Spielberg: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Released in 1989 I have fond memories of The Last Crusade having enjoyed it upon its original release. The makers went back to basics by bringing back the Nazi’s as the bad guys this time round. The inclusion of the box office superstar Sean Connery as Indy’s father was another decision that reaped great success for the franchise. The father and son team battle it out with the Nazi’s for the Holy Grail this time having already discovered the Ark previously. 

The action begins with a flashback sequence that shows how Indy got his fedora and his fear of snakes. The sequence also introduces Indy’s Father Dr Henry Jones Sr who seems to have little patience for his son. The action then moves to the search for the Grail as Walter Donavan asks Indy to take up the search replacing his now missing father. The quest takes him into the heart of Nazi Germany via Venice ultimately ending up in the Alexandreta. The Nazi sympathizer Donavan then shoots Henry Jones forcing Indy to take the three tests to obtain the grail to save his dad. Thankfully everything turns out well as Indy, Henry, Marcus and Sallah ride off into the sunset for a happy ending.

There can be no doubt that the writing team behind Last Crusade has attempted to take things back to basics. The eastern adventure of Temple of Doom have been abandoned as Indy returns into the heart of the Wehrmacht this time ending up face to face with Hitler, literally. Last Crusade has thankfully jettisoned the amazingly awful Kate Capshaw as the female lead but has sadly replaced her with the equally dreadful Alison Doody as Dr. Elsa Schneider. Doody was a former model who is sadly lacking when it comes to any kind of charisma or acting ability. Her former roles included the part of Bond Girl Jenny Flex which saw her with about 10 minutes screen time, which was a very smart decision.  Doody aside we also now get the father son dynamic that is Connery and Ford. This actually isn’t the worst but does begin to grate by the second half of the film. There’s only so much you can take Connery shouting Junior every few minutes.  The writers have also turned Marcus Brody into some kind of Englishman abroad style idiot for some reason. Marcus now seems like some blithering idiot unable even to ascertain what time it is. The one up-side is John Rhys -Davis back as Egyptian fixer Sallah who once again provides his usual bluster and comic timing to good effect.

The inclusion of the Grail would on paper seem like a smart move given the success of the original Ark quest. Sadly this time round the set pieces are actually less thrilling than the original. The Venice location is utterly pointless as it seems to be included simply for the purpose of the terrible boat chase. The Zeppelin and castle escapes are equally dull as both the Jones boys get away time and time again from the hapless Nazi’s, god knows how they steamrollered over Europe if this is anything to go by. 

The worst part of the film comes at the very end once we reach the Grail room itself. Once Indy has survived the three tests of faith he enters the room to find the remaining Knight protecting the Grail. There he has to choose from numerous chalices with only the grail itself having the healing powers that will save his father.  Indy selects a diamond encrusted gold chalice and hands it to Donovan. The problem being Donavan has been introduced as a Grail fanatic so the idea that he would believe that Christ would have had such an ostentatious cup is utterly ridiculous. Naturally Donovan drinks from it and dies before Indy reminds us that Jesus as a carpenter would have had a simply wooden chalice.  To say this ending is lazy writing would now be a shocking understatement. They simply assume that the audience, like Donovan, are a bunch of idiots that wouldn’t even know the first thing about the story of Jesus Christ.

The only question left to answer as regards Last Crusade is whether it’s actually worse that Temple of Doom. On re-watching Doom I would have never imagined that this was even possible given my earlier watching experience of Last Crusade. Sadly time has been less than kind to this film with poor acting, perfunctory dialogue and mediocre action that simply re-plays that of the original classic that was Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Aled Jones

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