RAIDERS The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
RAIDERS The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made:
Release Date: August, 16th 2016
Format: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack
Starring: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb.
Directed by: Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon
DESCRIPTION: After Steven Spielberg's classic Raiders of the Lost Ark was released 35 years ago, three 11-year-old boys from Mississippi set out on what would become a 7-year-long labor of love and tribute to their favorite film: a faithful, shot-for-shot adaptation of the action adventure film. They finished every scene...except one; the film's explosive airplane set piece. Over two decades later, the trio reunited with the original cast members from their childhood in order to complete their masterpiece.
REVIEW: This is a hard one. The reason being is that everyone has reviewed the huge accomplishment that the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation is and the angle that following your dreams in the face of personal danger, personal tragedy, financial ruin etc. is an uplifting tale for the ages, rather than really reviewing the documentary, RAIDERS The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made as a documentary.
I found the documentary to be very scrappy and in places misguidedly manipulative with some sequences quite clearly shot to fit some narrative, which I assume is the whole 'follow your dreams at any cost narrative' but that isn't always abundantly clear. It also doesn't attack the subject from the point of view of an audience maybe not knowing what the hell they're going on about. I was a kid, I made short films, comedy sketches, dressed up, did dangerous stunts I shouldn't have done and so on, so I get it. I am also online all day and every day and was somewhat aware that some kids had remade Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was already on the right page, I think, but the documentary didn't do a very good job of selling what the adaptation was, when and where it was made and how the group had come back together to film the missing plane sequence. If I hadn't read the press release that came with my screener, I'd have had a hard time getting into it.
I DID have a hard time getting into it and I knew what was meant to be going on.
The order of the shots, the revealing of the main players/cast members and the reveals of the surprises and turmoils weren't placed in an order to maximise the understanding or the impact of them.
While I am sure none of us would stand up particularly well under the microscope of having a documentary made of us, the way in which this film presents Chris Strompolos as the fucked up, egotistical, rebellious, true artist, drug addict who never lost his dreams and passions but also never really accomplished anything, Eric Zala as the anal, true blue, nerdy, loving, family man with the corporate job who is the only one REALLY laying anything on the line to finish this film and Jayson Lamb as the inept, weirdo who, apparently, it's perfectly alright to bully, treat like shit, laugh at or ignore is too convenient, contrived and a little jarring to watch.
Also really surprising that just because Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala had a problem with Jayson Lamb, I'm not sure why the makers of the documentary did. There are several sequences where he's talking and they just fade him out and go on to the next thing. They also completely dismiss his very reasonable assertion that there was a different (and maybe better, easier and definitely cheaper) way to recreate the plane sequence in 2015.
The bravery to reveal the creative focus, bitching, backbiting, betrayal, personal lives, egos, drugs and madness in a documentary about a fan made Raiders of the Lost Ark film is fascinating and, certainly, more than I was expecting but the presentation of all those incidents just seemed a little off. I really can't quite explain. They were certainly in an order that didn't really carry the emotional whacks it should've done.
Because the film didn't do a great job of establishing the situation, I wasn't clear throughout the movie why they needed to spend $50,000 to recreate a full sized plane and to really blow it up. It just seemed ridiculous. I finally understood it at the end, just about, but, like I keep repeating, the documentary did not do a good job of selling that. I understand that Harry Knowles, Bleedin' Eli Bleedin' Roth (who must've been in every documentary and DVD extra feature about filmmaking for the last 15 years) and others had seen the VHS tape of the adaptation and therefor were all excited but what about some of us who haven't?
I love independent film-makers, especially the good ones, especially the ones where their heart, passion and soul shine through. I also know that you have to be a little crazy, anal and dedicated to put blood, sweat, tears, money and life into something that nobody might ever see (If you are reading this on The After Movie Diner website then you are looking straight at my labour of love). I wanted, so badly, to root for these guys but the documentary made it very difficult.
My conclusion is that this is a documentary for people who have seen the fan adaptation and followed the story all the way up until now. Just like The Blair Witch Project benefited greatly if you had, for months, been following the fake story of the film-makers on the internet. If you hadn't it was just a not very frightening, badly shot, awful film full of egotistical idiots.
In the documentary Bleedin' Eli Bleedin' Roth describes the appeal of watching the fan adaptation in the cinema was the fact that everyone knows Raiders so well and so the excitement was anticipating "how would they do the truck chase? how would they do the melting faces?" etc. It's about the first thing the nauseating horror bro has ever said that made sense to me. Had I had that experience, this exposé of the people behind the film might have been more acceptable. As it was, it's a really interesting documentary filled with all the human drama, contrived or otherwise, that you could want and that really could've stood on its own and shown the passion and pit-falls in pursuing your dreams, but sadly doesn't quite do that. It came close but needed one more re-edit for my taste.
As an example, there is a sequence during the closing credits where they show the newly filmed adaptation of the plane sequence and the original plane sequence from Raiders and it all suddenly makes sense. A bad time for it all to suddenly make sense during the end credits.
There is a lot to love about this story and the documentary, there is and I don't want to be relentlessly negative or discourage people from seeking it out because I am sure others will get way more out of it than I did. I think talking with a group of my film obsessed geek friends, perhaps around a table in a diner, about this documentary would be a lot of fun as I think the documentary opens a lot of avenues for discussion but I had to point out what I feel is its failings so as to alert people, looking to see it, that maybe they should check out the Raiders fan adaptation first. Those who already have will no doubt love this documentary about some mad and very human guys who wanted to do one thing with their lives and by any means possible, they were going to accomplish it.
BLU-RAY REVIEW: The biggest downfall of the Blu-Ray is the absence of the finished, full version of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. It would've put everything in decent context. Not only do you need to see it to fully appreciate the documentary but once you've seen the documentary, you want to see the adaptation. Apart from that the picture looks good, the sound is ok and the extras are fine supplements. I always find extras on a documentary to be a little odd as documentaries are sort of extras in themselves. Especially this one. This is the making of documentary for a film not everyone has seen. If this was a special feature on the Blu Ray of the adaptation it would be great.
- Dual audio commentary tracks (with Skousen & Coon as well as Strompolos & Zala)
- Deleted scenes from the documentary
- Outtakes from the Adaptation
- Q&A footage from the Adaptation's 2003 premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX
- a photo booklet featuring storyboard art from the Adaptation
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
- English: LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 16-bit)
- English SDH
- 93 Mins
- Not Rated
- Region A