PG-13, and you know what? It's about time! These are the glory days of PG-13, back when it meant something. Ironically, I think this might have been my first Indiana Jones movie in the theater. I would have been six years old, which is the same age my daughter is now. I wouldn't let her watch it because some guy rapidly ages on screen. Also there's beheading and scary rats. Also, Elsa claims to have slept with both of the Joneses. This is some PG-13 stuff, guys!
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
We got to my favorite one in the series! It's always been my favorite one. That's right, die hard Raiders of the Lost Ark fans. I'm standing my ground. The third entry in the series for the first time is the best one. Heck, it was supposed to be the last one in the series. Man, I want to live in a world where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the perfect dismount to a series. On top of that, Last Crusade probably has the least amount of racism in it. I probably subconsciously knew this as a little kid and that's why I've been advocating for it the whole time. Boom. Always woke.
One thing that has been bothering me about this movie since I was a kid --hence the crowd-sourcing question --is the underground petroleum. It becomes an excuse for fire-related nonsense. But Indy's first reaction is to grab a torch. He's covered in petroleum and he lights a fire. I'm not crazy. I just googled "Petroleum flammable" and, sure enough, it is. You watch that scene. His torch is constantly dripping fire into the petroleum. What is the logic here? Why not just give Indiana Jones a flashlight? He's an archaeologist. You would think that would be a basic tool for exploring catacombs. (I know. This is where the very nerds I'm crowd-sourcing pipe up and say that he wasn't looking for catacombs. He was exploring a library. Come on. The way that Indy works, you think he shouldn't be prepped to go somewhere gross and dark?) This entire paragraph I'm getting out of the way because it's nitpicky, but I had this weird epiphany while watching Last Crusade for the first time as a grown man. Indy goes to Berlin by bike. Isn't a zeppelin kind of a dangerous mode of transportation to get out of Berlin. I'm only half-and-half criticizing the plan because it would be assumed that Elsa told the Nazis that the Joneses were in Berlin. But still, there seem to be a lot of hoops to jump through to get on a zeppelin. Then there is a moment where Indy talks to Vogel in German (behind his back) and then translates it to English. Vogel goes out the window and Indy says "No ticket" in English. While many people would have been bilingual, no one questions that the ticket taker is clearly American? I get why it is in there. I would have even done the same thing. I'm sure there was a version where Harrison Ford said it in German with a subtitle, but it probably didn't play as well as when he said it in English. These were just observations.
I think many of my memories of my father have been replaced with Henry Jones, Sr. My dad was a short and educated bearded man with darker skin. He was in Mensa, so I could imagine him working on his grail diary in our basement. I mean, he was translating poetry for publication, but in my mind that's the same thing. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the pinnacle of the series because it is the entry with the most heart. SPOILER: Elsa is revealed as evil pretty early on in the film. We never really expect Indy and Elsa to end up together. When the story doesn't include a "get-the-girl" element (at least, not as intensely as the other films), the heart has to come from something else. Indiana Jones, while still kind of a womanizer, doesn't allow himself to hide behind a wall. Instead, the relationship that is built through this adventure is one of father and son. It is also a relationship that is strained, but one that seeks approval. Every time that Harrison Ford acts like Indy from the first film, he's kind of reprimanded. His braggadocia, normally embraced by those around him, are pointed out for being a cheat. That's such a fun dynamic. Indiana Jones is not really allowed to be in charge for once and that makes the movie really different. On top of that, the dynamics between Sean Connery and Harrison Ford is perfect. It's so odd to see a father character that is written so well. So much of Henry's persona is imprinted on Indiana, but how they deal with the same passion makes them constantly butt heads. Similarly, it is really weird to see how Henry is flawed as a father, but not necessarily the bad guy in the story. So many stories have deadbeat fathers re-enter their adult children's lives. I'm thinking of the most recent Doctor Who episode, "Resolution". Most fathers are jerks and the well-adjusted one is the adult child. Instead, Last Crusade muddies the waters a bit. Henry is not a saint, but his actions can be interpreted through a complicated lens. Indiana Jones is not the easiest person to get along with at all times. Seeing the two men come together in quasi-healthy ways is interesting, leading to an ending the wraps that all up. Nicely done, Steven Spielberg.
