The Story of the Amulet in The Bar Fight in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Steven Spielberg always offers are what he calls “Anchor Points.” He establishes a geography of items, props, and set design relative to each other. In this way he keeps the audience to how all the pieces of a scene fit together. The distances are not always literally accurate between the anchor points. This isn’t the point. The point is to make sure the audience can track, cut to cut, the how the elements in a scene fit together and connect to each other. This way, when we are watching a scene some part of a our brain isn’t trying to figure out what is going on but rather enjoying how all the actors, props, and set pieces are interacting as the scene progresses. (Compare to some fight sequences today at the other end of the spectrum where we really have no idea where anyone stands in relation to each other or the room and an action fight is nothing more than a series of tight shots of fights flashing across the screen or hitting each other.)

The first shot in the clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example, shows the medallion and the table it is on in the foreground, and the bar in the background. Later we’ll see the fire pit in the foreground and the bar in the background.)

Spielberg never lets himself be limited by the geography (that is, he’s not pacing out every foot in the fight). But because he’s established the anchors anyone watching the sequence can think, “Oh, okay, that guy is by the bar… Okay, that guy is behind the table with the medallion…” and we don’t get tossed cutting from one person to the next because there’s a sense of “The characters are standing by places and objects we’ve seen in relation to each other.” it feels concrete and each shot connected… even when the shots are disconnected or even when Spielberg cheats.

Also with Spielberg: Clarity of cause and effect. Each moment is given a beginning, middle, and end, and time to breathe.

Significantly, the fate of the medallion is given it’s own little story in the scene.

We see set on table, table knocked over and drenched in liquor, liquor set on fire, medallion too hot to pick up, medallion finally recovered by Miriam. The medallion is what the fight is about, so Spielberg tracks the fate of the medallion through out the fight and allows it its own little journey within the film.

This is not as much of a no-brainer as it might seem.

Another storyteller/director might have a big fight full of chaos and action, with bullets flying and a fire starting somewhere in the background, and then toward the end of the fight might have cut to a shot of the medallion lying in the flames when the villain sees it and runs for it. We would have missed the journey the medallion had taken–and all the intervening actions of the characters making such a journey possible. But Spielberg and Kasdan gives us one clear step after another of the medallion’s fate, and each step is a series specific cause and effect elements created in concrete ways by the characters.


How an Untested Young Comics Writer Revolutionized Black Panther

An article at Vulture reveals how an editor at Marvel Comics who had never written a comic book before helped shape the Black Panther into the character that broke box-office records this weekend…

In 1971, Don McGregor was a proofreader at Marvel Comics, and one particular thing was driving him nuts. There was a series with the cringe-inducing name of Jungle Action, and its contents were primarily reprints of 1950s tales about white people—Jann of the Jungle, Lorna the Jungle Queen, Tharn the Magnificent—having adventures in ill-defined African locales. “I kept saying to them, ‘I can’t believe you guys are printing this racist material in the 1970s,’” the 72-year-old McGregor says in his stout Rhode Island brogue. “Finally, it was decided to put some new material in, and I said something like, ‘It needs to have a black jungle character. Something.’”

The Passionate Politics of “Black Panther”

 at The New Yorker writes a review of Black Panther

What’s remarkable about “Black Panther” is not just that the very act of making a high-budget franchise superhero film with a cast of mainly black actors is so woefully exceptional. It’s that, despite the technical requirements of a superhero film (and, no doubt, despite the supervision of Disney’s producers), the director, Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the script with Joe Robert Cole, has made a movie that’s both personal and audacious. “Black Panther” fuses the imaginary realm of Marvel characters with world history, contemporary politics, and specifically the experience of black people in the United States. Many Marvel releases reflect American political turmoil of the moment, but this film’s confrontations with the agonies of the day are unusually complex and resonant.

“Black Panther” and the Invention of “Africa”

At The New Yorker  writes how Black Panther frames its central conflict in terms of history…

Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, the Black Panther and the King of Wakanda, confronts Erik Killmonger, a black American mercenary, played by Michael B. Jordan, as a rival, but the two characters are essentially duelling responses to five centuries of African exploitation at the hands of the West. The villain, to the extent that the term applies, is history itself.