Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Great Last Scenes: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Director: Steven Spielberg
Great Because...: It's just so fitting that after all that - numerous brushes with death, taking down a bunch of Nazis, being forced to endure the presence of snakes - that one of the greatest archeological finds of all time would simply be crated up and placed in a warehouse with countless other crates containing countless other great items. No fanfare, no glory. That's just Indy's luck.
That great find is of course the Ark of the Covenant, which the Nazis desperately want to get their hands on in order to tip the scales of world power firmly in their favour. With help from Indy's rival, Belloq, the Nazis get their hands on the artifact and open it up to find... sand. But wait! It also contains several spirits that Belloq declares beautiful right before they melt his face - and the faces of everyone else looking at them - off. It's gruesome, but it is also completely awesome.
Indy and Marion come out of the event intact after closing their eyes to the event - a shame in that it's a pretty spectacular sight, but good thinking since otherwise they wouldn't have lived to tell about it. The Ark is handed over to the U.S. government and Indy is assured that it will be studied by experts, which we discover a moment later is a lie. The truth is that the Ark has more or less been forgotten already, just one more thing in the government's top secret catalogue.
Because the film is told with tongue firmly in cheek, this ending rings very true. The U.S. government wants the Ark, but they don't actually want to use it for anything or really have anything to do with it, so much as they just don't want the Nazi's to have it. Indy wants to find it not for political reasons but because he's an archeologist and that's what they do (in film, at any rate). He values it for what it is, while the government values it only because it's something that the Nazis want. The ending sort of plays like this: "It's really great that Dr. Jones went out and got that for us but... yeah, we're done with that now. Moving on." And something about that just feels so right. Less right for most people is the Ark's next appearance in the Indy series, but we won't get into that.