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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Blu-ray)
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Blu-ray)
Drafthouse Films // Unrated // August 16, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $34.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted August 20, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
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The Movie:

Film lovers, buffs, filmmakers, those of us who find a place beyond passion when it comes to cinema, who essentially turn it into a religion, a reason for existing, could only be truly understood by others like us. Forget about the regular people, I had my classmates from film school ask me questions like, "Why would you watch the same movie a hundred times?", or, "Will you shut the hell up about movies for two seconds!?". These were budding film students, and even they found me to be too intense (Who am I kidding? The correct tern would be "too geeky") for their tastes. Only those who are like us truly understand our dedicated and admittedly nutsy love of movies.

Maybe it's because I consider myself a part of this collective insanity that I have a soft spot for fellow film geeks who are dedicated to bringing their vision to life, regardless of how much they lack talent, budget, resources, and a basic understanding of how films are made and distributed. There are thousands of awful films out there, but there are only a handful of "so bad it's good" classics in film history. Despite their awfulness, these films attract movie nerds mainly because we can sense the unbridled passion and dedication behind their making, and somehow that's all that matters when it comes to attracting our admiration.

There's also a sub-genre of documentaries that focus on such filmmakers. With its unflinching look at a bunch of losers obsessed with finishing their cheesy horror film, 1999's great American Movie is of course still the crowning champion of this genre. That being said, Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Referred to as "Raiders" from this point on) is good enough to give American Movie a run for its money, while perhaps turning into the equally inspiring and hilarious examination of a bunch of wonderfully deranged film geeks for a new generation of movie lovers to enjoy.

The documentary covers the decades-long mission of a couple of friends who loved Spielberg's classic Raiders of the Lost Ark so much, that they decided to put together a shot-by-shot remake of it. "What the hell for?", you might ask. After all, it's not as if they'd be able to distribute it after it's all done, due to the multitude of copyright laws they'd be breaking. I don't think the two friends, Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala, along with their many other partners in crime, cared one bit about what would happen with the remake (Or "adaptation", as they call it) once it was finished. They just loved the experience of shooting the movie so much, and were so dedicated to their craft even when they didn't enjoy making it, that they just kept on going.

Raiders, co-directed by Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen, creates a refreshingly-paced documentary that never overstays its welcome, thanks to a narrative device that moves back and forth between the story about how Chris and Eric kept shooting the "adaptation", beginning from when they were children, all the way to their late teens, and the story of a tumultuous 2014 shoot where the team, now in their forties, attempt to finish the only missing scene from their version of Indy's first cinematic adventure. After a successful crowd funding campaign where they raise over ten thousand dollars to remake the famous airplane hangar fight scene from the original film, the duo is beset with all the problems that could pop up during an indie film shoot, ranging from constant rain to a final shot that literally ends with a bang.

As engaging as the 2014 story is, especially for those who had to live through the many frustrations and eventual excitements of an indie film shoot, it's the story of the kids' adventures while shooting their version of Raiders in the 80s, told via intimate interviews with the cast, crew, family members, and of course footage and outtakes from the remake itself, that will truly tug at the heartstrings of a true film geek. Even though these kids were shooting on a consumer Betamax camera with makeshift sets in their parents' basements, they were perfectionists in their own way, never settling for a cheap special effect or stunt when they knew they could do better.

The kids' dedication to their own version of cinematic perfection leads to situations that are admirable and ridiculous, sometimes within the same setting. They go through five different boulders before landing on the right one. The funniest scene in the documentary revolves around a face plaster that gets stuck on a cast member's face, resulting in a wholly non-consensual eyebrow waxing. Raiders also doesn't shy away from exploring the many psychological reasons behind the kids' obsession with making their film, pretty much making the case that they were looking for a way to escape their painful reality, beset by divorce and drug addiction.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Distributor Alamo Drafthouse once again offers an excellent A/V presentation for such a niche title. A big chunk of Raiders consists of footage from the kids' Betamax film, so of course it's riddled with every single video noise you can think of. The contemporary sequences and interviews, on the other hand, come to life through a bright and crisp 1080p transfer.

Audio:

We get two tracks in the form of DTS-HD 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. Since this is a documentary that relies heavily on talking head interviews, it's totally fine to watch it with the 2.0 track on your TV. The 5.1 track barely offers any surround presence, and only really registers whenever footage of the original Raiders pops up. However, I'm guessing a lot of viewers who would be interested in this doc would already own the original film on Blu-ray anyway.

Extras:

Deleted Scenes: A whopping 30 minutes of deleted material, some of which are very interesting.

Outtakes from The Adaptation: Outtakes and bloopers from the remake. Mostly tedious stuff, but some of it is amusing.

Q&A at The Alamo Drafthouse: A 40-minute Q&A, understandably shot very amateurishly, with the makers of the adaptation answering questions after a screening in 2003.

Commentary by Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon: The directors go into great detail about the production, how they gained everyone's trust, and their experiences shooting the making of footage of the hangar scene.

Commentary by Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala: The main subjects of the film mostly talk about their experiences making the adaptation.

We also get some Trailers, the DVD, the digital copy voucher, and a glossy booklet with storyboards that the kids drew while making the adaptation.

Final Thoughts:

Obviously made with a refreshing amount of love and empathy towards its subjects, Raiders is the rare doc that truly understands why some people are so passionate about cinema. Its mission is not to worship, nor to ridicule these people who have given their lives to making a cheap version of a major blockbuster. Raiders comes highly recommended to the kinds of film lovers I described at the beginning of my review.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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