NOTE #1: This is an old book review. I read this book at the beginning of 2013 and wrote the review on Goodreads shortly after. However, I just discovered that the review had been accidentally deleted at some point, so I reposted it and am sharing it here too.
NOTE #2: While I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars, I would give the movie the book is about 15 out of 5 stars. No, I don’t want to hear your objections regarding math. It gets 15 out of 5 stars. The end.
NOTE #3: I just found out that the movie this book is about, as well as a new documentary about the movie, is coming to theaters this summer. (!!!) I’ve already bought my tickets to see it again. Find the city closest to you and go buy yours NOW. You can thank me later. Go to this website for info. Seriously, buy the tickets BEFORE you finish reading this post. I don’t mind.
NOTE #4: It is a complete coincidence that I found out about the movie showings exactly thirteen years to the day after I saw the movie the first time. When I realized that, it kind of gave me goosebumps.
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made by Alan Eisenstock, Chris Strompolos, and Eric Zala
May 30, 2003.
It was exactly seven years before my wedding day, though of course I didn’t know that at the time. It was also the last day of school of my fourth year of teaching, followed by the annual end-of-school teacher boat party. My current boyfriend (not future husband) had bought tickets for us to see this weird movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was a remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark done by kids and it was showing at midnight. Oh and the kids who made the movie, grown up now, were going to be there. I thought it sounded pretty cool, and I still had the stamina of a girl in her twenties, so I agreed.
That Friday, I got up at 6:30AM, herded hyperactive middle schoolers through the talent shows and yearbook signings and award ceremonies of the last day of school, went to the teacher luncheon and end-of-year meetings, partied on Large Marge the Party Barge with a bunch of other summer-crazed teachers, grabbed a shower and a Starbucks chai, and met my boyfriend at the Alamo Drafthouse to see this crazy movie. When we arrived, there was a long line outside the theater. We joined it.
I was excited that summer vacation had finally arrived, excited to be free and out on a date, excited (sort of) to see the movie. But I was also really, really tired. The line grew longer. The wait seemed endless. The movie, it was obvious, was going to start a little late. By the time we got to our seats and ordered food (one of the many beauties of the Alamo Drafthouse) I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open for the whole thing.
Then this guy came on stage and started telling us what an amazing treat we were in for. He explained that these boys in Mississippi in the 1980s fell in love with Indiana Jones and decided they wanted to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark. And they did. Shot for shot. And it took them eight years to do it.
He had my attention.
I was still skeptical though. Even when he told us that they really did set their basement on fire for the bar scene, even when he revealed that they actually got a submarine to use for their shoot, even when he promised that this was, in fact, the greatest fan film ever made, I still thought I was going to be seeing some little kids playing “movie” in their mommy’s living room. Cheesy.
And then the movie started. And I was blown away.
The movie itself was incredible and then afterwards listening to Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos talk about it brought tears to my eyes. It was just so apparent that I was witnessing something magical, not just on film, but in front of me in the lifelong friendship of the creators. I didn’t get home until after 3:00AM that night, but it was all worth it.
You can ask anyone– my husband, my friends, my family– I have been talking about this thing ever since I saw it. So when I found out that this book was coming out, I couldn’t wait to read it. This book is awesome. Rarely will you find a story as endearing as this one. No, it’s not the best literature in the world. But after ten years of wondering how they made the boulder and who did their special effects and what kept them going for so long, I finally held the answers. Their story is as amazing as their movie. However, I’m not sure it would be for someone who hasn’t seen the film. So what you need to do, right now, is find out if there is going to be a screening anywhere within 200 miles of where you are. And then go see it. And then read this book. And then see the movie again and let your jaw drop appreciatively in honor of what these kids accomplished. And then wonder, as I did, how they managed not to kill themselves in the process.
The only complaint I have about the book is that it lacked images. I wanted pictures of the kids, the house, the basement, the mess, the beautiful storyboards that Eric drew for each shot. Maybe they’re saving those for the next book. If so, I’ll buy that one too.