Blu-ray Review: Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made


THE SET-UP
In 1982, three kids decide to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for shot, setting them off on an odyssey that would take over 30 years to complete, in this documentary by Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon. Stars Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb.

THE DELIVERY
The story of the “Raiders Guys,” three kids in 1982 Mississippi who decided to remake the classic Spielberg film, has become a urban legend, of sorts, in fandom. After completing their film in 1989, it sat on a shelf until a bootleg copy was shown at Harry Knowles’ Butt-Numb-a-Thon movie marathon in 2002, igniting new interest in “The Adaptation,” as it came to be known.

 Filmmakers Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon have managed to reunite all of the major players, as well as parents, friends, and supporting players, to tell the story of what author Alan Eisenstock called “The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.” What makes “The Adaptation” so entertaining, and the documentary as well, is the loving attention to detail seen in every shot. As the interviews in Raiders! shows, everyone involved completely bought into making the film, and the commitment shows. It also makes the documentary completely watchable, as the story unfolds from 1982 to present day.

The documentary effectively mixes interviews with footage from "The Adaptation," and even includes interviews with Eli Roth, Harry Knowles, and even John Rhys Davies, who put “The Adaptation” in the proper context. There’s a healthy amount of vintage footage (including behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes) to make up for the fact that the Blu-ray doesn’t include the full adaptation (for copyright reasons). Despite the low video quality, these scenes actually give it a sense of period-specific nostalgia that you cannot recreate. And it is one of the main reasons to see the film, after all.


Directors Skousen and Coon do muddle the narrative up a bit. The story of how the film was made is intercut with new footage of Zala, Strompolos, and Lamb filming the “Flying Wing” sequence, and it doesn’t flow well.Telling the story chronologically would have helped focus the narrative. There is also a lot of time spent delving into the personal challenges the kids faced throughout their lives (including abusive stepfathers, divorce, and drug addiction) that sometimes feels like we were told too much. It gets very personal and very detailed, and it could have been told in shorter order and without so many specifics.

Ultimately, the film captures the spirit of the 1980s better than movies actually made in the 1980s. The story of the Raiders guys is fantastic fun, and the documentary catches every last bit of it.

VIDEO AND AUDIO 
The video quality of the documentary on the Blu-ray varies, as one might expect with a film that uses vintage VHS footage. The newer footage looks great, with excellent clarity and color reproduction. It actually gives the lower quality footage its own otherworldly quality. The sound, at least for the newer footage, is a solid DTS 5.1 mix.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Perhaps the biggest question one may have is if "The Adaptation" is included in its entirety on the Blu-ray. Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, it is not, but we do get a nice selection of extras that will satisfy your need for more behind-the-scenes insight.

Deleted Scenes. Ten deleted scenes from the documentary are included: “Kickstarting with Chris’ family,” “Sneaking into the theater,” “Indy’s gun,” “Early camera trouble,” “The Marion Situation,” “Prepping the Airplane,” “The Last 48 Hours,” “The shotgun story,” “Editing and Fighting,” and “The Spielberg letter.” They are great to watch, as they delve more into the making of "The Adaptation" and include more vintage footage.


Outtakes from The Adaptation. Nearly twenty minutes of outtakes and behind-the-scenes snippets from the original tapes are presented here, providing a fun look at the kids involved and the lengths they went through to pull this off. Footage from their attempt to film the desert truck chase is incredible - you’ll wonder how these kids didn’t kill themselves attempting to recreate the stunts. Running time: 19:33.

Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse premiere of The Adaptation. Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb attended a screening of the film in 2003, and held a Q&A answering questions in a very entertaining session. Running time: 40:43

Trailer. A trailer for the documentary is included. Trailers for four other Drafthouse movies (20,000 Days on Earth, A Band Called Death, The Final Member, and I Declare War) are included as well.

Trailer Easter Egg. When highlighting “Trailers” in the Special Features menu, toggling to the right will show a “Raiders!” logo, and clicking it will reveal the original Raiders of the Lost Ark trailer side-by-side with a trailer using shots from The Adaptation. It works incredibly well.

Digital Copy. A redeemable code for a digital version of the film is included.

Audio Commentary. Two different commentaries are included: one with directors Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon, and another with Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos. Zala and Strompolos’ commentary is more informative and entertaining, but Skousen and Coon provide a worthy commentary as well.

Booklet. A 12 page booklet features a handful of Zala’s fantastic 1982 storyboards for The Adaptation.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Raiders! is a wonderful snapshot of 1980s greatness
Raiders! is an entertaining time capsule from the 1980s, and a love letter to all who are transported by the power of film. Fans of the original Raiders will appreciate the film even more, but it is hardly a prerequisite to enjoy this story of the little guys who finally get their due.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Rating: NR
Running Time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Special Features: Ten deleted scenes, Outtakes, Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse, Trailer
Audio Commentaries: Commentary by writer/director Tim Skousen and producer/director Jeremy Coon; Commentary by “The Raiders Guys” Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos
Label: Drafthouse/MVD Entertainment Group

Click here to order Raiders! on Blu-ray from Amazon!

Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

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