Quick Movie Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

raiders of tla

It’s difficult to review Indiana Jones with fresh eyes. It’s one of those iconic movies that almost everyone grew up watching over and over again. Once being the freshest movie of it’s time, it now has that classic cinema feel. When that transition happened is unclear, but watching it now it’s obvious that the iconic scenes seem to make us all forget that the movie is not exactly perfect.

While it gets more and more dated as time goes on, its faults also stand out more. For one, it drags a lot, continuing on longer than it probably needs to.

Perhaps its biggest issue is that the rest of the film is just trying to live up to that amazing first scene. In one of the most iconic openings in movie history, Indiana Jones is going through some booby-trapped temple in Peru to retrieve a golden idol. It’s exciting, it keeps us on the edge of our seats, and is still one of the most exhilarating sequences in any action film ever. Plot-wise, it has little-to-nothing to do with the rest of the story. It merely sets up who Indiana Jones is. Yet, throughout the film we never get anything really close to this type of scene again.

Luckily, it’s carried by a cool story and concept. As a society, we’re fascinated with the occult, so that aspect still holds up.

Set in 1936, Raiders of the Lost Ark follows Jones, played by Harrison Ford, as he’s hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can get to it and utilize its suspected powers.

As much as we try, we just can’t ever imagine anyone else playing Indiana Jones. His dry humor and make-it-up-as-he-goes demeanor have always been able to make any dialogue sound cool, but give him a good script and he’s simply one-of-a-kind.

John Williams’ epic score matches the grandeur of what director Steven Spielberg had in mind. So even when things are a little slow, we’re able to forget it a little.

There’s no denying that Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most important movies of the New Hollywood era as its impact is still very much seen all over today’s cinema. Maybe it’s a good thing we only remember the good parts. Most of us have seen it so many times, we can just fast forward to them anyway.

Twizard Rating: 91


Quick Movie Review: Escape From New York (1981)

escape from new york

It’s a ballsy move making Escape From New York take place a mere 16 years into the future. In the film, the world has changed so much. Even by today’s standards. The United States government has turned Manhattan into a maximum security prison surrounded by giant 50-foot walls, due to a 400% increase in crime. There are no guards in the prison. The prisoners inside are left to the world they’ve created.

Air Force One has been hijacked, and the President’s escape pod crash lands inside the Manhattan prison, so the government hires one of its inmates, Snake Plisskin (Kurt Russell), to rescue the President in exchange for his pardoning.

Snake is pretty dry, and at one point we fear that we’re going to have to suffer through 90 minutes of his surliness. We watch a Kurt Russell movie because we want Kurt Russell. But this is like watching a Will Ferrell movie and getting Taylor Lautner with better acting.

Not only is he pretty void of emotion, but we get hardly any backstory on him or any of the other interesting characters. Just murmurings here and there, which ends up sounding like gibberish amidst the context of the film.

The way Russell says things should make them corny, but it never does. Early on we start forgetting that he sounds like Batman playing Clint Eastwood. Partially due to Russell’s acting, but also because the dialogue is so crisp.

A year early, this one feels like Blade Runner, but less brooding. It’s weird and deceptively goofy. Like the type of weird straight-to-video VHS tape that would have developed a cult following 30 years later. Only this was a mainstream hit.

The film isn’t as dated as it appears. Though some of the character decisions definitely are. I mean, you can’t get away with “forgetting the gun” as easily these days. But its unvarnished look is what gives it character. It feels more real than the likes of Blade Runner. Maybe it doesn’t have as much to say, but it definitely still says something.

The main bad guy within the prison, Duke (Isaac Hayes), is a crime boss who desperately wants to leverage the President for his own escape from prison. The hype around Duke is far more sinister than the character himself. They give him sinister things to say, but Hayes is just too cool to make them convincing.

Escape From New York is not quite as epic as it wants to be, but it’s not due to a fault in the impressively constructed universe. The sets are believable and you get a great feel for the suffocation of this prison. But it’s just a little dated and slow for an action film.

Twizard Rating: 82

Quick Movie Review: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)


During a time where sequels were, more often than not, much worse than the original, we get a rare helping that improves on its predecessor. It fixes itself in all the necessary areas. We’re given the background that was missing from the first film, the struggle for oil is more obvious, and the premise is more clear.

In Mad Max 2, Max (Mel Gibson) wanders along the empty highway when he hears of a small community that is an oasis of oil. He infiltrates their gates and helps them ward off the heathenish biker gang that is attempting to take everything they own.

Many times in a sequel the characters have hit a wall as far as development. They learn all they have to learn in the first film, and the second film just shows them facing a new adventure with nothing new to be taken from it. But here, Max continues to develop as he realizes that he’s not the only one with a loss and that there may actually be a purpose for him other than serving himself. Even though he still leaves his friends despite this realization, this forced predicament is needed in order for him to learn a valuable life lesson.

While the first film feels really anticlimactic, this one knows where it’s going and we are more invested because of it. In the broad spectrum of things these movies don’t have much reliability to our own lives, but watching a respectable hero can be motivating alone.

The action is even better-choreographed and the effects are more impressive, but there is still that same issue that the first film had of trying to stretch its script too thin. The dragged out fight scenes, where the characters cumulatively fire an average of one shot per minute, not only lower each party’s chance of winning, but increase our anxiety.

Although I wished that the filmmakers had connected the events in this film to the first, I have to say that it’s significantly more entertaining and much less disorganized.

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: The Evil Dead (1981)

I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre. I like the unique ones, but the ones that exist purely for shock and awe are useless to me. The Evil Dead definitely falls into that category. Don’t let its legacy fool you. Full of bad editing and gore for gore’s sake, this movie borderlines pointless for me. There’s never any surprises, and the characters besides Ash are annoying and never learn from their mistakes. I start off interested but never feel satisfied with the unfolding of events and the unfulfilled plot elements.

The movie just drags on and the plot is stretched way too thin. They even attempt to waste time at the end by elongating the deaths of the creatures. Most of the film is either boring or gross. The only time it gets slightly interesting is when Ash is all alone towards the end. 

I will say that the art was pretty good, especially at the end, but overall the concept is empty and the movie never gives us a reason to worry about the fate of the characters–other than the fact that the music tells us too. I understand that The Evil Dead is supposed to be a cult classic and all, but I just didn’t get any fulfillment out of it, nor a whole lot of laughs. And it leaves me asking the filmmakers why Ash doesn’t get possessed along all with the others.

Twizard Rating: 48