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Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indigo Prophesy

June 10, 2011

So, I got back from helping my aunt clear out her old house Tuesday. And now I’ve got a summer cold. Personally, I think it was all the cigarette smoke that weakened my immune system. And the huge argument my aunt and middle cousin got in that made me leave a day early. I don’t know; I’m not a doctor.

What was I doing? Oh, right. Raiders and Indigo Prophesy.

The introductory film of the Indiana Jones franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark begins with Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones as he ventures into an ancient Peruvian tomb in pursuit of a golden idol, and immediately after retrieving it, manages to trigger every trap in the tomb and still escape, only to find himself outnumbered by natives and a rival archaeologist, who forces him to hand the idol over.

The natives chase him to the river, where he makes a daring escape via a seaplane. He returns to the United States, where he teaches archaeology at an unnamed university. He and museum curator and friend Marcus Brody are approached by two Army Intelligence agents who are concerned about a Nazi communication referencing Jones’ teacher, Abner Ravenwood. Indy believes they are searching for the Ark of the Covenant, containing the pieces of the Ten Commandments. The Army, at Brody’s suggestion, sponsors a trip for Indiana to retrieve the Ark before the Nazis.

He travels to Nepal, to a bar run by Ravenwood’s daughter, Marion, who greets him with a right cross. After an exchange that implies a rather…tense relationship between the two in the past, he offers her $5000 for the head piece of the Staff of Ra, which she wears around her neck. Shortly after he leaves, a weaselly Gestapo agent and his Nepali mercenaries arrive, in search of the same piece. They attempt to torture her for the information but are thwarted by Indy, which starts a firefight in the bar, with the Gestapo agent Toht grabbing the headpiece and burning half of it into his palm.

Her bar and front money destroyed in the fire, she joins Indiana on his trip to Cairo, where they meet with Jones’ old friend and fellow archaeologist, Sallah, who reveals that the Nazis have hired the rival archaeologist from the opening scene, René Belloq. As Ravenwood and Jones travel the streets of Cairo, they are attacked by Egyptian mercenaries of the Nazis, which ultimately leads to what is, for my money at least, one of the funniest scenes George Lucas has ever filmed.

A crowd of Egyptians parts around Indy and one of the mercenaries, clad in a black robe with a blood red sash, who is preforming all sorts of tricks and acts of manual dexterity with a scimitar, and just as he gets ready to face off with Jones, Indy pulls his revolver and shoots him in the chest.

Meanwhile, Marion is kidnapped by the Nazis, and placed in the back of an ammunition truck. Jones shoots the gunner hanging off the side and the driver, sending the truck over on its side in a fiery explosion. Jones is tracked by Nazi agents and meets with Belloq, who gives him the tired old “Not So Different” speech. Indy, understandably pissed, stands up to pull his gun and is trained on by several rifles and pistols, his life saved only by Sallah’s children, who crowd around him.

At Sallah’s home, he learns that the Nazis have deciphered the information burned into Toht’s hand from the head piece, but since they only have one side, their Staff of Ra is about a foot too long, meaning that they’re digging in the wrong place. Sallah ropes Indy down into the map room, but is forced away by Nazis before Jones can find the true location of the Ark. Sallah pulls Jones up with a makeshift rope from robes or bedsheets and a Nazi flag, and they head back to the camp, where he finds Marion alive and well. He tells her that he’s found the Ark, but can’t take her yet.

I’m going to wrap this up now, because it’s getting late. Sallah and Jones find the Ark in a pit of snakes, Indy thwarts the Nazis plan to fly the Ark out by blowing up their plane, the Nazis then take off with it across the desert and Jones pursues on horseback, telling Sallah of his plan to “make it up as I go”. He makes off with the truck containing the Ark, hiding it in a bazaar, and that night loads it onto a steamer out of Cairo. The ship is followed by a U-boat which boards the ship and steals the Ark back. Indy stows away on the sub to a small island in the Aegean Sea where the Nazis open the Ark, apparently ignorant to the fact that God might have a problem with a country that was trying to exterminate His chosen people opening the symbol of the Covenant between them.

