Raiders of the Lost Ark

17 01 2008

Raiders of the Lost ArkIn 1981, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were two of the hottest names in town: Lucas had made American Graffiti, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back; Spielberg, meanwhile, had directed the blockbusters Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A film produced by Lucas and directed by Spielberg would almost certainly be money in the bank.

Enter Harrison Ford as the globetrotting archaeologist Indiana Jones in the Lucas/Spielberg collaboration Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Set in 1936, Raiders follows Jones as he attempts to retrieve the lost Ark of the Covenant (on behalf of the U.S. government) before the Nazis get a hold of it — it seems the Ark may contain the power to make any army who possesses it invincible. Along the way, he teams up with former love interest Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), who owns a medallion which could uncover the location of the Ark, and Egyptian digger and friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies).

The plot, however, serves more as a framework for a series of cliffhangers in the style of Saturday matinee adventure serials, and in that sense it’s cut from the same cloth as Lucas’ own Star Wars. For example, the film opens in the jungles of South America, and by the end of the sequence, Jones has faced tarantulas, snakes, dart-blowing natives, rivals, traitors and cunningly constructed booby traps (including the famous rolling boulder — an iconic image that encapsulates the film in only a handful of shots). As he continues to face increasing dangers in Nepal and later Cairo, each sequence seems deliberately designed to end with the audience wondering, “How will he get out of this one?!”
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Transformers

16 11 2007

TransformersMichael Bay is not the most hated filmmaker amongst film geeks — that title goes to the hapless Uwe Boll — but it’s a close call. Bay is the man who brought us such cinematic gems as Bad Boys and The Rock, both of which are the sort of movies that are slick but empty, providing the focus group-driven ingredients for blockbusters without supplying any kind of soul or vision. In short, Bay’s style epitomises crass commercialism at its most artistically bereft.

So it’s an incredible irony that Bay seems to have redeemed himself with Transformers, a film based on a line of toys of all things. Bay’s film not only delivers on its promise of a fun popcorn movie, it revels in its frivolity; this is the film that the abysmal Independence Day wanted so desperately to be, all those years ago.

As the Transformers mythology goes, two warring factions of giant alien robots — the benevolent Autobots and the evil Decepticons — left their homeworld of Cybertron for Earth, where their eternal battle continues. Here they take the forms of ordinary vehicles and devices: leading the Autobots is Optimus Prime, a heroic figure who transforms into a truck and gets to pontificate about freedom and the virtues of humanity, while heading the Decepticons is Megatron, who used to transform into a gun but in the film appears as a jet.
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