Continuing on with this run of the INDIANA JONES series brings us to film number three. This was a reclamation project of sorts for Spielberg, after being disappointed in thew way TEMPLE OF DOOM turned out. This film has Indy reconnecting with his Dad (Sean Connery) and hunting down the holy grail. I wonder how long they considered calling this INDIANA JONES AND THE HOLY GRAIL before realizing they didn’t want to compete with the Monty Python guys…

I watched INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) on 6.5.12. I’m going to call this my fifth viewing of the film and the first in the past decade or so. However, I remember watching this a lot as a wee lad (more than RAIDERS to be sure), so I probably saw it a bunch more as a little kid.

After the unfortunate choices made in TEMPLE OF DOOM, running the gambit from script to editing, Spielberg looked to get back to basics with this third film. As a result, there are several scenes which are kissing-cousins with moments from the first film.

Indy fights a guy as they approach a propeller, only this time it is attached to a boat instead of a plane. Indy tells a girl he doesn’t like fast women. Indy fights Nazis. Indy gets in vehicle chases (a wide variety of them here). Indy gets one-upped by his enemies and must overcome the circumstances.

In terms of structure, this is also closer to the first film than the second. An opening scene is made fresh by using a young Indiana (an excellent turn by River Phoenix) to teach us the origins of the character. Indy (Ford Indy) then goes after an artifact. He comes home to teach. He sets off on another adventure. He has a complication with the woman he is involved with (though an altogether different complication this time around). Ultimately, the final sequence contains Indy being captured by the Nazis. This time, unlike in RAIDERS, he gets to be involved with the climactic action rather than merely observing it.

This film should feel derivative, except the smart adaptations the script makes allows this to transcend most copy-cat sequels. First and foremost, the addition of Sean Connery adds a tangible bit of greatness to the film. And this isn’t the dour and serious Sean Connery, but an unexpectedly light and giddy Sean Connery. Of course, being a Spielberg film, there must be some significant Daddy issues, namely the fact that Jones Sr. wasn’t there emotionally for Jones Jr. as a kid.

The betrayal by the woman in Indiana’s life, Dr. Elsa Schneider (a refreshingly excellent Alison Doody) is also well realized. Indy is not James Bond (though his Dad was, amIright??). He is not the ladies man who collects women and moves on, using them for his own purpose. The difference between the two men is that James Bond would happily bed a woman after knowing she is a Nazi supporter. Indy is emotional, with the betrayal effecting him any time he sees her. This helps paint Indian Jones as a hero more accessible to the audience.  In my write up on RAIDERS, I alluded to the feeling that he is making all of these decisions up as he goes. This is essential, for me anyway, in explaining why he is such a beloved icon. The gap between what he is doing and what we can see ourselves doing is not as wide as, say, us and James Bond (It’s also the reason the John McClane character failed so miserably in the fourth DIE HARD, but that’s a discussion for another day).

LAST CRUSADE is a really fun film, with plenty of nods to the best bits of the series. We learn why Indy doesn’t like snakes, and from whom he gets his hat. We get to see him kill Nazis and crack wise. This is not a watered down telling of an Indy story. There is plenty of death and blood and supernatural happening to appease the Indy fan. But I like how hard this film works to earn it all. In TEMPLE OF DOOM, crazy stuff happens from the unset, and it just feels like a different world. By the time LAST CRUSADE gets to the supernatural grail stuff, it feels miraculous and it feels earned.

There is also a welcome return to a film which appears to be set in the 30s, after taking an 80s detour with TEMPLE. Back are the costumes, hair, vehicles, and Nazis which gives this a period feel. I honestly feel like the ability to make RAIDERS and CRUSADE feel like movies from another time help lend credibility to the choice to introduce other-worldly plot points. It doesn’t bother me at all that CRUSADE has a centuries old man guarding the grail, and in most movies it would.

Just a fun, fun flick. While I give the nod to RAIDERS because it got there first and was slightly tighter, THE LAST CRUSADE is the reason the original INDY trilogy is remembered fondly. The third MATRIX couldn’t save the decline of the second, but the third INDIANA JONES certainly redeems TEMPLE OF DOOM.





~ by johnlink00 on June 6, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)”

  1. […] IJ3 Link here […]

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