Today is another significant movie anniversary for me. On June 12, 1981, Paramount Pictures released Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I was 11 when Raiders came out. Indiana Jones had to be one of the coolest movie heroes I'd ever seen. I'll go so far as to say he is one of the most iconic movie heroes of all time. That's not a stretch, really, is it. Like any other eleven-year-old boy, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. At the time, it was mostly because all the action provided a lot of play-fodder. Yeah, I had a fedora and a make-shift whip and I ran around the neighborhood pretending to punch out Nazis. I hoped one day I would even get to be in a movie like Raiders. But that's a story for another time. As I got older, I learned to appreciate other aspects of the movie. There were the historical and religious tie-ins, Indy's intelligence, and the throwback to the old movie serials of the 1930s.
Then I started to appreciate just how great the screenplay was/is for that movie. I often use it as a template for a good screenplay. Not that I've written a particularly good screenplay myself, but at least I have a guide. Part of what makes the screenplay so great is its homage to the 1930s adventure serials. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan said that he wanted some sort of cliffhanger-type of event every five pages, just like in the serials. And he delivered. The screenplay is formula, yes, but it's formula that works! Kasdan establishes Indy's character and the tone of the movie with the opening set piece in South America and then in Indy's classroom. Then he introduces the instigating action and goes on to tell you everything that's going to happen in the movie! All you have to do it sit back and enjoy. And I enjoy it every single time. Of the four Indiana Jones movies, this one is by far the best IMHO.