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Indiana Jones Raiders Of The Lost Ark, IMAX Fail

I love Indiana Jones. I’ve seen all the movies more times than I can count, am able to quote them on command and will forever adore Indy and his fedora. The re-release of Raiders of the Lost Ark in Imax made me incredibly happy, but after seeing the film, I left disappointed and wishing it hadn’t been in Imax.

Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981 and looked absolutely stunning. The distant shots silhouetting Indy against the desert sun were perfection and his narrow escape from the giant rolling rock of doom had me on the edge of my seat.

Over the last 31 years, movie effects have come a long way, but I was perfectly willing to put aside my modern day expectations and enjoy a trip down movie memory lane. I secured the perfect seat right in the middle of the theater, sat back, and was incredibly disappointed.
It wasn’t the movie itself, which is just as wonderful as ever, but the experience of watching it in Imax. This wasn’t filmed for this type of theater experience. It was filmed for the now very old-fashioned theaters we had back in 1981. You know, the ones without stadium seating or the dome style Imax screen.

As a result, there were times during the film that perspective was glaringly out of whack. It actually blurred during some of the action sequences and throughout, it just felt off. I know they went back and enhances the visuals and sound before this release, but it just didn’t work. The effect was horribly distracting and reminded me of when they first started colorizing black and white films.

Colorizing seemed like a fantastic idea. If they’d had color when they were originally filming, then surely they’d have used color so adding it after the fact seemed like be an improvement. It turns out the idea was very wrong.
The shadows, the textures, the feel of the film was created knowing there would be no color. Suddenly adding rouge to everyone’s cheeks and color to their clothes looked wrong. It was harsh and unforgiving and had you noticing the color, not the movie. It too was a distraction.

Indy in Imax is like colorizing black and white films. Even the seat-rumbling sound didn’t feel right because it was somehow too much, overwhelming the movie and detracting from my experience. Would they have filmed it differently if they’d known it was being shown in Imax with a huge screen and incredibly sound? Yes, and maybe then it would have worked, but as an afterthought, not so much.

But they didn’t film it for Imax and something was horribly lost in the translation. Although I still enjoyed seeing the movie I couldn’t help but wonder how much better it would have been if they left it alone and just shown it as the movie experience it was originally intended to be.
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures comes out on Blu-ray on September 18th, and I’m really looking forward to watching it on the tiny little screen in my living room. I think I might be happier. We could learn a lesson from Indy. He doesn’t touch up the paint on the artifacts he finds. We shouldn’t feel the need to touch up Indy. 

12 Responses to “Indiana Jones Raiders Of The Lost Ark, IMAX Fail”

  1. Adam says:

    We were going to see it this weekend but decided that seeing the marathon that AMC is putting on next weekend would be better since we didn't need to see it in IMAX and this way we would get to see The Last Crusade as well.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice… the first pic is from Temple of Doom. Your argument is invalid.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Who cares where the picture is from? It's an awesome picture of Dr. Jones!

  4. I was going for cool Indy pics, not just Raiders pics. Man, what a nerd 😉

  5. Yeah! What person-who-shall-not-be-named said! (Where do I send the $5 I now owe you for posting that?)

  6. David L. says:

    I guess I would understand, if the article were about Indy as whole and not specifically about having seen only one of the four movies in theatres recently. And to correct the "Anonymous" above, it's actually two out of three that are from Temple of Doom; not just the first pic.

  7. Vaughn Fry says:

    I can't begin to tell you how much time I've wasted today thanks to this post. Let me explain.

    So I notice that the first photo is from Temple of Doom, in my opinion a misnomer for a post about Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now the second photo is obviously from Raiders, however the third has me curious. As I look at it I'm beginning to question what color of jacket Dr. Jones wears. Does it change from film to film? What movie could this photo have come from? Now, I'm assembling a team of investigators to get to the bottom of this. Thanks a lot!

  8. I did it on purpose! I was looking for good Indy pics and honestly didn't care what movie they were from, at all. Indy is Indy is Indy is a scruffy looking nerfherder in all his movies. I may have to add one in of Han Solo just to really get everyone going 😉

  9. Muah ha ha ha! Everything is proceeding as I have forseen!

  10. jaklumen says:

    I think your detractors are making your case perfectly, albeit in a more abstract sense. The colorized analogy is good (whoops, teeth so pearly white but they missed those gums, still so grey!) but I'm reminded more about the transition to HD. I remember quips about seeing cake faces and other makeup that was less than flawless.

    Lucas was involved with this project, too, and of course the comparisons are just as inevitable; that perhaps Spielberg, too, is milking old projects to come up with funding for films that would have none otherwise. CGI enhance this, IMAX presentation that, etc. Just wait, maybe Spielberg will also say it on camera for some interview, if he hasn't already. Oh, right, E.T.! They don't have guns, they have walkie-talkies.

  11. At the sake of coming off like a nerd, I have to disagree. While I do see your point and even love the comparison to colorization, I loved my IMAX experience. I packed my family and we drove two and half hours to Jacksonville FL for the opportunity to see this movie of the big screen.

    I fought off a 101 temp and the flu so I could watch my 11 & 8 year old watch Raiders in the theater. Worth every second.

    The clean up was amazing. I had forgotten how many flies Indy and Belloq had to deal with while bickering over blowing uop the ark.

    The two best moments were finally seeing the R2D2 C3PO glpyhs and watching my eight year old pretending to fight alongside Indy during the flying wing.

    It don't matter what the projection is or the HD, or all that tecnical movie stuff we've become to feel entitled to. It comes down to the fact I got pass a torch over to my children that I hope will ignite their imagination and to love movies.

  12. I took my kids, too and that was a huge part of why we even went to the movie. I definitely liked being able to share it with them, and having them humming the music as we left. Still, visually I think it would have worked better on a standard screen. The kids would have been no less impressed, who knows, maybe more so!

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