Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made Blu-ray Review

The Ark is found: It held this movie

Luckily, copyright laws do not apply to childhood. Otherwise, this wonderful and captivating gem wouldn’t exist. Following the making of a Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-by-shot remake as done by 12-year olds, the saga which unfolds over seven (and longer) years is genuine, even strangely inspiring.

This is not a documentary about fandom. These kids – Eric Zala, Jayson Lamb, Chris Strompolos – were fans of Indiana Jones, but Raiders’ account of their childhood odyssey focuses on their perseverance. Colliding with different personalities, struggling through awkward teen years, and reuniting decades later to finish this tribute, their story moves beyond the content of their camcorder film.

Raiders thus tells the saga of brave (even stupid) perfectionism. Mishaps include playing with fire, driving trucks without brakes, and by luck, a near total lack of adult supervision. The stories from their crazy accurate, no budget do over are ridiculous. Their personal anecdotes are fantastic too.

It’s a testament to how creative works can inspire us and the sheer blind audacity with which we act when we’re kids.

The key to Raiders lies in not selling a personal nostalgia. Eric, Jayson, and Chris lived a wild childhood. While memories are their own, in sharing them, such stories pull viewers into their social circle. A willingness to air personal problems strengthens and legitimizes the piece.

Take-aways are plenty. While modern kids light up YouTube with homemade films, Raiders recounts an era of now unreal freedom. They incorrectly stuck industrial plaster to Eric’s face for the purposes of mold making while mom sat in the living room. They somehow commandeered trucks – sans engines – and Chris clung to the outside as the vehicles careened downhill, mimicking Indy. Consider each scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. They never missed a shot, no matter the danger or effects involved.

Narrative framework concerns the team shooting the lone missing scene – the airplane fight – in 2014. Tension flows through the center of Raiders. Scouring money from Kickstarter and other sources, they hired a film crew and recreated the plane at full size to put a final stamp on what they named Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. Decades of passed time presses on Raiders. Jobs, families, kids, strained relationships; they’re realities. Oh, and this time, they hired professionals to start fires (who then nearly blew themselves up).

More than anything, Raiders is absurdly enthralling. Filmmaking on both ends – the remake itself and the documentary – sublimely reveals childhood obsessions and a generational odyssey. It’s a testament to how creative works can inspire us and the sheer blind audacity with which we act when we’re kids. Some just won’t accept “no” – even when it’s mom saying not to douse friends in gasoline and set them ablaze.

Raiders! Blu-ray screen shot 1

Video

A variety of sources come together to produce this documentary, opening with 30-year old beta tapes, then into low-grade digital and further, a cleaner, sharper digital. Film clips borrowed from the actual Raiders of the Lost Ark squeeze in, some from the Blu-ray master, some earlier.

Problems with noise and sagging resolution are inherent. Contrast blots out fine detail. Black levels are fine enough for the requirements of the piece. Considering those, detail still sprouts up during interviews or when live on the plane fight set. Some close-ups manage excellent fidelity.

Inconsistencies or not, when at its peak, Raiders offers plenty of pep and energy. For a movie about a movie inspired by a movie, MVD does well for its debut on Blu-ray.

Audio

While preference naturally sides with the DTS-HD 5.1 track, it’s clear the Dolby Digital stereo mix was original – not that surround use has the means to excel in a documentary anyway. Some stormy weather delays the shoot, tossing a bit of thunder into the rear channels. That’s adventurous on this track.

Otherwise, Raiders remains centered. Consistent recording quality continues through the story.

Extras

Featured in the bonus menu, two commentaries offer insight. Raiders directors Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon begin with their track, followed with the fan film’s stars, Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos on their own. Ten deleted scenes run a touch over 30 minutes, and behind-the-scenes outtakes from The Adaptation run 20. A Q&A session from an Alamo drafthouse screening of The Adaptation in 2003 covers a thick 40 minutes.

Finally, there are trailers, but push a bit to the menu’s right for a delightful side-by-side trailer remake.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.