Finishing the Ark: Our Review of ‘Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 17, 2016
Finishing the Ark: Our Review of ‘Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’

For many film goers, Indiana Jones is an iconic action adventure store, and Raiders of the Lost Ark is an indelible, unforgettable movie experience.  There is no shortage of superlatives that can be used to describe the trilogy by Steven Spielberg that starred Harrison Ford as a crusading archaeologist – some thirty years later; they are making yet another film (I believe that’s the fourth in the series, right? They haven’t made any more since The Last Crusade… I can’t seem to remember…anyways).

For two kids though, Raiders was something special and powerful, so much so that they decided, for reasons remarkably simple, that they would stage a shot-for-shot remake of the film using all the time and resources at hand. And over the years they did it! Almost.


Raiders! The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a documentary that revisits with those that endeavored to create this replica of a beloved film, while following them now as adults with families and jobs as they try and shoot a long elusive, exceptionally complex scene, to complete a life’s work. Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala, two boys in Mississippi only the verge of teenage-hood began their quest when the film was released in 1981 across seven years – mostly summers and holidays – borrowing their friends’ time and limited acting skills to literally recreate the film. They did it out of order, with plenty of technical glitches, innovative yet questionable effects, and unparalleled determination.

Yet one scene in which Indiana has a series of fights on and around a fighter jet, culminating in a bloody ending for a large, muscled Nazi, could not be realized. It was too big and complex – it’s true, though the boys did manage to shot a famous truck scene, doing their own reckless stunts to great effect.

Raiders! is surprisingly tense, emotional, and funny. The boys, friends, and family recount what they did growing up,  which included soliciting supervision from an adult who turned out to be quite the pyro, and jumping on and around a moving truck. Mistakes sent one kid to the hospital, while later on the group realized that the less their parents knew about their dangerous antics, the better.raiders-the-story-of-the-greatest-fan-film-ever-made-videoSixteenByNine1050

The past stories are just as entertaining as the present, as after securing funds, they set out to finish the movie, with money and time draining away, the pressure of friends, family, and adult responsibilities creeping in. It’s a wild, loving tale about the power of film, and of course helps that the movie in question is itself enshrined in greatness.

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