Fun with Franchises: Our Favorite Images from Raiders of the Lost Ark
One of the recurring features that we do in Fun with Franchises (a feature within a feature) is, after we finish watching a film, we go through and pick out our favorite images from that film. These images could be anything from really famous images from the film or franchise, really beautifully composed shots, shots that are funny to us because of the facial expressions being made in them or because of what we said about them in the article in which they appeared, or simply because they have boobs in them.
How we do this is, in the same way we watch the films, Colin and I separately pick out about ten to fifteen shots that we really liked. (This typically ends up being him picking out around 30 and me having around 70.) Then we compare lists, and whichever ones we both chose automatically make our final list. Everything else we talk through. We have it down to a science by now. Within four total emails, we’re left with a final list of ten images we liked the best, along with ten honorable mentions, which were also as good, but just missed out on making the list proper. (And then more we just work in. Just cause.)
It’s not very complicated (like most things we do here at B+ Movie Blog), and is just a way for us to point out shots that we really liked in the films, especially since we tend to pick stuff that’s not always on the beaten path. (We also don’t officially rank the list of shots. We just put them in chronological order. Simply picking them is hard enough. We don’t want to make our lives any harder. Plus, we’re lazy.)
That said — here are our favorite images from Raiders of the Lost Ark:
Howdy, it’s time for the Raiders shots.
A brief introduction to these — a lot of our primary list is based around specific tricks Spielberg employs throughout the film. So they’re doubled up, but they’re very much based around a particular shot type.
The second one is the primary shot, but we included the first one too, because Marcus barging into a classroom and not giving a fuck is awesome. But that shot clearly sets up for this shot later, and most people don’t even pick up on that.
The beautiful thing about this second shot — and most people would have picked the static image that begins the scene, but I went with this one, because this is the part of the shot that makes me really happy whenever I see it.
The idea is that you’re watching the scene from behind the holes in the door, and it’s just a unique place to put the camera. And the scene develops and you watch the little brown child come in and get the wine or whatever. And then he leaves, and the door opens, and you realize, the entire time,
There aren’t enough first-person shots anymore, and the ones that are tend to be obviously first-person, like the shot in one of the Transformers movies where they mounted a GoPro on a machine gun as one of the soldiers fires at a Decepticon. I’m not really saying that was necessarily BAD, but it was definitely more about coming up with some raw, guerrilla-style action-y shot. What I’m talking about is THIS stuff, where we’re viewing a scene from the perspective of a bad guy. It brings you into the scene because you’re in the position of harming a character or characters we care about and you’re privy to the danger before they are.
Think about where we’ve seen this — the GENIUS, unbroken shot from the assassin’s perspective outside Connery’s place in The Untouchables, and in Harry Potter’s dream as he witnesses Nagini’s attack on Arthur Weasley. And plenty of other times. The point is, these shots (and I am only referring to the second of these two) are the ones that make you want to yell at the screen, because the first-person perspective makes it feel like we’re in on the secret danger and can somehow aid our hero by making our own presence known.
The first one to me, is the great shot. It really sets up Indy as an iconic hero. The other two are just Spielberg playing and doing it more because it’s an awesome trick. This is the kind of shit they did back in the 30s. Mostly for budget restrictions, I imagine. But who cares? Awesome shots are awesome shots. And the great thing about taking these shots that were commonplace in the 30s and repurposing them now is that, if you do it right, you have the chance to make something iconic. That’s the thing about Hollywood — people always complain, “Oh, all the stories have been told and all the shots have been done before.” Okay, fine, if you say so. But not all of those stories and shots are classics. Just because the story’s been told doesn’t mean all the pieces were put together perfectly. the song “Singin’ in the Rain” was written in 1929 and was used as the finale for The Hollywood Revue of 1929. It was a big Technicolor sequence (one of the only ones in the film), and had all the actors on stage for it. Yet, if you asked people where they remember the song from and when they think the song was written, you know what they’ll say. That’s why I keep praising Spielberg’s direction of this film. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it is rebranding it. And making people realize, “Oh man, we can do a lot more cool shit with this wheel that we forgot about.”