It's really hard to gush about a movie. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade might be the most fun of the entire series. People disagree with me, but I really think that the Egypt stuff in Raiders kind of drags. I never get bored in Last Crusade. This is probably due to script and editing. I know I went off the deep end in my Temple of Doom review about how much I loved the opening credit sequence of that movie. But then I forgot about the River Phoenix opening in Last Crusade. How did I forget this? It was so good, it inspired a much weaker television show about Young Indiana Jones. I never liked that show (although seeing that it is on Amazon Prime, I'm really tempted to watch it again and give it a chance). But the opening to Last Crusade is so much fun, despite the fact that it commits every prequel sin ever seen. Honestly, we get all of Indy's origin from this one sequence. We understand his obsession with archaeology. He gets the hat. His fear of snakes gets an origin story. He gets the whip. Heck, the movie even creates the scar that Harrison Ford has on his chin. Like, in a ten minute sequence, everything that has ever affected him shows up. (Now I'm really curious to watch The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles because he starts as a real little kid in some of them. Also, is Sean Connery at all involved because we saw a photo of him as a young man and it's just bearded James Bond.) (Second note: I just watched the first five minutes and it's a guy doing a Sean Connery impersonation. Man, the show didn't have the same quality as the movies by a lot. I don't think I've ever been transported back to the '90s faster than watching the first few minutes of that show.) But then it is constantly moving. Sure, it's weird that Indy just abandons office hours. Is Indy a bad teacher? Why is everyone lined up outside of his office? I always assumed that it was because everyone was star-struck with Indiana Jones and wanted to get to know him, but how would his office hours look like? Just people staring at him? Also, he's really behind on his grading, unlike other teachers. (This guy is on top of it!) But the movie really spends the right amount of time at every location. There's also the right amount of globe-hopping going on here. It's a bit silly that they're in Venice, but Venice is pretty. I can't blame them for wanting to do a boat chase. (Speaking of boat chase, Indy's boat diversion doesn't make a lick of sense. They quickly see that the boat is empty and he really uses the motorcycle too early.) But then there's the tank sequence. The tank sequence is phenomenal. Chalk this one up to the list of goofs, but Indy is afraid of getting smooshed against the rock because his satchel is stuck around the tank's gun. When it turns and he gets up, he's just fine without the bag being wrapped around the gun. Regardless, this is gnarly. I don't know, man. I never get bored in Last Crusade. I don't necessarily think all of the elements work as well as others, but nothing is straight up boring. This one flew by.
From a Catholic perspective, the narrative about faith is optimistic, if not a little cornball. It's so weird that Indiana Jones seems to be kind of an atheist. He's got that Han Solo skepticism all over these movies. He respects the history, but doesn't seem to actually believe in God, despite the fact that he's one of the few people in the 20th century who have had firsthand contact with God himself. It's kind of why I don't love Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (well, one among many reasons). Crystal Skull isn't really about faith in religion. It's about faith in aliens. That's a very different theme going on there. But Last Crusade focuses on the two very polarizing views of exploration into faith. Indy is about facts and history (and blowing stuff up) while is father is on a holy quest. There's a reason that this is called the Last Crusade. His father expresses his faith through the hunt for this ancient object. You'd think it would be easy to convince Indiana Jones to have faith considering all that he has experienced, but it is a major moment for him. He's always believed once he's seen, but even then it is temporary. (Well, not seen or his face would have melted away...or would it?) But to save his father, he has to believe without seeing. It's so bizarre that the actual faith ended up being a series of tricks. He has this faith and I know that God didn't make the traps to protect the Holy Grail, but it does kind of take the wind out of our sails. Indiana Jones finally has faith and it's a series of tricks. That's a bummer. The weird thing is that the supernatural elements of faith are there, but you can only accept them after you watch someone rapidly age to death. It's an odd message being sent, but I low-key like the idea. The more you think about it, the worse it gets. My advice, which I try not to have to do with my faith: try not to think too hard about it and it kind of works.
Part of me wants to give Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull one last chance. Last Crusade is so good that I have a lot of goodwill left over to go into the one that has yet to really impress me. I know that billion-year-old Harrison Ford wants to do one more to end on a positive note, which I can't blame him. Regardless, I can always mentally treat Last Crusade as the last entry in the franchise.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.