Friday, April 10, 2020

Green Phoenix - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Review

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.pngAs stated in my Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom review, the Indiana Jones franchise was originally pitched as a trilogy of stand-alone films. Following the mixed reception of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Spielberg and Lucas elected to make the third film in the trilogy more traditional and in line with the first film the franchise.

This resulted in the release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989. The film in the franchise that is easily my favorite and honestly the entire reason why I decided to take a look at the Indiana Jones franchise in its entirety.

Bringing back many of the powerhouse cast from Raiders of the Lost Ark and adding in the overwhelming charisma of Sean Connery, otherwise known as James Motherfucking Bond, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is widely considered to be the perfect Indiana Jones movie.

But does that hold up on a more analytical level? I may love this movie subjectively, but when taking a look at the more generalized elements of effects, music, characters and story; does Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade really deserve its place as the most popular of the franchise?

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  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
  • Produced by Lucasfilms Ltd.
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 128 Minutes

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SUMMARY

In 1938, Indiana Jones is hired by an American millionaire named Walter Donovan to uncover the location of the Holy Grail, the legendary cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper that is said to grant everlasting life to any who drink it. The Grail was a lifelong passion project of Indiana's father, Dr. Henry Jones, who has gone missing while helping Donovan on his expedition.

Now trying to track down the whereabouts of his missing father, Indiana teams up with the Austrian art professor, Dr. Elsa Schneider, and must deal with betrayal and danger as he finds the Nazi war machine also on the trail for the Holy Grail.

Only Indiana Jones and his father could uncover the location of the Grail and keep it safely out of the hands of the Nazis.
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REVIEW

As stated above, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is my personal favorite film in the franchise. It, to me, captures the spirit of adventure and whimsy that underlies Indiana Jones the best. While Indiana is at his most openly heroic in this film, an element that was somewhat missing from the other two films in the franchise, the thematic connection of Indiana and his father's quest to a classic Grail Quest really gives the film a uniquely upbeat and triumphant tone compared to Raiders and Temple of Doom.

The Last Crusade really was the best way to end the franchise...and then Crystal Skull came out. But that is for another time.

VISUALS - 8/10

I'm not going to go into too much detail on this subject, except to say that I think where this film overshadows the other two is definitely set design and lighting. The Last Crusade just feels much larger in scale and scope than the previous two films. It feels like the kind of adventure that would be worthy to be a great Grail Quest out of medieval literature.


The 20 Best Scenes in Indiana Jones Movies | Taste Of Cinema ...
The film takes you from the American Southwest to Venice, the Austrian Alps and even to the heart of Nazi Berlin and the deserts of Jordan. We bare witness to a zeppelin chased by airplanes, a boat chase through the canals of Venice after a dangerous trek through its sewers, and a tense fistfight on top of a tank. This film just has everything that a proper epic quest should have and it looks amazing.

Almost every effect still holds up after all these years, even the death of Donovan manages to trump the death of the three villains from Raiders in terms of its special effects.

This film truly tried to evoke the feel of a Grail Quest, an impossible journey of personal discovery and danger in search of a mysterious prize, and it truly captures the scope and scale that such a quest would have to be.

SOUNDTRACK - 9/10

Like every other film in the Indiana Jones franchise, the music, by the legendary and incomparable John Williams, is just fucking fantastic. And I have to say that, in my humble but superior opinion, the soundtrack to The Last Crusade is the absolute best in terms of musical complexity and telling a story via song.

Every track is utterly incredible ear candy, with my favorite far and away being "The Keeper of the Grail" and "The Penitent Man Will Pass", which acts as a perfect musical encapsulation of the dangers and sacrosanctness of a Grail Quest. It captures the death and hubris of Donovan and the  utilizes the leitmotif of Dr. Henry Jones Sr. to show the depth of love and trust that the two Joneses have developed over the terms of their adventure.

I can't say anymore without just outright going over every single track and talking about why it is amazing (which might be a pretty good article idea in the future, better put a pin in that), so I just have to say listen to the soundtrack and have some fun.

CHARACTERS - 10/10

In my honest opinion, the characters and cast of The Last Crusade is by far the best of any Indiana Jones film, even beating out Raiders whose cast was absolutely magnificent. But I suppose that much is to be expected when you bring in the acting talents of Harrison Ford, one of the greatest action movie stars of all time, and Sean Connery, the man who made James Bond a household name.

