By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange HQ
My most enjoyable moviegoing experience in recent memory didn’t involve superheroes or computer animation. Neither did it boast breathtaking visuals or great performances. You might think, “Well, what else is there to appreciate about a movie?” As I quickly came to find, plenty.
In 1982 a trio of 11-year old boys in Mississippi decided to do a shot for shot remake of the film that had enamored them since its release the year prior, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Little did they know that this undertaking would consume the next seven summers of their lives.
What I saw was actually a double feature. First was the documentary Raiders!, about these boys and the film they made. This was followed by the fan film itself, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. The doc is both fun and funny, a winning tribute to the audacity, naivety and ingenuity of youth. It also serves as a poignant look at the passage of time, as we see the grown up versions of these boys, now middle-aged men, and follow their precarious quest to reunite and film the one missing scene that had always eluded them.
The documentary ends on such a feel-good high, I actually contemplated not staying for the adaptation itself. I mean, after all this buildup it could only disappoint, right? My curiosity prevailed though, and I was treated to… the grainy visuals of a VHS camera, with horrid sound and amateur adolescent actors whose ages vary from scene to scene.
And I loved every minute of it.
The handmade sets and costumes are intricately detailed, the practical effects are clever, the stunt work headshakingly dangerous, and the performances sincere. Unlike a normal movie, you’re not simply rooting for characters to succeed; you’re rooting for the filmmakers themselves, every step of the way. It’s a refreshing reminder that, in a world of big budget spectacle, tales of plucky underdogs still resonate best.