Welcome back! It’s Indy time, again!
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The Plot: (A sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark) Indy goes on a quest to find his dad, punch Nazis, and discover the Holy Grail.
Seen it Before?: Boatloads of times!
Writing (8): This one is a great synthesis of the seriousness of Raiders and the witty banter of Temple. The comedy and adventure elements blend together beautifully. The script is balanced, well-paced, and a lot of fun. And the dialogue has a witty punch to it that is just delightful. The whole thing feels very immediate and forward-moving.
I love how the Dad/Son subplot is woven into the overall adventure plot without it seeming tacked on, cheesy, or overly sentimental.
Also, I’m a fan of how Elsa is written. She’s a villain, but she’s not 100% on board with what the Nazi’s are doing, and, in another life, would have joined up with Indy to fight them. She’s still a villain and too in love with “fortune and glory” but she’s not one-dimensional, so she’s much more interesting than if she had just been the “treacherous Bond girl” type.
My only issue is the prologue sequence. I have nothing against it and I really love it, but it’s an elaborate set piece so we can get one brief shot with Henry and Indy so we get a sense of how their relationship was when he was growing up. But the rest of it has no bearing on the plot except to present an explanation for Indy’s fear of snakes in Raiders and the scar on his chin. It’s nice fan-service, but it doesn’t contribute much. But I do understand that these movies have to start with an action sequence.
Also, this is totally unnecessary, but I read somewhere that the hot adventurer guy who gives Young Indy his hat is Abner Ravenwood, Indy’s mentor and Marion’s dad. Now, I don’t think this is official, but it was an abandoned plot point, so maaaaybe it’s official???
Acting (8): Sean Connery and Harrison Ford have such amazing on screen chemistry. You can ACTUALLY believe that they’re related. Their dynamic is beautifully portrayed and I think it’s what elevates this movie as high as it is. I just love every single scene where they’re together.
I love Julian Glover, but I feel like Donovan comes across as a bit stiff. When we first meet him, he’s got a charm that I really like, but once he reveals himself as the villain, he loses a lot of that charm, and I think it hurts the character. He becomes a cardboard cutout. I wish we’d gotten a bit more humanity. He thought he was the hero of his own personal story, but doesn’t even see how Elsa loses faith in him and ultimately kills him. I think we could have gotten more depth from him.
Alison Doody is great. I think Elsa is one of her best roles. I liked her in A View to a Kill as well, but she isn’t given as much to do in that one except exist in the background. In this one, she’s a complex character with conflicting motivations that ultimately loses herself to foolishness and greed, which I think is a great arc for her.
The rest of the actors are alright, but they’re not really able to compete with the main duo of Indy and Henry who unequivocally steal the show.
Visual Style (7): This one has a very 1930’s adventure film softness to it that I love. It doesn’t have the lurid colors of Temple or the high contrast of light and shadow of Raiders, which gives it a subtle washed-out vintage look that I like. I don’t think this one has as many iconic stand out visual moments like the boulder dash in Raiders or the heart-ripping scene in Temple, but it holds its own pretty well. It’s not a huge moment in the film, but I love the dirigible sequence (or is it a zeppelin?). The floating thingy. You know what I mean.
I do love the whole sequence right at the end, with the Crusade knight washed out in cold light and the multiple cups warmly lit by torchfire. It’s a pretty set and I think serves as the backdrop to a lot of the film’s most enduring images.
Music (10): I LOOOVE this score. After the ominous-but-generic score for Temple, John Williams really steps up his game and delivers a multi-layered musical backdrop that really ramps up both the action and the spirit of fun and adventure that this film exemplifies so well.
“Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra” is legitimately one of my favorite John Williams pieces ever. If I were to create a John Williams Symphony that showed off his entire career, It would include this piece as the third movement. I love it so much. It’s clever, fun, and really shows off what Williams can do with an orchestra when he’s scoring an action scene while still making sure that you’re paying attention to what he’s saying.
I also love the various lietmotifs that come into play like the hymn-like grail theme, the bombastic Nazi cue, and of course Indy’s theme which isn’t used as liberally as it was in Temple, but when it’s used, it’s very deliberate. I also love the slower variations of the theme that underscore moments when Indy makes a heroic decision. It’s just perfect John Williams in every way, and I love that Spielberg is a director that allows the orchestra to be a character in the film.
Other directors don’t do this. You can see this in The Force Awakens. While Lucas allowed Williams to be a part of Star Wars’ iconography, J.J. Abrams is too obsessed with slick, fast visuals to give the music room to breathe life into a scene. But Crusade is one of those perfect blendings of music and action that we don’t see very often. I love it.
Genre (10): While Raiders is my favorite Indy film, I think this one has the most consistent tone of all of them. It lightens up the darks, and softens the goofy to find a nice sweet middle ground of adventure/comedy that is pitch perfect. Now, while that makes it a bit less bold than Raiders, it also makes it less prone to the wild shifts in tone that we saw in Temple. So, in terms of genre, it’s pretty spot on in terms of consistency and style.
Overall Thoughts: A super fun film that is much more family-friendly than the first two in the series that is elevated by it’s amazing score and the dynamics of its two lead actors.
- E.T. (45)
- The Color Purple (44)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (43)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (43)
- Jaws (42)
- Empire of the Sun (42)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (38)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (37)
- The Sugarland Express (35)
- Always (34)
- 1941 (27)
Next week, we’re going to visit Neverland!