- But to return to Raiders of the Lost Ark, I've never had a problem with the ending. Lance and his commenters seem to think that the ending doesn't fit the movie that precedes it, but of course it does! The early briefing scene, when Indy and Marcus Brody are explaining the Ark of the Covenant to the two Army guys who seem to never have attended Sunday School, has Indy opening his Bible to an engraving of the Ark blasting its enemies with "Lightning, fire, or the Power of God or something"; Marcus points out "The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the Ark before it is invincible." It's set up very early on that the object the Nazis are looking for contains within it the very power of God, and it's referenced again in the hold of the cargo ship when the Ark burns the swastika right off the crate, so at the end, when it's the Power of God which strikes them all down, it comes as no surprise. Nor, really, does the grisly nature of God's punishment toward those who touch his Ark seem inappropriate to anyone who has read any of the Old Testament at all. This is an instrument of the God who turned Lot's wife into salt because she looked back at where she'd come from. So yeah, melting the Nazis? I can see Old Testament Jehovah doing that.
What doesn't quite add up is Indy's sudden realization that he and Marion will be safe as long as they shut their eyes and refuse to look openly on the power of the Ark. How did he know? Was it pure intuition? We don't know. In the novelization, there's a line from that old wise man Indy and Sallah visit for the translation of the writing on the Headpiece; the line seems to be prefaced in the movie, when he says "This is a warning, not to disturb the Ark of the Covenant." In the movie that's all he says, but in the book he adds something like "He who would open the Ark and look on its contents will surely die", reading from the Headpiece. So at the end, it's that bit of wisdom that Indy suddenly remembers. That would have made the ending of Raiders make a little more sense.
- (And here's a thought: we all know that the Ark is locked away by the US Government by the "bureaucratic fools" Indy rants about at the end. But is that the right way to look at this? I imagine that Indy had to signal for a rescue from that island in the Mediterranean; assuming they're picked up by an American ship, they'd find a man, a woman, a golden box, and...a whole bunch of dead Nazis who have been slain in spectacularly nasty fashion. Upon returning to the US, these Army guys (one of whom is played by William Hootkins, who was the first Rebel pilot to die above the Death Star in Star Wars) learn all this, and now they've got a dilemma: Now that they have the Ark, what the hell do they do with it? If it's that powerful and indiscriminate in meting out punishment, then they can't very well use it in any meaningful sense; and they can't put it back where it was found, now that the Nazis know where Tanis and the Well of Souls are. So, they take the last option that makes any sense: they seal it away themselves, someplace secret and safe. Makes sense to me, and Indy's "bureaucratic fools" are actually doing the only responsible thing they can. How about that?)