Raiders! Review

Raiders! Movie was made by fans over the course of almost three decades.

Raiders! Movie was made by fans over the course of almost three decades.

The lights dim in the tiny, sparsely occupied Alamo Drafthouse theater. The movie comes into focus with the iconic opening treasure scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, recreated with… kids? Thus begins the story of how three 11 year olds from Mississippi dedicated themselves to creating the epic, shot-for-shot, fan film remake referred to as Raiders.

In 1981, Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos had an idea. The idea was to recreate the newly released Raiders of the Lost Ark in its entirety, an effort that cost them and their third member Jayson Lamb seven summers, and was filmed mostly in the basements, backyards, and side alleys of their Mississippi hometown. Re-discovered in the early 2000s, the movie became popular in the film community thanks to its last-minute inclusion in an Alamo Drafthouse pre show. In recent years, and due to the demand that the film be finished, the three men reunited to, at long last, complete the only scene left out of the adaption, the explosive airplane fight scene.

Raiders!: The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is just that, a behind-the-camera look at the production of the trio’s childhood adaptation and follows them as they attempt to finish the final scene of the project almost 30 years after the last cut. Seeing the dedication put into the film and how much it meant to the people behind it gave the movie a feeling similar to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood that carries on into the remake itself as you see the actors age over the seven years of filming during their childhood.

Hesitant about this movie being a documentary, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it, but seeing the almost slapstick quality of the actual production made it more entertaining than boring. Setting cast members on fire, mishaps with industrial plaster, and multiple calls to the local police are some of the crazier situations the cast and crew of the project endured. Many of the extras from the original filming return to share their experiences, one actor having played almost 40 characters, another having to get dragged by a truck accelerating at full speed, and more.
Upon reflection, it was interesting to see how a seemingly trivial project set by a group of boys united the community around them, bringing together kids from different backgrounds and situations all under the motivation inspired by a film. I was pleasantly surprised by Raiders!: The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made. I suppose it could be described as a coming-of-age type of movie, if an unconventional one, as it follows the kids of the remake through not only the majority of their childhoods but also in their growth as adults. Decidedly out of the ordinary, it was a movie I would never expect to see or have heard about, but definitely left me wanting to share its story with others!