Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Review: "INDIANA JONES and the Last Crusade" Stills Feels Like a True Ending

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 28 of 2023 (No. 1917) by Leroy Douresseaux

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Running time:  127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13
DIRECTOR:  Steven Spielberg
WRITERS:  Jeffrey Boam; from a story by George Lucas and Menno Meyjes (based on characters created by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman)
PRODUCER:  Robert Watts
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Douglas Slocombe (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Michael Kahn, A.C.E.
COMPOSER:  John Williams
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, Denholm Elliot, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, River Phoenix, Michael Byrne, Kevork Malikyan, Robert Eddison, Richard Young, and Michael Sheard

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a 1989 action-adventure film from director Steven Spielberg.  It is the third entry in the “Indiana Jones” film franchise that began with the 1981 film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).  The Last Crusade finds Indiana Jones searching for his father, who along with the Nazis, are search for the Holy Grail.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade opens in Utah, 1912.  It is there that teenage Henry Jones, Jr. (River Phoenix) has his first experiences with raiders of an archaeological site.

Over a quarter-century later, in 1938, Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) recovers the treasure he lost as a teenager.  Jones returns to teaching (apparently at Barnett College in Fairfield, New York) when one of the college's wealthy patrons approaches him about a special mission.  Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) wants Jones to help him locate the Holy Grail.

Jones informs him that his father, Professor Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery), is the expert on the Holy Grail and the one whom Donovan should seek.  Donovan shocks Jones by informing him that he had hired his father to find the Grail, but the senior Jones has disappeared.  Jones and his colleague, Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot), race to Venice, his father's last known location.  Waiting for them is Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), who was working with the elder Jones in Venice as he sought to find more clues about the Grail's location.

Before long, Indiana Jones and Henry Jones Sr. are racing for their lives, staying one step ahead of the Nazis, who also want the Grail, and the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, who want to protect it.  Reunited with his old friend, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), the Jones boys get closer to the Holy Grail, but the secret of the Grail is that it offers both eternal life and total destruction.

In preparation for the upcoming fifth film in the series, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, I decided to see the one Indiana Jones film that I have not watched in its entirety since the 1990s, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I have seen the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, countless times, and I rewatched its follow-up, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), in November of last year (2022).  I have watched the fourth film in the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), many times since its release.

I have long considered Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the true end of the Indiana Jones film series because it was the third film in the original trilogy and because it felt like the end of something.  The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull felt like a “coda,” in the sense that it was both an addition to the three-film series that ran from 1981 to 1989 and a final piece added to the ending of The Last Crusade's tale of family and friends out for one last adventure.

Seeing The Last Crusade in its entirety for the first time in decades, I still feel like I'm watching the end of trilogy.  If there was going to be another film after it, that ceased to be when River Phoenix, the actor who played teen Henry Jones, Jr. in this film, died in 1993 at the age of 23.  Actor Denholm Elliot, who played Marcus Brody in the original film and in The Last Crusade, died at the age of 70, a year earlier in 1992.  Henry Jones Sr., actor Sean Connery, only recently died (2020) at the age of 90.  So, you see, dear readers, because of the passing of a number of cast members, more and more, I associate Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with endings.

The Last Crusade is my least favorite film of the original trilogy.  I know that some audiences prefer it to the darker Temple of Doom, and apparently, director Steven Spielberg made The Last Crusade the way he did to offer a lighter film in response to the criticism of the Temple of Doom's violence and exotic mysticism.  However, I find Temple of Doom to be wildly inventive, darkly imaginative, and a roller coaster ride.  If Raiders of the Lost Ark is an original, in a way, Temple of Doom still seems determined to be something very different from its predecessor.

Honestly, I find The Last Crusade to be only mildly entertaining until the film's last 45 minutes.  Then, it explodes and really finds itself with lots of Nazi-punching and killing and also with a spine-tingling jaunt to the Holy Grail.  Besides, Indiana Jones is always at his best when he's beating Nazis.  Honestly, I think it is important that audiences who have not seen the original films watch them all before moving on to the new film.  By the time they get to the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, many newbies may finally understand what Indiana Jones meant to American cinema once upon a time, and why, over four decades after the release of the first film, there is a new one.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

You can purchase the "INDIANA JONES 4-Movie Collection" Blu-ray or DVD here at AMAZON.

1990 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Ben Burtt and Richard Hymns); 2 nominations: “Best Sound” (Ben Burtt, Gary Summers, Shawn Murphy, and Tony Dawe), and “Best Music, Original Score” (John Williams)

1990 BAFTA Awards:  3 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Sean Connery), “Best Sound” (Richard Hymns, Tony Dawe, Ben Burtt, Gary Summers, and Shawn Murphy), and “Best Special Effects” (George Gibbs, Michael J. McAlister, Mark Sullivan, and John Ellis)

1990 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Sean Connery)

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