Ark of the Lost Raiders.

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You may have heard the theory that there is a massive flaw in the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The proposal is funny, and made for a great Big Bang Theory episode, but it misses the whole point (and Lucas couldn't have made it much clearer).

The proposed flaw is that Indiana Jones himself is superfluous to the plot, that he has no impact on the fate of the Ark. It is still found by the Nazis, still taken by them in the first instance and then, despite being taken by the Americans in the end, hidden away and not studied. Indiana's whole intention was to have it studied. Looked at this way, the critics seem correct.

But that's backward.

The movie isn't called "Ark of the Lost Raiders". It's not about the Ark. The Ark is only a tool in the hands of the plot-maker. The point of the movie isn't how Indiana's life affects the fate of the Ark, but how the race for the Ark affects Indiana's life.

Let's look at it in a bit of detail. He's a professor, goes on adventures to steal artifacts now and then (a man of his time). He has no romantic life, no religious inclinations and no belief in the supernatural.

But then Markus brings in the G-men and he's offered a quest. He reunites with Marion and their stormy romance reignites. He comes face to face with the Ark and warns her to look away before it is opened. In the end, his world is larger than it was at the beginning. His days have more connection, more meaning. He is more whole.

If we're not careful as writers, we can be swept up by our favorite aspects of setting or secondary characters, and the main drives and purposes of our plot (or primary character development) can get lost. We can start to focus on the wrong thing, like these critics of the movie did. We can miss the point. And if we, as the authors and creators of the story do not keep the focus clear, then we cannot expect our readers to get it either.

Live long, Indiana Jones, and prosper.

Jeff SpenceComment