Raiders of the Lost Ark
by Campbell Black
Published by Ballantine Books
Adrick's Rating: 2.8 out of 4
Indiana Jones, archeology professor and swashbuckling adventurer, has unearthed many an ancient treasure. But now the very future of the world depends on his finding one special relic.
With a bullwhip in his hand and a beautiful lady at his side, Jones journeys from Nepal and Cairo to the Mediterranean, dodging poisons, traps and snakes, battling rivals old and new, all in pursuit of an ancient artifact said to give invincible power to its possessor.
It's a battle to a startling finish, a finish dictated by the magic, the light—and the power—of the Lost Ark.
While reading the adaptations of the Indiana Jones movies for this site, I was often asked “Why are you reading them when you can just watch the movie?”
It’s a valid question. Generally, I don’t read movie novelizations, but I have developed an appreciation for the art. It takes a talented and determined author to bring something original to a story that’s already been written for them. Occasionally, an author will seize the initiative and add something new to a movie I’ve already seen a hundred times.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those novels. Black has done a great job of supplying the thoughts and feelings of almost every character in the film, from Indiana Jones to the infamous street monkey. There are also many original scenes that explain how Indy gets from point A to point B, such as his arrival at Nepal and his tortuous voyage while lashed to a Nazi submarine. Belloq is also given scenes showing his recruitment in the search for the Ark, which makes a nice parallel to Indy’s adventures. There are also some tantalizing stories mentioned in passing we’ve never seen; including many of Belloq’s previous encounters with Indy, and seven-year-old Indy’s first glimpse of a whip in use. Considering that all Black had to work with was the movie script—no Harrison Ford, no Temple, Crusade, Kingdom, or Chronicles back then—this is a truly impressive effort and well worth the read for any Raiders fan.
The problem with writing a good film novelization is that the author generally doesn’t have the actual film to work with, and so many of the best elements of the movie—an actor’s delivery, a well-edited scene, dazzling special effects—will be missing entirely from the book. Quite a bit of the dialogue here is absolutely terrible—it seems as though Raiders got a re-write before many of the scenes were shot. A lot of Marion’s dialogue is written straight, which changes the character completely, much of the humor is absent from many scenes, and some key scenes are missing entirely.
Also, although the novel goes to great lengths to expand upon Belloq’s character, it unintentionally minimizes his importance. By the time he is recruited, the Nazis had already discovered Tanis and begun excavations, so his necessity to the project, though often mentioned, is left in question.
Marion’s occupation before she was left ownership of The Raven. Don’t tell Mutt.