The two leads have absolutely stunning chemistry together and it is their relationship which underlies the heart and theme of the film. At its core, the Grail Quest that the two undertake is a trial of their relationship as father and son, which is strained at the start of the film due to the loss of Indiana's mother and Dr. Jones distance as a result of his obsession with the Holy Grail. It is a deeply moving relationship that feels genuine and loving as two grown men learn to accept the other for their flaws and to see the strengths that their prides and egos never allowed them to see.

Joining the two Joneses is the main romantic lead of the film, Dr. Elsa Schneider, an Austrian art professor, who becomes obsessed with the Grail and Indiana Jones alongside it. Much like previous romantic leads, Elsa provides a different romantic relationship than Indiana's previous conquests. She is more romantic and traditionally feminine than Marion Ravenwood, but more intellectual and self-reliant than Willie Scott. She seems like a more rounded average of the two previous romantic leads, but brings her own unique tragedy and drama that makes her a truly compelling and, in my opinion, one of the best romantic leads that the series ever produced.

In terms of side characters, the cast actually brings back most of the cast of Raiders for a larger role, and I think it works out extremely well. The characters of Brody and Sallah are fun and lighthearted and add a degree of levity that is extremely desired in the latter half of the film when the Grail Quest becomes much more dire.


Walter Donovan | Indiana Jones Wiki | Fandom
Maybe its Maybelline?
Finally, we have the villains. In my opinion, Walter Donovan is the best Indiana Jones villain, bar none. Initially introduced as the wealthy American financier behind Dr. Jones' Grail expedition, he is revealed halfway through the film to be the mastermind behind Dr. Jones' disappearance and in collaboration with the Nazis to acquire the Ark so that he can receive immortality for himself.

Donovan conveys an equal parts sense of danger and likeability. You enjoy having him on screen and never really hate him for the things that he does until the end of the film. It gives him a truly unique relationship to the Joneses that make him far more complex than Belloc and Mola Ram and his presence really ties together a powerful cast of strong characters that gives The Last Crusade the highest score I can give for this category.

STORY - 8/10

The concept of a Grail quest has a long and storied history, drawing its initial inspiration from the Arthurian literature of the 12th and 13th century, especially in the works of Chrétien de Troyes, but does traces its origins to much earlier works as well. A common motif of the modern Grail quest is the notion of worthiness and the reality of the Grail not being a physical object, but a representation of some quality that the agent of the quest is lacking.
The Man Is The Hat: Last Crusade and Indy's Famous Fedora | From ...
A beautiful dichotomy of characters.


It is in this mindset that we must analyze Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a modern interpretation of a Grail quest plot-line. The father-son Jones' pair begin their quest searching for the physical Grail, much like any other Arthurian knight from a story such as The Fisher King or Percival. But the true nature and goal of their quest quickly shifts. Finding the Grail plays a secondary role to the healing of their interpersonal relationship. The two bond over the journey and through their adventures find what Dr. Jones refers to as "illumination".

Though the film does make a point of tying the fate of their relationship with discovering the Holy Grail following Dr. Jones injuries at the hand of Donovan, which is an incredibly poignant and emotional work of story-crafting that I really have to commend the film for.

I really do enjoy how tight the writing of The Last Crusade is. I think that this film has some of the best dialog of the franchise, as the chemistry of Indiana and his father is absolutely essential to heart and drama of the film. Absolutely nothing is wasted and even the smallest of character details or dialog choices leads to an important point of the film.

Arguably the only negative element that I can point to narrative-wise is the relatively weak use of the secret society that protects the Holy Grail. I felt like this group could've played a much larger role than what they did, but this is largely a minor nitpick and one that I can't really fault Spielberg on as the film already had every piece it needed to create a tight and emotionally satisfying conclusion.

And in that regard, I believe Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade absolutely succeeded. As the Joneses ride off into the sunset, I feel myself not only satisfied with the adventure that I was allowed to tag along to, but incredibly excited to watch the trilogy all over again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At the beginning of this article I asked the question of whether or not Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade deserved its position as a perfect Indiana Jones film. While I cannot say that it is a perfect film, from a subjective standpoint it easily remains my favorite.

The stellar performances, emotionally driven story of an estranged father and son reconnecting, and fantastic music and effects leave this film the perfect conclusion to the adventures of Indiana Jones.

Or it would've been the conclusion had Kingdom of the Crystal Skull not been released nearly 20 years later. But before we talk about that film, I feel it is just about time we took a look back on one of my favorite book franchises.

So next week, we will take a look at the second book in Eric Flint's Ring of Fire series: 1633.


VISUALS
  • 8/10
SOUNDTRACK
  • 9/10
CHARACTERS
  • 10/10
STORY
  • 8/10

 FINAL SCORE - 8.75/10

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