Everyone remembers a special film from their childhood that had a profound effect on the way they grew up. Well, for several boys from Mississippi, that film was Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Steven Spielberg directed film starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones was certainly iconic and I am sure it spurred many young boys to portray themselves as the titular hero in many background adventures. For three of these boys – Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb – simple imaginative versions wouldn’t cut it. As a result, they decided they needed to do a shot for shot remake of the entire film. Consequently, this would take the better part of their teenage lives over the course of seven years.
The Movie Itself (3/5)
First of all, this is a review of only the documentary that follows the now three men as they try to complete the one scene that they never finished as boys. Finally, they might get to finish the desert airplane scene which includes building a giant plane, muscly German soldiers, and of course spectacular explosions. Interspersed with all of this, is footage from their film as teens, archival interviews after the film and present day interviews with those involved. We meet the kids, parents, teachers, and some of the modern day enthusiasts like Eli Roth.
The film jumps back and forth between timelines from kids to adults, but it never feels like you can’t follow along. The pacing is done well and you never feel bored getting to the final plane scene, which is a surprisingly small part of the total film length. We do get some insight into Eric and Chris’s fallout at the end of high school and after college. What seems to be neglected is the reason behind the absence of Jayson and why he is missing from from most of the documentary even though he seems thoroughly involved in the original film. They mention that there was a fallout, but don’t really follow up on that. It is kind sad because of all the different techniques and special effects he used to get certain shots, I would have loved to hear more from him.
If you have interest in this idea of children doing a shot by shot remake of a film, I would definitely watch the Adaptation first. This gives a great insight into the film, but you may be left feeling slightly disappointed that you haven’t seen it. Especially to see how the plane scene fits in with the rest of the film. As an added benefit, you will see the greatest acting by a crew member ever to add dramatic flair to the finale.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
The quality is totally dependent of which part you are watching. All the modern shots have great detail and clarity. Colors are nice and balanced and all the interviews and final airplane footage look great. Of course there are no special effects action scenes where you get motion blur, so nothing approaching perfection should be expected. The archival footage is where problems occur as most of it is pretty terrible quality ranging from decent looking SD to a VHS mess. Most of this footage isn’t shown for long and never becomes bothersome… there might be more video of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones than the Raiders Adaptation.
Score/Audio Quality (4/5)
Raiders! comes with a English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Being a documentary this is very front heavy, comprised mostly of dialogue and interviews. There is a very subtle score that mostly ties the film together. It has some comedic aspects as needed and compliments the film well. Dialogue is clear and there should be no issues for any viewers.
Special Features (4/5)
Deleted Scenes (32:29) Available individually or as a play all option. The two longest ones Prepping the Airplane and Editing and Fighting provide some nice input into the troubles they had both modern day and as kids. If you liked the film, I’m sure you would just want to watch them all anyway, as they clock in at only a little over half an hour.
- Kickstarting with Chris’ Family (3:42)
- Sneaking into the Theater (2:46)
- Indy’s Gun (2:27)
- Early Camera Trouble (1:39)
- The Marion Situation (2:23)
- Prepping the Airplane (7:40)
- The Last 48 Hours (3:49)
- The Shotgun Story (2:08)
- Editing and Fighting (4:21)
- The Spielberg Letter (1:30)
Outtakes from the Adaptation (19:33) These are all outtakes from the original film the kids did… you know, the one that is not included in this package. I hope these come on the actual DVD you can buy from them because it would be better served there than it is here.
Q&A from Alamo Drafthouse Premiere of The Adaptation (40:43) Recorded before and after the official premiere of The Adaptation on May 31, 2003 featuring Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos and Jayson Lamb taking questions from the audience after they watch the premiere. It is interesting as they are still in their early 30’s and you can certainly feel their excitement about what they accomplished. Topics range from the airplane scene, outtakes, special effects and cost, safety and all the fire throughout the film. If you are interested in the Adaptation and documentary, I would watch the original film followed by this Q&A and then watch the main documentary included here.
Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Tim Skousen and Producer/Director Jeremy Coons (1:33:18) The two guys keep it light and informal and discuss the ins and outs of the production. They talk about how they got John Rhys-Davies involved in opening as well as joking about the investor. There is a lot of production talk, but there is also a lot of unfiltered observations they have made while doing their research. They go in depth a little bit about why Jayson wasn’t involved and even talk about the kids’ home situations and how Indiana Jones was more than a father figure to them. They also give quite a bit of credit to the other kids involved with the film and don’t focus on just Chris and Eric. I really liked their insight into the original Drafthouse screening and Eli Roth’s contribution to the film. Overall, it was a rather enjoyable commentary and worth checking out if you are a fan of the film and want to learn how the documentary got made and some behind the scenes stories.
Audio Commentary with The Raiders Guys Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos (1:33:18) The guys give us their perspective on running through the documentary. A lot is discussed about getting the funding for the final scene. They have nothing but good things to say about Jason and all that he contributed to all the endeavors. It still seems like something is being unsaid and there is some sort of split. They also give a little more insight into some of the other kids from the original Raiders Adaptation. I did not enjoying the commentary as much as the producers for the documentary. However, if the Adaptation was included I bet I would love both Chris and Eric’s perspective on that.
- I Declare War
- 20,000 Days on Earth
- The Final Member
- A Band Called Death
- Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
- Blu-ray/DVD Combo
- DRM Free Digital Copy
- Story-board Booklet
- Reversible Cover
- Non Eco-Case
- Disc Art
- Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH
Runtime 93 Mins
It feels somewhat difficult to properly score a documentary when you haven’t seen the film while it is readily available. Since it is sold separately on the “Raiders guys” website, I am curious why the logistics didn’t allow a complete package. I understand it probably comes down to money, and Drafthouse likely didn’t feel a $40 or so package would sell and that everyone would make more money if these items were packaged separately. Consequently though, I think a one-time rental code or something of that nature would really make this worth while.
The package that you do get for around $20 though is quite amazing (as most Drafthouse releases tend to be). The picture and sound quality are more than adequate, even with the archival footage thrown in. The packaging and special features rival or beat most studio releases and are always wonderful to have. I still wish there was a complete package, but for anyone interested in the Raiders Adaptation, they should certainly own this as a companion piece.
Purchase this film at Amazon or a Drafthouse near you.
This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.