis hope will make them invincible. With help from ex-flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), Indy fights the Nazis and his rival Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman) for possession of the Ark.
The film still captures my imagination exactly as it did when I first saw it. Harrison Ford is pitch perfect as Indy, while the entire supporting cast, from Allen’s feisty Marion to Freeman’s slimy Belloq, all give off brilliant performances. The action sequences still dazzle, with the opening Golden Idol scene and the thrilling truck chase definite highlights. John Williams’ score is perfection, complementing the action without overwhelming the story. And for a film released in 1981, it still amazes me that the face melting scene at the end was pulled off so realistically without the use of modern special effects.
But the question is, does this film deserve the IMAX format? “Raiders” is a classic, no doubt, but still over 30 years old. It was not filmed in IMAX the way “The Dark Knight Rises” was, so how could it hope to compare when transferred? Thankfully, the IMAX transfer was pulled off with gusto, as the film really takes advantage of the format to enhance the picture and sound quality. Quite simply, Indy has never looked or sounded this good, and seeing every aspect of this film enhanced only made a perfect film even more special.
Maybe the re-release was just a cynical way to cash in on the Blu-ray set, or maybe it came out of a desire to give one of the best movies of all time the cinematic treatment it deserves. All I know is that it was an excuse to see one of my favorite movies in one of the best formats possible, reminding me why I love this character and his adventures in the first place. If you have yet to see this magnificent piece of film, I highly recommend it, no matter what format it’s in.