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Geeky Parent Guide: Why ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’ Endures After 40 Years

40 years ago this June, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in theaters. 40 years have gone by, and it still stands the test of time. As many readers may have watched this film for the first time when they were young, this is a perfect opportunity to discuss some scary elements for young viewers and important characteristics of Indiana Jones that make this film legendary.

Although this movie does have a PG rating, it has some moments that parents might feel a little hesitant to let their younger kids watch. Despite those scary scenes, where – spoiler alert – someone gets impaled with spikes early in the film, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is as satisfying to watch now (and probably even more so) as when I was a kid.

Yes, this movie has violent sequences that might not be suitable for those similar to my own kids’ ages (6 and 8), but I believe this film produces a longstanding message that is suitable for any kid who is mature enough to handle this kind of action film. Along with the “Oops, he dropped an archaeological artifact after being impaled” scene, there is plenty of machine gun fire, sword play (and punctures), and clearly defined death scenes. So, if you do not want your child to see someone get shot in the forehead with a gun, impaled, or have their face melted off after opening the Ark of the Covenant, then you should probably pass on letting them watch it for the time being.

However, if your kids are able to understand the fictional state of these elements, Raiders of the Lost Ark will become a forever staple in your household. At least, it has been for me since I watched it as a kid. I’m hesitant to let my own kids watch this film because of those few intense scenes, but I’m still excited to show them one day. That’s the essence to why #StoriesMatter, because this action/adventure story has phenomenal characters and wonderful storytelling that does not fade with time. I LOVE this movie, and I could understand if someone called this a perfect movie. I had that very thought as I rewatched this movie again (for probably the 100th time).

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One of those longstanding messages that will always be important for kids and adults to see is Indiana Jones punching Nazis. There are no punches to pull when faced with Nazis during the Indiana Jones franchise. At a young age, I did not know the full scope of the atrocities committed by this hate group, but understanding the overall scope of cheering for Indiana Jones without any reservation was singularly important in this film, and then again later in The Last Crusade. Clearly, violence is not a message we want to teach in real life, but it might be safe to say it’s important for kids to understand the scope of what had to be done in our past to triumph over evil, via Indiana.

Raiders of the Lost Ark presents clear and obvious villains within this 1936 setting. Plus, this film represents life as we know it when we sometimes feel like we’re faced with insurmountable odds. Yet, the first film of the franchise – starring Harrison Ford who wonderfully portrays this amazing character – lets us see how ingenuity goes a long way. This film does involve quite a few punches, which isn’t as intense as some of the aforementioned gruesome scenes. Though punches will never sound the same once you hear the sound of Indiana landing a punch and you hear the modified sound effect. It sticks with you in such a fun way that is somewhat nostalgic of when I watched it as a kid. Yes, listening to these punches provides a somewhat comforting sense of nostalgia.

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Not only is Harrison Ford brilliant in his role, the other cast members are equally perfect. I think it’s important for our kids to see sadness from other characters onscreen. As a child and adult who has struggled to vocalize my own feelings, it’s important to see my kids recognize these things and talk about them. One scene in particular, when Indiana and Marion (played by Karen Allen) are trapped in a snake-filled pit, the lid gets closed on them as the evildoers assume doing so will leave them to their deaths. As the lid closes, Marion screams and Sallah (played by John Rhys-Davies) closes his eyes and dips his head in utter sadness.

Along with sadness, there are also true representations of fear. Sallah is afraid and sad that his friends will not survive. His jubilant display of affection for his friends is made clearly when he says, “I’m so pleased you’re not dead!” These are simple moments crafted exceedingly well by the script and the actors in this film, particularly its lead. Indiana Jones is a character that is bold, willing to do the right thing, but doesn’t always know what to do. He’s not perfect, and his troubled past with Marion proves it. He’s also not afraid to talk about what makes him scared. To verbalize that, and to hear that as a child, is a very big deal – which heightens my desire to let my kids watch this film.

When faced with a hidden temple full of booby traps, his companion Satipo (played by Alfred Molina) suggests, “There is nothing to fear.” Right away, Indiana says, “That’s what scares me.” It is such an incredible thing to have a hero talk about their fears, even when that response might not be so calm – like when he finds a giant snake in his lap after escaping a group of people trying to kill him. He was so afraid that he got angry and started shouting. Now, this might seem like a minor thing to highlight, but maybe it would make a lot of sense for a kid to see that reaction, and then understand what we as parents mean when we raise our voices when they happen to do something dangerous.

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Do you think the 1999 sci-fi film, Galaxy Quest, thought of Indiana Jones when they created this line? Well, there isn’t any quit in Indy. His relentlessness comes from his true good of wanting to find artifacts that belong in a museum, which also means keeping them, like the Ark of the Covenant, out of evildoer’s hands. Even when outnumbered, outgunned, or simply outmatched physically, Indiana Jones finds a way. It’s a supremely endearing quality that I think still holds true to this day and one I hope my kids will enjoy seeing too.

Along with being honest about his fears, he also depends on his resourcefulness to get him through each and every day. When faces with trying to get the Ark back from a caravan of Nazis commuting it from one location to another, he goes it alone. When asked how he’s going to accomplish this, he simply responds, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.” This refreshingly honest dialogue from a character who I still love seeing onscreen makes it glaringly obvious that great characters can represent so much; hard work, honesty, true friendship, cheerfulness, despair, mistakes, defeat, and the defiant determination to only bend and not break – to find a way to win in the end.

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After rewatching this movie, I want my kids to watch it now. I want them to have those same realizations of what life can look like in the face of seeing a fictional world. Being honest about feelings, continuing to persevere in the face of adversity, depending on others you trust, and again, seeing Indiana punch Nazis, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a film where 40 years does not make it any less in any way. The excellent characters are amplified by its wonderfully directed style (a la Steven Spielberg) where light, shadows, and overall clever storytelling play a significant role in why this film has not aged.

Does this film still hold up for you? Have you had the opportunity to sit down and watch with your kids? What did your kids think? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or over on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, if you would like to see more Indiana Jones content, or more movies in general, don’t forget to like and share this with all of your geeky friends.

Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.

S.T. Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor



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