Spirits, similar to the biblical Seraphim fly out and cause all of the Nazis faces to melt and/or explode in the most gruesome ways possible with 1981 special effects technology. The Ark is recovered by Army Intelligence, who then meet with Indiana and Brody, telling them that rather than being given to Brody’s museum as promised, the Ark of the Covenant is “somewhere safe”, being looked at by “top men”. When Indy presses the point, the agent only responds “Top. Men.” The Ark is crated and wheeled into place in a hangar/warehouse, which in the fourth film is revealed to be somewhere in Nevada or Arizona.

Raiders is, for me (well of course for me, it’s my blog. Who else’s opinion would this be?), is in a dead heat with Last Crusade for best of series. Although, if I had to choose, it would be Raiders, because it’s this good even without getting the Connery Bump. Temple of Doom is…okay. I mean, it’s one of those movies where, if it’s like a slow TV day, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it, but if I stumble on something better during a commercial, I ain’t coming back. The fourth one, though, Crystal Skull…well, let me put it this way. I was fine with Crystal Skull in the theater up until the end, when they revealed the whole thing about the aliens, and I may have actually said, out loud, “what the fuck?”. It’s definitely the weakest of the series.

I’ve gotten off track. If you know someone who likes adventure movies, Raiders is a good gift.

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I came into Indigo Prophesy with great expectations. I had heard about the amazing storyline, and yes, the story is very, very good. The focus is on three main characters: Lucas Kane, Carla Valenti, and Tyler Miles. Lucas is…well, to put it bluntly, Lucas is fucked in the head. Take the opening cinematic, for example. Lucas is in the bathroom of a East Side Manhattan diner, carving arcane runes into his forearms with a steak knife. So far, normal enough for a New York diner at 1AM. Then he shambles out of the stall in a trance, between flashes of  a hooded man walking among hundreds of tiny candles, and stabs the other poor guy in the bathroom in the chest three times.

On the other hand, Valenti and Miles are detectives with the NYPD, who are assigned to track down Lucas. They don’t know who he is, what he does, or anything about him besides the fact that he ran out of the diner, and then a police officer found a guy dead in the bathroom.

Throughout the game, the perspective shifts from Kane to Valenti and Miles, as each of the characters has to make important life decisions as the story of possession and batshit fucking insanity charts its course. And really, that’s my only real complaint about the story. Lucas sees a hooded figure walking among candles, fights off imaginary giant arthropods in a scene that was oddly reminiscent of The Matrix, and killed a guy in a diner bathroom. Any one of these, especially the last thing, would be enough for me to check into a nice padded hospital room. And yet, he continues to claim that he’s not crazy. After running around his office, fighting off mind ticks and ending up screaming in the corner, with all his co-workers around.

As I said, I only had one problem with the story. I also have just one problem with the gameplay, and it’s all the controls. Practically everything in this game is controlled through a quicktime event. Now, I usually find quicktime events…oh, what’s the phrase…ball-twistingly intolerable, but Indigo Prophesy does a large majority of them right. It’s those other few times that the game comes to a screeching halt. There are quicktime events that use the mouse. And I don’t mean that you have to click the mouse buttons in the right order as they flash on the screen. No, you have to hold down the left mouse button and occasionally move it in ways that make carpal tunnel look like an inevitability. And that’s the real problem: this game was developed for your standard console, two-joystick controller. And when it was ported to the PC, they really didn’t make any attempt to change around the controls to fit the PC format.

Plus, essentially being an interactive movie more than any other genre, the camera can be kind of…wonky sometimes, but it happens infrequently enough so that you won’t be annoyed by it. All in all, it’s a very enjoyable game, even with its eccentricities.

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