Movie review: "Raiders!" swings adventure of most amazing fan film ever

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

When I was 11 years old, there was nothing I wanted more in life than to be Indiana Jones.

The fedora. The whip. The "I'm making this up as I go along" attitude. He was the epitome of cool, but also somehow vulnerable. Plus, he was on the search for unspeakable treasure and had a strong-willed love interest. He was perfect in my eyes.

I can look back now and wish that I'd taken that devotion to the lengths seen in "Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made."

In 1982, a trio of 11-year-old friends embarked on an adventure ambitious even by Hollywood standards: a shot-for-shot remake of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb spent seven years crafting their elaborate, fan-made version of the film, taking truly insane risks along the way. Shooting the Nepal bar fight scene, they were literally playing with fire with "adult supervision" that didn't help much. "We found an adult even less responsible than us," they recall.

The finished version became the stuff of cult legend, traded on VHS dubs over the years. But it also came with one missing scene: the airplane fight scene. Some 25 years later, they return as adults to add it.

The "Raiders!" doc is a joy in part because of its different facets. The dedication of the boys to this project is the sort of inspiration only a real film geek can understand, and count me among that group. I wish Little Brad could have helped on this project.

But there's also a fascinating look at these grown men and how this project affected them, including an exploration of why they were drawn to Indy in the first place. It never really dawned on me what a father figure he was for a generation.

Finally, the look at the modern-day shoot of the remaining scene is a taste of the pitfalls of Hollywood-level filmmaking. It's reminiscent of the excellent "Lost in La Mancha."

"Raiders" fans should definitely not miss this overall, but the real opportunity comes Saturday, June 25, with a 7 p.m. screening of the doc, the full fan film and a Q&A with the filmmakers.

"Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made"

Opens Friday at the Gateway Film Center

Q&A with filmmakers Saturday, June 25 at 7 p.m.

3 stars out of 4