Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala, from Ocean Springs, MS, knew each other from riding the school bus and concocted a plan to recreate Raiders of the Lost Ark, shot-for-shot, bringing in friend Jayson Lamb to do cinematography and special effects, as well as Eric's little brother Kurt, Angela Rodriguez, and as many other friends as they could to round out the cast. It turned into a labor of love that consumed the kids' summer vacations from the time that they were about 11 years old until they went to college, and they were able to recreate the entire film, except the critical airplane scene, for obvious reasons. Many years later, through the magic of Kickstarter, they all got back together to film the final scene, with everyone now in their 40's, but hey, none of the scenes were filmed chronologically anyway. So if you have the privilege of seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, they'll go from age 11 to age 17 and back again, all in the same group of scenes.
I've only seen snippets of The Adaptation through this video and what I could find on YouTube, as there are obvious copyright issues, but watching this documentary gave me a true window into what it must have been like for these kids making this film and then finally getting to put the cap on it with the final scene, all those years later. Pretty much everyone involved gets their time in front of the camera, parents included, and the entire package is nicely "narrated" by John Rhys-Davies ("Sallah" in Raiders), plus you'll see ardent supporters like Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel), Harry Knowles (Ain't It Cool News) and more who pushed to promote the film once they had seen it.
Aside from the documentary itself, which is very well done and enjoyable, you'll also see deleted scenes from the doc, outtakes from The Adaptation, two separate audio commentaries with Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala (this one is jam-packed with personal stories), and also Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen, creators of the documentary. I especially enjoyed the Q&A session with Strompolos, Zala and Lamb from the film's 2003 premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse and was sad that it cut off before the end of the Q&A session, but the tape ran out... Such were the restrictions of many years ago. There are also trailers from Raiders, and other various Drafthouse films, plus an Easter Egg if you root around the Trailers menu section and the Raiders logo appears. Here, you can watch the shot-for-shot comparison of the trailers for Raiders of the Lost Ark versus The Adaptation. Last, but not least, is a 16-page booklet containing storyboards and notes from the kids' original notebooks. This is fun to look through, but more importantly, it really shows the incredible dedication of these kids.
This documentary is wonderful and I really enjoyed it. It only made me wish that The Adaptation had also been included in the package, because that would have made it perfect, but sadly it wasn't. I imagine there are copyright issues, but the film has been screened and appears to be for sale as a digital download online at the Raiderguys website, but I had issues with the link.
All in all, if you heard about this lovingly recreated adaptation somewhere along the way and wanted to know more, Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a really fun watch. The anecdotal stories are adorable and the emotional issues going on behind the scenes while these kids were spending their summers filming are pretty moving and impressive. While tactfully done, the documentary does explore some of the darker times in their lives, but it's wonderful to know that they powered through whatever life threw at them to complete their lifelong dream of finishing this movie. Now I want to re-watch Raiders of the Lost Ark, dammit. How can you not when you hear that theme song?