This is straightforward. Shadows show myth, not reality. If you want something to appear mythical, give it a silhouette, not a clear shot. The third image, however, is a little different, and in a way, it’s my favorite. The importance of the composition lies in how the shadow is cast over the Ark, which remains the focal point of the shot. We don’t see the random Nazi schlub, who is probably wholly unimpressive. His shadow, however, manifests the threat he represents. And when you compare that to the top shot with him entering the bar, his shadow doesn’t cover her — it looms over her shoulder, like a guardian angel or something.
This second shot here is one of my actual top three favorite images in the movie. This is gorgeous.
The first one I love because the first shot of Indy’s face is him stepping from darkness into the light. It’s a classic hero shot. They’re still doing it now. Remember Skyfall? The first shot of the film is Bond doing that. And Spielberg very subtly plays off of that by making his villain stand in darkness, and then step forward into more darkness. Which is so wonderful, because without a word, it tells you exactly who this guy is in relation to our hero and lets us know that we shouldn’t trust him and that only bad can come of this.
The second shot isn’t as thematically relevant, but rather a beautiful technical trick. I’m not sure how they did it, because this was done in an era where you couldn’t hide edits, Birdman style. It probably wasn’t as obvious as say… Rope, where you track in to someone’s back and track back out and it’s clearly a new take, but we’re going along with the illusion that it’s the same. But I’m sure cutting away from a shot like this would not have been so easy as to go unnoticed due to all the action going on.
And what’s so brilliant about it is how they’re all outside and Sallah meets the two of them and brings them into the tent. And they just go right inside the tent, from the brightness of the outside, into total darkness. And the lighting does not change at all. It actually made me stop and go, “Whoa!” as I saw it. That’s really impressive. Plus, it’s also great that this is happening directly after they blew up a plane and all of that is still happening in the background. Which goes back to the long take, another thing Spielberg uses in this movie to perfection.
Again, too many people are trying to show everything. This almost acts like a voiceover, but we get everything we need in body language while they frame the chaos outside. They’re in hiding, so they should be in a place like this. But you don’t want to shoot this from outside looking in because that ignores all the craziness OUTSIDE. There’s a burning aircraft in the back of this shot. It’s beautiful, but they’re getting every cent they can out of a massive set piece they had to blow up.
4. The Shifty Trifecta
This is just about a guy and his monkey. A Nazi monkey.
The first shot is so great. They guy and the monkey are just chilling on the stoop. It looks like a buddy movie. The monkey’s saying some shit, and he’s like, “Not that again, Frank!”
And then, I don’t see how anyone can’t love a shot of a monkey giving the Nazi salute.
The third shot is so great because this guy’s looking around the corner all shifty, and the monkey is right there, doing the same thing. That might be my favorite shot of all. The eye patch also makes it better.
The third one is great because it looks like fucking Purple Rain.
And then the last one because — chill, monkey.
These guys know shifty characters. I just want to point out how visually and thematically similar this character is to the character Garindan from A New Hope. The shifty desert town information dealer hired by the enemies to spy on our heroes. This character was given larger role than Garindan, probably because there weren’t enough cute things in the movie and his shifty monkey could cover that.
I wonder what happened to this guy after his monkey died.
5. The Map Room
This entire set was made for us. The first shot I love because the white next to the Egyptian walls — you just know some fun adventure shit is about to go down. And then that giant model — any time people are building large scale models of things (not like when the shady businessman made a model of his plan to build a shopping mall over the rec center. I mean, like this. Real materials, out of the ground, where that’s what the entire room is dedicated to), I’m in. Large scale models and battle maps in war rooms. Nothing beats those.
This is almost designed to get me excited. Everyone who reads this blog knows I like maps. We choose map shots CONSTANTLY, and my fondest memory of Attack of the Clones (not really saying much) was the holographic 3D battle map that the Separatist forces had in their command center. It’s so cool that they built this room just to show where the Ark is buried, because while it makes no sense, it necessitated the creation of this massive map room showing the city as it was.
