Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made: Review

If you haven’t already figured it out from the blog name and pleasant picture that accompanies it, I love Raiders of the Lost Ark. To me it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest film ever made and is quite easily the one I’ve seen most over the last twenty-eight-years of my life. It has everything you could ask for: action, adventure, comedy, romance, horror, a fantastic hero and heroine, the best bad guys you could ever want in a film, and even a nazi monkey that can do the seig heil. It is, in my eyes at least, perfect.

Three people who would appear to agree are Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb; three childhood friends from Mississippi who took their admiration for Spielberg’s classic one step further by remaking it shot for shot. From the ages of 12 to 19, the trio enlisted the helps of friends, family and their community to achieve their goal, and, in spite of their ages, the result was something truly remarkable. As Eric Zala’s son puts it so eloquently in Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, “I think it’s amazing that Steven Spielberg needed $20 million to make Raiders of the Lost Ark, and my dad only needed his allowance”.

The documentary itself recounts the story of the adaptation’s production whilst the friends attempt to finish their film decades later, by shooting the one missing sequence from their remake – the sequence in which Indy fights a giant, bald nazi underneath the wing of a plane, which culminates in one of the original’s biggest explosions. 

As Chris and Eric have to deal with the weather and the responsibilities of adulthood – Eric has to constantly be asking for more time off work to finish the project – we hear insights from all those who helped make the film that range from the scary – footage of Eric being set on fire is just one of the stunts that the teenagers performed – to the heartbreakingly hilarious – the guys explaining their various attempts at building the infamous boulder is one of the many big laughs in the film.

For all of its humour and engaging, underdog narrative, Raiders! ends up touching on threads that are unexpectedly deep. It seeks some kind of understanding as to what could possibly have driven these teens to be so committed to a project of this magnitude, suggesting the fact that all three boys’ parents were going through a divorce could have been an underlying cause. 

The fact that the documentary touches upon these themes mean that, ultimately, you don’t need to be a fan of Indiana Jones, or even film for that matter, to find something to enjoy and engage with. When you scratch the surface of this remarkable story, you discover that it’s just as much about youth, family and the unbreakable bonds that we form as we grow up, as it is about Indiana Jones. Of course, if you are a fan of the man in the hat, just like me, then this is geek-paradise. 

Warm, touching, hilarious and inspiring, Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made works very much in the same way that Spielberg’s does; it has something for everyone. It’s a story that’s so unbelievable that it needs to be seen, and one which is ripe for a Hollywood dramatisation. A love letter to childhood, friendship, film-making and Indiana Jones, it’s an extraordinary documentary that is well worth seeking out. 

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is currently touring in the US and is available to buy or rent from the PlayStation network.

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