During this season of screener tsunamis and subsequent voting for the Chicago Film Critics Association, I was able to sneak away from the world of modern film for just one night to finally revisit a classic. While I was far from being around in 1981, I can now boast proudly that I have seen Steven Spielberg's legendary adventure movie Raiders of the Lost Ark in the way it should be experienced - in a movie theater. Playing for only one more day at the golden Music Box, the film is presented in a 30mm digital print. According to my CFCA colleague Capone of "Ain't It Cool News," the print is "brand-spanking new." Also according to Capone, this print will be traveling to other theaters sometime in the future, but Chicago is the first place to get it. According to my own online research, this print was used by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences for their own 30th Anniversary Screening last June.
Seeing Raiders on the big screen was a total delight; even more so than my first (traumatic) viewing of the movie, or the spare viewings that followed. Nothing seems more pure than watching the film on a legitimate theater screen, with the sound of every punch and gunshot truly surrounding you, as accompanied by the chuckles and gasps by a real audience.
And since it had been so long since I've seen the film, I was able to be re-surprised by some of the movie's thrills. The snakes still make me crawl, the propeller fight sequence still makes me tense, and the comic relief still makes me laugh. Even with 30 years on it, the "B" sides of Raiders of the Lost Ark don't lend themselves into self-parody. The film still commands as much respect and attention as I imagined it did three decades ago.
This re-release of Raiders of the Lost Ark fits in perfectly as a farewell to 2011 being a "Year of Spielberg," especially with films like Super 8 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (which he executive produced), and the director's own two new releases, The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse.
My mental departure from the contemporary film world only lasted so long, as I couldn't resist thinking about Raiders of the Lost Ark in immediate comparison to The Adventures of Tintin, and George Lucas' 3D re-run of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace which arrives early 2012.
In the very near future, audiences will be able to decide for themselves how Tintin compares to a movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but some of the similarities are striking; and yet the differences show a great change of how Spielberg desires to entertain his audience. I won't say more, (Tintin is in theaters next week) but the two are very interesting films to compare to one another.
And on the other hand, this re-visiting of Raiders of the Lost Ark stands out from other theatrical returns as it doesn't waste millions of dollars and thousands of hours to "enhance" itself into the third dimension. Such a movie, (which is better than Phantom Menace by at least a couple galaxies) doesn't need a gimmick to get audiences back into the theater. The power of Raiders of the Lost Ark is within its story, its characters, its vision, and its genuine ability to entertain, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you might be with every trick it has up its sleeve.
To put it in the words of Indiana Jones himself, this film, and now this print, "Belongs in a museum!" See this version before it is put next to the ark in that anonymous and massive warehouse.