6. This shot
This shot was designed to stick out to everyone and end up on a list like this. So there’s not much to say about it. It’s gorgeous, and they knew it.
This could also be Cool Hand Luke and you’d never know.
“Digging for the Ark, boss.”
They really do have a failure to communicate, with these guys.
There are so many silhouettes in this movie and I never noticed it until now and I want everyone to do more silhouettes. Sunny silhouettes, moonlight silhouettes, whatever. Just more.
7. This shot
I said it in the article. This looks straight out of a historical epic from the 50s and 60s. That day for night photography, and the yellow hue of the sand going up against that blue sky — pick almost any one of those movies, and you’ll probably see a shot like this. Spartacus, The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur for sure. The one this specifically reminded me of (though the coloring isn’t the same) is the crucifixion scene at the end of The Greatest Story Ever Told (which has a John Wayne cameo in there too). For some reason that was the moment I thought of first, but there are a dozen. If you watched enough epics from the 50s that were shot on studio soundstages, you’ve seen this exact kind of shot before. And I prefer a shot like this than almost anything else movies nowadays will give me. I want the artifice back. But real artifice, with matte paintings and really obvious sets. And not cartoon shit clearly drawn by computers.
This seriously looks like something out of The Ten Commandments. The lighting and the small stage are so classically Bible epic that you can’t not love it.
8. Blood spatter
This is the classic notion that violence off-screen is more brutal than violence on-screen. This motherfucker gets decapitated by a propellor. And yet, seeing that is way more fucked up than actually seeing it happen. Plus there’s the imagery of the Nazis being “wounded” in some way, which also plays into it. And the red white and blue, I’m sure, also subconsciously plays into it as well. But there’s something about blood spattering that always makes for an exciting shot. Even so recently as the blood on the cotton in Django. A good blood spatter goes a long way. (Pun ridiculously intended.)
That’s cold. It happens fast enough that you’re still wincing when you see it, but the imagery IS of a blood spatter over a swastika, which is pretty nice. I also appreciate how the red paint is a very different color from the blood. RadioLab did a podcast all about blood, including a segment about the varieties of film blood, and there’s a lot that goes into choosing consistency and color.
Finally, I want to take YET ANOTHER opportunity to express how the limitations of not being able to show this guy getting chopped up by a propeller gave us a more interesting shot and a better moment. I mean, did we really need to see giant ants swarming down that Russian guy’s throat in Crystal Skull? Couldn’t you have left the camera off the action and had a scream turn into a gurgle and then have that fade into the sound of thousands of little legs running?
9. These shots
The idea for pairing these two is the use of wide shot to convey action. Otherwise, I just wanted to get these two into the article.
The first one I love because it’s the classic shot of the hero walking up and us pulling back to reveal the scale of what’s happening. It’s not a shock and awe moment in the film, but it is nice for us because we see this giant operation happening, with all these real extras and real semi-sets built in this desert. And that’s really nice. Nowadays, they would not hesitate to make almost all of this fake and green-screened. I can see this exact shot being done today, and almost all of that set would be filled with giant screens and people walking past with two camels and buckets and shit.
The other thing I like about it is the idea of something being built where there is nothing. Deserts and the West are the two places where this really works for me. One thing I’ve never forgotten that I wish they did more of is the climax of 3:10 to Yuma. The new one. Where they’re running to get to the train, but they’re running through a bunch of unfinished houses and buildings. So it’s just a bunch of wood foundations and columns sticking up. Which I love, because it’s both the idea of how fine the line is in this place between civilization and the wild, and also because — I like that fully building sets for that place actually meant only partially building them. That amuses me. Plus I just like the idea of a town in progress. So that’s also why I like that first one.
The second one I love because it’s action shown wide. You see everything, you know where everything is, and you watch it play out. And visually, the runway draws your eye to the center of the action, and the truck and hut are anchors as well to keep you focused. Then he plays with the shot by putting the explosion in there. It’s just great. This is how action should be staged, and again brings me back to how incredible Spielberg’s direction is in this film.
