Raiders! The Story of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a passionately crafted and completely enthralling documentary that brings justice to the real-life story. Though the film is both a reflection and a document, it does succeed in combining the two storylines to create a compelling narrative structure.
Raiders! tells the story of three Mississippi kids who in 1981 decide to remake the film Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-by-shot, and cast themselves and their friends in the film. The process takes nearly seven years, in which the kids’ growth can be seen onscreen, and their quest grows into a cultural event. The film also shows a dual storyline in 2014, in which the kids are reunited as grown men to finish the one scene they never completed as children: Indiana Jones’s battle with the German Mechanic under the Flying Wing.
What makes Raiders! such a unique documentary is that it seems to be genuinely capturing an event instead of retelling it. The present story in which the airplane scene is completed is shown in real time, and adds a realistic quality to the film, as if it’s legitimately unprepared for the events that occur. The genuine reactions of those involved make for a natural story, and gives both insight and justification to the kids’ plight.
The sheer absurdity of the event is also well captured, but the film doesn’t just rely on the story to fulfill its narrative. Instead, it focuses on the relationships between those involved in these tenuous retelling of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and gives plenty of insight into the film’s production and creation. The narrative isn’t completely chronological, but does a great job at capturing the scope of this event without feeling like a “by-the-numbers” production evaluation.
The strength of the interviews also plays a large role in the film’s enjoyment factor. Though the cast and crews’ recollections occasionally delve into more serious or psychological territory, they’re also very humorous in their retelling. The enormous amount of people involved in the project makes for a variety of interviews, but they’re strung and edited together in a way that showcases the different elements and themes of the film perfectly.
At 104 minutes, Raiders! is perfectly paced and rarely drags, though the interloping storylines may leave a little to be desired. In terms of flaws, the only major improvement the film could make is the inclusion of more footage from the kids’ original film, and though there’s certainly a lot of footage seen, the inclusion of more complete scenes would perhaps give the audience a better idea of what was created.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a documentary made by film fans for film fans, and is perfect for those with a detailed knowledge of the event to those who are simply interested in what happens. It’s a very enjoyable film, but it’s also a great showcase of the innovation required to produce a product of this magnitude, and the memories captured seven years in production. Grade: B+