Friday, November 23, 2012
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE
(May 1989, U.S.)
In the early months of the year 1989, when I first learned that there would be another Indiana Jones film coming out that summer, my initial reaction was that of extreme relief. Relief, because the thought of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) being the swan song of the legendary action hero's adventures was just too painful to accept. You see, in my humble opinion, THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is one of Steven Speilberg's worst films, second only to HOOK (1991). When I further learned that INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE would not only NOT be another prequel, but would also feature the legendary Sean Connery as Indy's dad, relief turned to excitement and anticipation. And so, on Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend 1989, I braved the insane movie crowds and ventured to the local twin movie theater in Westhampton Beach, Long Island and prepared myself for what I hoped would make up for the tragedy of the last film four years prior. It did...big time.
From its opening sequence, the film takes on new level of originality by showing us Indy as a young boy scout (played by the late River Phoenix) who, nonetheless, knows how to get himself into trouble when trying to protect a precious archeological artifact. The ultimate quest in this film, like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), is religiously-themed as he and his team seek the mystery and the magic behind the legendary Holy Grail, also known as the cup of Jesus Christ that was supposedly used during the Last Supper. Sort of the opposite side of the coin compared to RAIDERS - first something Jewish, then something Christian. Hey, why not? Seems only fair.
Like RAIDERS, Indy battles the Nazis again and is assisted again by alumni characters like Marcus Brody (played again by the late Denhom Elliot) and Sallah (played again by John Rhys-Davies). However, aside from the obvious action and excitement that's expected from an Indian Jones film, the real treat is the ongoing, snappy dialogue and father-son tension between Indiana and his father Henry Jones (Connery). The two actors (and characters) feed off of each other perfectly. Somehow it seems only poetic and just that Indy's dad would be played by the man who made James Bond perfectly famous. Add Spielberg and George Lucas to the mix and you have the ultimate recipe for fun and adventure.
Mind you, I'm not accusing this sequel of being perfect because it isn't. Despite it's incredible improvement over its horrible predecessor, to this day I still have enormous problems with the climax and the last Knight, kept alive for seven hundred years with the power of the Holy Grail. I understand that part of the allure of Indiana Jones films is the supernatural magic involved in some sequences, but this Knight in perfect human and preserved form was just too hard for me to swallow. The second problem I had (and still have!) is the idea that, having swallowed water from the Holy Grail, Indy and his father are now supposed to be endowed with eternal life as a result. By opening up that ridiculous can of forms in the story, we're now lead to believe that the two men will never grow older and will never die. Well, that's just fine if you DON'T continue to use Harrison Ford in the famous role. INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (the OTHER disappointing Indiana Jones film!) proved that wasn't going to be the case. It's also revealed in that last film that Henry Jones DID, in fact, die. You see what I'm talking about? You can't (and shouldn't) open up pandora's box on eternal life unless you're prepared to stick to it somehow. Then again, we're talking about the strange mind of George Lucas, who proved guilty as hell of such inconsistencies during the prequel STAR WARS trilogy...but that's another argument for another time.
And so, in case I haven't been obvious enough about it, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE in the only Indy film I'll be discussing for some time...until I eventually reach the letter 'R'.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Elsa Schneider: "What's this?"
Indiana Jones: "Ark of the Covenant."
Elsa: "Are you sure?"
Indy: "Pretty sure."