They made ALL of this. The scale, the realism, the film…this looks SO much better than anything out there these days! Unless we’re talking about something like There Will Be Blood, where they built all the rigs and shot on location and stuff like that. Look at how many planes of action you have! There are so many extras in that shot, and they’re all DOING something. When you look closely, it feels real because they’re grouped or all engaged in a task — now consider Mos Eisley in the remastered version of A New Hope. There are people walking by themselves, like the whole place is just a big sidewalk. And despite his lacking the depth of this sort of shot from his original takes in Mos Eisley, Lucas tried to recreate this sort of multiple-plane dynamic by shoving a bunch of shit RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA as we watch the scene.
There’s something so great about this framing. Thematically, of course — the Ark, and them, and all that. But on a simple viewing level — the shiny gold in the foreground, and them being framed by the Ark vagina. And also that blue and gold coloring like before. This is one of those shots that only a great director would think of. And it’s not even one that you’d automatically think, “Oh yeah, that’s great.” And yet these are the ones that are always more impressive.
Wow. This is one of those shots you don’t really notice as you’re watching the movie, but it’s so great. The whole shot is the thing we’ve been chasing, but our focus is on the two of them bound to a stake.
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Before we get into the honorable mentions, let’s hold monkeys and make sex eyes at each other.
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- Facial Expressions
The first one is the one for me. What the fuck is he doing? It’s like he knew he had to convey a certain emotion, so he went so over the top with it that it not only gets the point across in the moment, but also provides a hilarious snapshot for viewers thirty years later looking to write articles where they make fun of the movie.
One of the things that has stuck with me over the course of watching these movies again is how great Ford’s facial expressions are in them. I think that’s one of the most underrated things about this franchise. The next time you watch this trilogy (because, let’s face it…), specifically watch the craziness of Harrison’s Ford’s facial expressions. It’s almost Steve Harvey on Family Feud level.
Then, the second one I love, because — “Oh, you motherfucker, I want to punch you in the face now, but I also want to fuck you too.”
The third one is another Ford facial expression, but what makes it really shine is the guy in the background, smiling like an idiot. That’s a top level photobomb.
And then Nazi faces. The last one is iconic, and is great because, again — they made it. Harryhausen effects. Real shit.
Not enough of this stuff in newer movies. Maybe it’s too calculated these days. I’m not sure. Look at his face during that chase scene. Yes.
- Map Travel
Maps, map travel — it’s great. It harkens back to those old inserts in noirs and stuff. Or even The Thin Man, where the dragnet is thrown over the map. There’s something so wonderfully efficient about the way they’re doing this. The new way with all the animation looks terrible. But this way feels worth it.
These are always going to be my favorite artistic moments of every film because it’s one of those old maps and a plane flying in the background. It’s adventure in a single image. And it always makes me think of the globe with the plane at the beginning of Casablanca.
Gotta love a dame who will stop in the middle of a bar fight when the bar is on fire to drink from a hole in a cask. Never waste booze.
And she’s holding a torch, which is just so wonderfully cavalier.
We’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now. This is actually what I looked like during our coverage of the Twilight articles. If you’d like to see how I write while drunk…really any of those are fair game.
- The single take
Spielberg does a lot of long takes in this, and it’s great. Especially in action scenes. He actually revisited that idea in Tintin a few years ago, and didn’t get nearly enough credit for it. (Remember how the climactic action sequence happens in a single take? Anyone?) But this scene is great. Marion runs through the alleyway, runs into the doorway, the camera stops, the henchman runs inside — BAM — hit with a pot. Then he gets dragged inside (and let’s not forget, one of my favorite shots in all of cinema is that of an unconscious body being dragged out of frame. It’s so funny to me), and then she runs out, realizes people are coming, then hops inside one of those — whatever those things are, as the men then run through the alley. It’s great choreography, and the fact that he doesn’t cut away from it allows everything to develop, and allows you to understand everything that’s going on. The more I think about this movie, the more I think about how the the sum of the part is greater than I’d normally give it credit for, which is crazy, since the whole is really fucking good.
This is great because it’s not dragging a body BEHIND anything or putting it in a trunk or anything. There’s something scary about how he’s being dragged into a dark room, and you can’t see who or what is dragging him, even though it’s her. It also reminds me of my favorite BBC Frozen Planet moment.
