Watching Raiders with Sam

As there is a new Indiana Jones movie coming out in May, and a new Lego Indiana Jones video game coming out soon after, I decided Sam (6) should see Raiders of the Lost Ark now, before all the cool parts have been reduced to mere slapstick comedy beats through the lovable antics of the Lego characters (we’ve already had many discussions of how the Star Wars movies differ from their Lego counterparts).

Twelve minutes or so into the movie, after the search through the jungle and the death-traps in the cave and giant boulder and the chase to the airplane, Sam had a chance to catch his breath, turn to me and say, with great emphasis, “This is a good movie.

I knew what he meant. Raiders, for those who were not born yet in 1981, was a bolt from the blue. I had seen a lot of movies by the time I was 19 years old, and considered myself a pretty sophisticated moviegoer, but I had never seen anything remotely like Raiders when it came out. As Rolling Stone described it, it was a movie of all “good parts.” I sat in the theater slack-jawed, wondering, if it’s possible to make a movie like this, why aren’t all movies like this? It was grittier and more “adult” than Star Wars, swifter than any ten James Bond adventures, more fun than any movie in memory, with incredible action sequences that still hold up today as masterworks of movement, suspense, wit and pure kinetic genius.

Anyway, Sam had never seen it before and I was curious how he would react. He knows nothing about ancient Hebrew artifacts, Nazis or Nepal, and it turns out it doesn’t matter. He knew that the Nazis were the bad guys, Belloq was a more complicated bad guy (“it’s like he’s working with the bad guys, but he’s more like Indiana Jones, and they could almost be friends” was the way he put it, which put him yards ahead of my initial reading of the movie), and, in spite of a ton of exposition delivered by men in suits in Reel 2, he had no trouble following the whole complicated “Staff-of-Ra-leads-to-the-Well-of-Souls-leads-to-the-Ark-of-the-Covenant” storyline. He noted that the music sounded like Star Wars, that Indiana Jones reminded him of Han Solo, and that Cairo looked like Tatooine. Most impressively, in the middle of the truck chase he pointed out that one guy who falls off the back of the truck screams exactly like Boba Fett (actually a Weequay) falling into the pit of the Sarlacc.

Then he crept around the house for the rest of the afternoon, jumping out from behind things with a plastic axe when I least expected it. I don’t know if he was pretending to be a spy, or a crafty native, a Nazi or a living booby-trap but he seemed to enjoy the movie.

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28 Responses to “Watching Raiders with Sam”
  1. craigjclark says:

    Did he enjoy the bad guys getting their faces melted off at the end, too? (That was the part that most horrified my mother when we went to see it as a family in 1981 — I was eight at the time and my younger brother was six like Sam.)

    • Todd says:

      He did enjoy when the faces got melted off. Yes he did.

      • curt_holman says:

        Do you have a philosophy about allowing your kids to see violence/icky corpses/on-screen killings, etc. in films? My daughter’s five and I’m cool with her seeing fairly bloodless films like The Adventures of Robin Hood and the first Stars Wars, but I’m not in a rush for her to see scenes that are (relatively speaking) more graphic. If she were a boy, I might be less sensitive about it.

        I got a surprise this morning when she and I watched ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’ (we’re both huge fans of ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ and ‘Porco Rosso’) — it was her first time, and I’d seen it about 15 years ago at Georgia State University — and I discovered that the language was a lot saltier than I remembered, with more “dammits,” “bastards,” “bitches,” etc. than I would have liked. Didn’t see that coming.

        • Todd says:

          Sam is almost seven and I thought he was ready for the melting Nazis and the impaled Alfred Molinas and such. And it turned out he was — he thought the mummies were one of the coolest things in the movie. And of course he loves guns and gunplay and up ’til now we’ve restricted him to the more fantastic realm of Star Wars ray guns and lightsabers. Kit is five and I scheduled the Raiders viewing for when she was away at a girl party.

          The blood in Raiders is mostly fanciful, with just enough to make it cool, not so much as to make it horrifying. It’s a pure “boy’s adventure story” — and what’s a boy’s adventure story without a little blood?

          But yes, I was surprised at the amount of swearing in Raiders. They say “damn” and “hell” and “son of a bitch” and Indy even lets loose with a “holy shit” at one point. We don’t have a strict policy for or against it, I think I’d say we take it on a case-by-case basis. Sam hasn’t shown any particular propensity for becoming a sailor so far, although we probably won’t be showing him Dog Day Afternoon any time soon.

          We all sat down as a family to watch Princess Mononoke a few weeks ago and I was surprised at the language in that too, but again, the kids didn’t seem to notice and it hasn’t affected them.

          • greyaenigma says:

            I was terrified by raiders when I was twelve, but then, movies (and, notably TV and video games) have taken a couple of steps forward in violence since then.

            I remember being especially horrified by the snakes coming out of mummies, which I barely notice now.

            Most impressively, in the middle of the truck chase he pointed out that one guy who falls off the back of the truck screams exactly like Boba Fett falling into the pit of the Sarlacc.


            I say it again, Sam is destined for great things. He may actually be the Kwisatz Haderach.

            • curt_holman says:

              “He may actually be the Kwisatz Haderach.”

              THAT’s funny.

              Did Raiders scare you in a theater, or on video? The different media can make a huge difference with young people.

              • greyaenigma says:

                On the big screen. If I recall correctly, the really big one in Worcester, the one that used to be an opera house. And yeah, probably having a giant melting naziface and sixty foot mummies vomiting vipers may have had something to do with my uneasiness.

                Contrariwise, the fact that I was disturbed by all that stuff as a kid led me to inure myself as a teenager.

