“Raiders!” is easily one of the best films of 2016. It’s a compelling and incredibly emotional tale of how one movie influenced a trio of young boys, and how that piece of art not only paved the road for their future, but also save them in many ways. What becomes incredibly evident throughout the duration of “Raiders!” that makes what unfolds before our eyes a truly gut wrenching journey is that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were men influenced by movies. Thanks to their love for serials and Westerns, they were motivated to make “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as a means of confronting their love for classic serial adventurers. After seeing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in theaters, young Eric Zala sought out to remake of “Raiders” but with teenagers in place of the adult actors.
The three young men we meet in “Raiders!” were eleven in 1982, all of whom combined creative forces and limited resources to film their tribute to Indiana Jones. Over the course of several years, Eric and Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb put together a pastiche of footage that ambitiously remade every scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” beat for beat, to pay homage to the original film. Oblivious to how much the film would touch movie fans everywhere, “Raiders!” became an underground classic and one of the first fan films ever made. After reaching a shocking popularity during a film festival, Eric and Chris were sought out by film notables like Eli Roth and Harry Knowles, both of whom were startled by the emotional nerve their small film hit with film lovers across the country.
“Raiders!” follows Eric and Chris as they reunite with their crew and old friends, seeking to finish the film once and for all and shoot the scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” they could never duplicate. With no time, and the elements working against them, the pair tries anxiously to film the big fist fight set in front of a running war plane. Meanwhile, we’re given insight and a back story in to how “Raiders!” enveloped much of their lives, and how personal turmoil eventually broke them apart. This involves a potentially deadly drug addiction, a bitter love triangle, and a huge battle of egos after they began to receive attention from local media. “Raiders!” admittedly feels a bit too long in the tooth, and could have benefitted from ten minutes trimmed from the documentary.
Not to mention, while John Rhys Davies’ testimonial is a nice little touch, its apparent none of his monologue about film and magic has any relation to the documentary. In either case, “Raiders!” still works as an ode to the love fans can hold for film, how film can change lives, and how grueling it is to be an artist working to topple a personal goal that seems like a mountain.
Featured on the release from Drafthouse Films, there is a DVD version and a card where you can redeem a digital copy of the film. There is also a collectible guide with notes and storyboards for “Raiders!” On the Blu-Ray, there is thirty two minutes of Deleted Scenes focusing various nuances including the Kickstarter, and the letter to Spielberg. You can play the scenes individually or altogether. There’s “Outtakes from the Adaptation” a nineteen minute look at outtakes during the making of the fan film. There’s a forty minute Q&A from the Alamo Drafthouse Premiere of The Adaptation from 2003 featuring talks with the trio of filmmakers.
The Q&A is set before the filming of the wing sequence. There are a pair of extensive commentaries, one with Writer/Director Tim Skousen and Producer/Director Jeremy Coons, both of whom offer an enthusiastic and very informatl look at the making of the documentary and how their stories meshed with their subjects’, and their experience with John Rhys Davies. There’s a second commentary with “The Raiders Guys Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos” both of whom pretty much go over the same information we saw in the documentary and read about in the book, but they go in to finer detail as best as they can. Finally there are a series of trailers for “Raiders!”, “20,000 Days on Earth,” “A Band Called Death,” and more.