Thursday, July 15, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones ad the Last Crusade is my favorite of the entire series. Steven Spielberg has gone on record assaying he took steps to return the series back to its Raiders of the Lost Ark roots for the “final" film. It shows.

All of my criticisms of Temple of Doom are specifically addressed. The toe is much lighter, yet still compelling. The Nazi have returned as the villains, so we have clearly defined bad guys we can root against. Finally, the point of interest in the Holy Grail, an item of Christendom with which we can relate much better than some mystical stones stolen by a death.

The Last Crusade has more of a personal touch than the other two in the original trilogy. Spielberg brings in his daddy issues with Henry Joes’, Sr. not having been around much after his wife died, preferring to immerse himself in his work at the expense of his son.

Sean Connery is perfectly cast as Henry Jones, Sr. The abandance of former James Bond players in featured roles is also a nice touch, as I the subtle joke that Indiana is the son of James Bond.

The eventual easing of friction between Henry and Indiana caused by Henry’s obsession with finding the Holy Grail is made all the more poignant when he is willing to let it go in order to save his son in the end. Father/son tension often devolves into cliche in popular entertainment, so I appreciate when it is done well.

It is further inspired to begin the movie with Indiana as a teenager, played by the late rier Phoenix, in order to show both just how early Indiana’s penchant from troublesome adventure started as well as the alienation from his cold father. I was never able to get into The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles because of how much I wanted the sequence to stand alone.

Phoenix carried the Indiana bullwhip mighty well in the opening action scenes. I think The Last Crusade has consistently the best and most amusig action scenes of the series. They arespaced out by good storytelling unlike being padded with the gross out elements of Temple of doom.

Well, save for the Nazi who drinks from the wrong goblet in the climax. His transformation gave me the heebie jeebies for weeks afterwards. What a geat, iconic scene, no? It contributed to earning The Last Crusade a PG-13 rating, the only film in thefrancise to do so. Ironic, sense the intense elements of Temple of Doom contributed to the MPAA developing the PG-13 rating in the first place.

The Last Crusade is big action, big adventure, and big heart. In hindsight it should have been the end of Indiana Jones period. I have a tough time wondering why we clamored for twenty years for another one. After the Star Wars prequels, we should have known we would wind up with CGI gophers and dumb aliens.

I would much rather have had my last memories of Indiana riding off into the sunset to the "Raider’s March.”

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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