The Indiana Jones movies are so completely entrenched in pop culture that they’re quite immune from criticism. There’s no point in me detailing my own lack of enthusiasm for the series, which first saw light of day in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark. By way of revving up for the May 22 release of the fourth entry, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Walk-In Theater is bringing back Raiders for its opening act of the season. And while it strikes me as the sort of movie that will be owned by anyone who’s keen on it (then again, there are people who call in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to radio-request programs), it certainly presents a terrific opportunity for Indy-philes to get together and see the film in a body—as it was meant to be seen. And truth to tell, I have nothing against the film for what it is. I’m just not wild about what it is.
As an attempt to duplicate the feel of a 1940s serial, Raiders is hard to fault, except that its budget and postmodern clever screenplay bears little relation to the cardboard-and-cheese world of the actual serial film. For me, the cleverness and the slick effects completely miss the charm of the real thing, but that’s also the shrewdness of the concept. Raiders took a quaint concept and gussied it up so that it had massive appeal to a modern audience. (Try showing a real serial to an audience now and see how fast you empty the theater.) And it’s an approach that’s proved to have staying power, offering something close to nonstop, cleverly engineered action and the best melting Nazis money could buy. I’m not at all sure you could reasonably ask for anything more given the aims of the movie.