Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (1989)

Genres - Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Adventure Drama  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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No greater valentine from fan to filmmaker exists than Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, a handmade copy of the 1981 blockbuster action-adventure rollercoaster that took seven years and an entire adolescence to complete. The story of the teenage trio's dedicated effort to make a shot-by-shot camcorder copy of their favorite film has been told and heard far more than the fruit of their labor has actually been seen. As an anecdote, as an achievement, The Adaptation is already an interesting piece, but the biggest surprise is that these kids actually made a pretty good picture. Their attention to detail is such that this backyard version moves at nearly the same energetic clip as the original action classic, and the onscreen teens approach their roles seriously, giving their all with whatever talents they might possess. Certain stunts and props are recast, most notably replacing the opening scene's helicopter with a motorboat and the second act's mischievous monkey with a puppy, but the kids pull off reasonable facsimiles of the flaming saloon, rolling boulder and crawling-under-the-truck gags. That's not to say there isn't plenty of outsider charm to The Adaptation -- homemade costumes, unconvincing false beards and stilted, if earnest, line readings, not to mention the fact that the principal actors' ages fluctuate visibly from scene to scene (a result of the seven-year production) plus the tawdry, tacky frisson of seeing fresh-faced adolescents dress up like Nazis, Arabs and jungle natives. But overall, The Adaptation is a triumph, a rare amateur fan film that is as much fun to watch as it must have been to make.