- This moment
It’s not that the guy did the whole swordplay and he just shot him out of nowhere. That’s hilarious in and of itself. It’s the face he has and the pose he has at this exact moment. Like, “Shit… where did I park?” I want to be able to shoot someone in cold blood and then immediately go back to thinking about, “Goddamn, I gotta get to the bank before they close.”
This shot reminds me of the ones we know from other franchises where there’s a dead guy and our hero looking totally unphased by what just went down. Bond, after killing Slate in Port Au Prince during Quantum of Solace, especially.
- South American Pits
This is one of those shots that feels like it epitomizes the action movie. This film set the template for what I consider to be a true action adventure scenario. In the jungle. Pits and vines and obstacles like this. That’s why all these superhero movies annoy me. Because I don’t get a sense of adventure and excitement from them. This feels tangible.
Matrix-like angle, huh? But there are all these weird vines and stuff. I’m pretty sure that fake-looking vines were a staple of film from the 80s through the 90s. This, The Princess Bride, Jumanji…yeah.
- Facing your fears
This is a great shot framing wise and thematically. We already know he doesn’t like snakes. From the beginning and from minutes before this. So now he’s literally faced with a snake, and has to overcome it. It’s a great moment.
Saw this shit at the beginning of every single Paramount Home Video VHS I owned or rented. They would play famous movie clips to advertise whatever they were selling, as though whichever studio made the movie had any bearing on what you rented. I remember that the CBS Fox Home Video featured a rather long clip from one of Mike’s favorite Oscar films, A Room with a View.
Oh, right. The shot. Yeah, it’s pretty good.
Fun fact: A Room with a View was the original title for The Miracle of Life.
Lot of great things about this image. One — I love when people are deliberately placed in a frame in an unnatural way. No one stands on top of a submarine exactly like that. So that’s great. Two — it’s a fucking submarine. Three — NAZI submarine. Four, I love that they’re not spaced out exactly the same distance from each other. It gives off that rough feel that the rest of the movie does, like, “Oh, let’s do that,” and then it’s not fine tuned. Like how you see Harrison Ford tripping over shit and walking into things and the apple rolling off the desk. It’s not fine tuned. That one guy is leaning, probably because he’s been posed like that for about three minutes as these ships got into this exact spot for the shot to happen. Oh, and there’s also a giant gun on the top of this submarine. How badass is that?
Look at the rust on that U-Boat! This is one of the same shells that they used for Das Boot and it shows. This shit looks REAL. I loved these movies because they brought me back to that time so effectively. And who doesn’t love a nice naval shot?
- This set
Look at this set. And look at the angle. It looks like a set. And that’s great!
More stage shots. That shit is made of plywood and plaster and it looks GREAT.
- This room
Mostly because you see this shot and immediately your brain is drawn to all the possibilities of what’s in here. And then, if you’re a child (which I still am), you think, “How much fun would it be to tear around in this place?” I honestly don’t even care about the thematic relevance of it all. I just care about, “Okay, why are we not seeing what’s in all these boxes and seeing those stories?” I like shots like this that both look cool (matte paintings like a motherfucker!) and get me thinking about all these other possibilities related to them.
I like this because there are two ways to look at it. One possibility is that they’re hiding the Ark in some place with much more mundane stuff, which makes you reflect on how powerful and enigmatic an artifact it is, and how we’re effectively re-burying it here. The OTHER possibility — the one that I used to believe in as a kid and that has been basically confirmed by Crystal Skull — is that this is a massive Ikea full of shit that’s ALL powerful and enigmatic. And that’s a great way to get you into a story, and to widen a franchise. Just as we’re thinking how crazy that shit was, they pull back and show you that what you were just blown away by was a mere sliver of what’s going on in the aggregate. Visually, it’s also really cool. Hanging out in warehouses is awesome. Not so much WORKING in warehouses, but you know.
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That was fun. Time to go back to what we’d normally be doing.
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Tomorrow, we go over our final thoughts from the film.