  2. laminator_x says:

    That’s great that Sam caught the Scream. Your time together is well spent indeed.

  3. planettom says:

    Even at age 12 I was pretty shaken by the melting Nazis.

    So, are you going to show him LAST CRUSADE?

    I realized recently my niece and nephew hadn’t seen TEMPLE OF DOOM, in fact they didn’t even know it existed (they’d seen the other two). So we watched it, but I skipped the heart-plucking-scene through Indy-forced-to-drink-blood-from-a-skull (all of which caused the PG-13 rating to come into existence). It was actually a better movie with that skip, and not hard to follow. “The bad guys turned Indy bad.” There we go.

    • Todd says:

      I find Last Crusade to be the lightest and most cartoonish of the movies, I don’t have a problem with Sam watching it. Nazi book-burnings I’m fine with, explaining who Jesus was is a little trickier.

      Temple of Doom presents different problems — child endangerment and grating sexism, plus Indy turning evil in a pretty horrific sequence. But if Sam doesn’t have a problem with Revenge of the Sith, I’m guessing he’ll be okay with Temple of Doom. He’s pretty savvy about movie logic, understands that “good guy turned bad” is decent plot point instead of the end of the world.

      • ndgmtlcd says:

        What does the protagonist want?

        To get an autograph from Hitler, right in his personal/family secret treasure book.

        That scene saved the movie for me. The sum total of World War Two, its prelude, the rise of the nazis, their impending fall, everything was there in a few minutes. I spend decades studying History and Spielberg condensed it all, in just a few images. Adolf Hitler was a clueless git, and now the whole world knows it thanks to Mr. Spielberg.

      • planettom says:

        When my niece was 4, I showed her AN AMERICAN TAIL (Fievel). Yikes, that was a mistake. It’d never occurred to her that someone could lose his parents. She spent the next half-hour increasingly freaking out.
        “Is Fievel going to find his parents?”
        “I’m pretty sure it’s going to work out ok.”
        “Whoa. Hey. Stop the Film. We need to Establish. Right. Now. IS. FIEVEL. GOING. TO. FIND. HIS. PARENTS?”

      • monica_black says:

        Last Crusade is probably the tamest of the films. There is the guy who is reduced to dust after drinking from the wrong chalice, but that is much more kid friendly than the face melting in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

        I was older than Sam when my mother first let me watch the Indiana Jones trilogy and I remember that I couldn’t handle all of Temple of Doom. But Sam seems more mature than I was at that age.

        • Todd says:

          Last Crusade may be tamer than the other movies violence-wise, but it also features a man having sex with his father’s girlfriend, which raises the “ick” factor to an almost intolerable degree.

  4. madbard says:

    Someone who recognizes the Wilhelm Scream at that age must be preordained for show biz.

    (BTW, hi – plugged your journal, so I tuned in. I really like what I’ve read so far.)

  5. It must be rewarding having a kid with good taste!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sam sounds smarter than I was when I was his age

    The trailer for the new movie gives me hope. And Shia looks like a good addition to the franchise, haters be darned.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Sam sounds smarter than I was when I was his age

      Well, he’s more appealing than Short Round, if that’s what you mean.

      • thebitterguy says:

        Re: Sam sounds smarter than I was when I was his age

        I hope they at least mention Short Round. Something to at least apologize to the fans for the film’s shortcomings.

        • Re: Sam sounds smarter than I was when I was his age

          I just watched Temple of Doom with my girlfriend last night, so seeing the subject of this entry was humorous!!

          I love ToD, and find it hard to understand the general feeling of dislike. I really enjoy Short Round, and he stands as one of the very few kid sidekicks that doesn’t suffer from the all troo common “Wesley Crusher Syndrome”. Sure, ToD isnb’t as good as the other two, but it’s a damn sight better than most other movie sequels!!

          I for one hope that the new Indy is just the start of another influx of pulp action movies! We need new Shadow, Phantom, and possibly Rocketeer movies, as well as adding Doc Savage and some contempories to the list. My pulp DVD collection needs growing.

          Actually, Todd, after Indy, maybe you should introduce Sam to some more pulp stuff. If it’s rip-roaring action adventure he enjoys, the pulp genre uses that as it’s text-book definition!


  7. when i watched The Last Crusade for the first time, several of the images inside the temple at the end really scared me.

    The lion statues, for one, stuck with me for a significant period of time and were something i always had to cover my eyes when they appeared on screen. And basically all three tests Indy had to overcome scared me in one way or another. I think the knight scared me too.

    I’ve always had a problem with religious imagery used in a scary/suspenseful way. Maybe it’s my inner Christian telling me to repent before it’s too late? Or maybe i’m just a wuss.

    Sam sounds tougher than i was when i originally saw Last Crusade. It sounds like he can handle it.

  8. teamwak says:

    Great stuff!

    Indy was always my hero! I was never the biggest Star Wars fan, but the exploits of Indy always got me 🙂

    I so cant wait for the next one. The trailer was bloody good!

  9. Whenever I’m asked what my favorite movie of all time is, I have to cheat. I have a tie.
    Citizen Kane & Raiders of the Lost Ark are tied for #1 in my book. I can (and have) watched them over and over again.

    • Todd says:

      It’s odd that you pair them like that. A while back, I knew a six-year-old boy whose parents made him watch Citizen Kane, why I do not know. And he could discourse more-or-less fluently on the merits of Welles’s masterwork, and at one point I asked him “What are you doing watching Citizen Kane? You should be watching — ” and here I cast about for a moment, trying to think of the perfect opposite of Citizen Kane, before saying — “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”