Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Blu-ray)

August 19, 2016 7 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

Drafthouse Films is one of the newest film distribution labels to emerge in the last few years. I am trying my best to work their way through their collection, because their picks so far have been all over the map. They have everything from cheesy eighties films like Miami Connection to deadly serious incredible documentaries like The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. This is only the second Drafthouse release I have had the pleasure to watch, but I had been following this release for a while before it was acquired by them. The story itself behind the film had piqued my interest a year or so before when I had first heard about the book version of the film while the film was in development.

The story that will attract viewers is about a group of Mississippi kids that set out to make a shot for shot remake of the eponymous Raiders of the Lost Ark. This remake would consume the next seven summers of their lives as they nearly burned down their house numerous times. They were able to shoot everything except the famous airplane scene. Famed director Eli Roth procured a copy from a friend and showed it at Harry Knowles’ Butt-numb-a-thon, sparking tremendous interest in this remake, which many heralded as essentially the greatest fan film ever made.

This story was very interesting to me and should be interesting to any person that grew up playing with their parents’ camcorder and making little movies. It should spark some recognition and definitely did so for me. On top of that, there are interviews with John Rhys-Davies and Eli Roth. The movie starts off promising with a cool punk rock intro that got me pumped. Unfortunately, there are some issues aside from the good stuff.

The problem with this movie is that it does not focus enough on what they accomplished as teenagers (which was pretty rad, honestly.) Instead, it focuses almost primarily on their attempt to film the airplane sequence in present day. To me, this was not nearly as interesting as what they had done as children, and seemed a little bit of a disappointment to see them chasing this one piece of an old dream twenty five years later. A lot can be said for kids working so diligently, but we expect as much from adults, making the feat less impressive.

At the end of the day, there is a lot that I enjoyed here, and a lot that made me cringe. I still would give the movie a hesitant recommendation, because there is still some great stuff here, but don’t expect it to be on the same level as the classic King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters which is far funnier, more fun, and more inspirational to me.

Video: How’s it look?

Drafthouse Cinema are solid at delivering reference quality video. That said, the reference quality here is going to be a mixed bag of camcorder videotapes and digital film. Therefore, the film is very hard to judge in this respect. It looks as good as it will ever look, but the film is not going to win any awards visually. Keep in mind, it is a documentary.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The original master audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The movie is not particularly bombastic but the LFE channels are put to good effect in at least one instance. This is mainly a dialogue driven affair and the audio reflects that. The track is crisp and dialogue is not never lost in the sound field. The audio is reference quality even if it is not necessarily going to blow out your speakers.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – Directors Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon combine for an upbeat commentary with some nice details about the filming and extra anecdotes.
  • Audio Commentary – The Raiders Guys, Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala partake on this commentary and has the guys talking about their friendship and what they were going through at the time. I found this a bit dry.
  • Deleted Scenes – These thirty minutes of deleted scenes actually would have made for a more complete film. I typically am all for brevity, but these are actually helpful to the story. Fans should check these out, and even people watching for the first time should watch these to get a better feel of the whole story.
  • Outtakes from the Raiders Adaptation–  These outtakes feel a bit like watching home videos of people you don’t know very well. Some parts are pretty cool like when they are filming the truck scene, but not really something you need to watch.
  • Q&A at Alamo Drafthouse premiere of the Adaptation– This Q&A is pretty good – lots of repeated stories from the movie- but some footage of the adaptation is shown that didn’t make it into the film.
  • Trailers – includes trailers for Raiders!, 20,000 Days on Earth, A Band Called Death, The Final Member, and I Declare War

The Bottom Line

Raiders! has an incredibly interesting story – it unfortunately chooses to focus on the wrong story. This film is tremendously helped by the deleted scenes, but was not as much fun as I had expected. At the end of the day, I would recommend a rental before a purchase, as repeat value is severely limited in my opinion. Technical aspects are reference quality and fans of the film or the book will be glad to see the extensive features offered. I will say, that you would be better off skipping the trailer for this movie because it will take a lot of the good surprises out of the film. Now, if only they would release the actual movie they made….I could totally get on board to watch what they actually created.

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