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MOVIE ESSAY: Raider of the Lost 80s – by Scott Essman

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When RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was released in 1981, it did the unthinkable – the movie superseded the previous works that creator-producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg had each done individually in genre filmmaking. And that said a lot, with Lucas on the heels of the first two STAR WARS films, and Spielberg just a few years away from JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Add Harrison (Han Solo) Ford to the mix, and you had a producer-director-star team that couldn’t miss.

Of course, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, and RAIDERS was perhaps the finest work that any of the three men had delivered to date. Every shot in RAIDERS was a mini-masterpiece, every line memorably delivered, every image indelible. It would be impossible to surpass, and though Spielberg released the ultimate genre pic E.T. the next year and Lucas and Ford provided the third STAR WARS film the following year (failing to top the instant classics of STAR WARS and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), the group re-teamed with INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM for a monster summer 1984 release.
DOOM had more thrills and chills than RAIDERS, and like EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, was a significantly darker film than the original which spawned it. Rumors of an X rating abounded, and critics lashed out at the violence, though most audiences ate up a return trip with the character and the frantic pace of the film’s second half. DOOM was not as good a film as RAIDERS, but as sequels go, it provided much of the content that audiences beckoned in a genre sequel.

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