Praise be to the sequel gods for The Last Crusade, which did right by the franchise by stabilizing things from the shaky ground of Temple of Doom. After I had some time to digest that later film I still think it’s the odd man out in the franchise (so far). It’s a B-movie from front to back, and while that’s not a bad thing on its own, it just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the Indiana movies. For Last Crusade, Steven Spielberg wisely returned things to their Lost Ark roots: Nazis, Biblical artifacts, and a new PG-13 rating. After what I had seen under the PG banner in the last two films, I was practically expecting a two hour orgy of sex and death. Instead, I got a really funny and engaging movie. Whodda thunk? Hit the jump for why this was definitely the best of the franchise.
The time jumps have never made a lot of sense to me. Why did we jump back in time in the second installment just to yo-yo forward in the third, especially when there’s no relationship continuity to keep track of? Short Round never turned up again, neither did Marion (which surprised me). In fact, the Ravenwoods seem to be forgotten entirely — whatever happened to Abner Ravenwood, supposedly Indy’s mentor, who disappeared while searching for the Ark? We never hear of him again.
Instead, Sean Connery appears as Indy’s father, who was lost searching for the Grail, essentially taking Abner’s spot. Connery could have played Abner easily, but it wouldn’t have been allowed the nuances of the father-son relationship. Plus there would have been The Marion Question. So, ultimately, it was a great move though to include Henry Jones, not only because we got an “Indiana Jones: Origins” vignette starring River Phoenix (R.I.P. sweet prince) to help introduce his (at this point unseen) presence, but because of the way Connery and Harrison Ford played off of each other throughout the rest of the film. It was fantastic. It even made me forget, briefly, that they spoke not once but twice about having slept with the same woman. Yikes.
The woman in question, Elsa (Alison Doody), a.k.a. Fraulein Hotness, made me give up any last hopes I had of the franchise producing anything close to a strong female character, but she did have really wonderful hair and dressing gowns, and some really vogue desert goggles. There are so many issues with logic that have to be completely ignored (like, the sworn Brotherhood did a really poor job of protecting the Grail, didn’t they?) but you know what, damnit, this movie was just fun. Marcus was back, Sallah was back, the Nazis were back (even Hitler!), and all provided some genuinely hilarious moments. The writing on Last Crusade was miles above the other films, and the cast came together in a way they really hadn’t done before (I am mostly giving props to Connery for this). Above all, we find out that Indiana named himself after a dog? Fantastically weird way to end things.
Except it’s not over … unfortunately? Tomorrow: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
By the way, has anyone ever loved museums as much as Indy? I mean, he is ready to die for their right to preserve artifacts.
Bottom line: The best of the trilogy, because while Raiders of the Lost Ark had many of the same general elements, Last Crusade really capitalized on them.
Favorite Character(s): Marcus, Papa Jones, Sallah, the stamping librarian.
Least Favorite Character(s): The lackeys from the origin stories.
How About No: The rats. I’m with Henry Jones on this one.
Historical Moment: Alexander the Great renamed almost all of his conquered cities after himself. After awhile this got confusing, so he started mixing it up with names like “Alexandretta.” That city was later renamed “Iskenderun” by Arab conquerers, although Iskenderun still means Alexander.
WTF? Moment: Er, a lot. But unlike Temple of Doom which seemed to only trade on the absurd and augmented it with shallow sentimentality, Last Crusade glossed over it with humor.
Professor Jones: I still maintain that Indy as a Professor is kind of ridiculous, but once again his classroom scenes with the adoring hordes was pretty funny. I also liked the juxtaposition of his lecture on how X never marks the spot, and then of course later it did. Nice little call-back.
What worked best: We didn’t really need the origin story, but I’m glad we got it because it was cute and tied in nicely with the rest of the movie. Plus the animatronics with some of the animals (like the rhino) were great.
Best Death: The death by tank crushing was standard, the beheading was well-rendered, but nothing can touch the turning into a corpse from the bad Grail. It upped the ante from Lost Ark’s finale of a melting Nazi, and that was hard to do. Here it is in GIF form.
Best Quotes: “No water, fish make love in it” – Marcus. “I should have mailed my diary to the Marx Brothers” – Henry. “You were named after a dog??” – Sallah
Check back tomorrow for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.