Today! Because we are on the verge of completing a quest that began almost two thousand years ago –
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Directed by Steven Spielberg (x7)
Starring Harrison Ford (x5), Sean Connery (x7), John Rhys-Davies (x3), Denholm Elliott (x2), Alison Doody, Julian Glover, Michael Byrne, River Phoenix (x2), Robert Eddison, Richard Young
In putting this list together in the summer of 2018, I needed to rewatch 60 or 70 films, mainly as it had been a while since I’d seen, say, Switch and The Dream Team. I remembered liking them, but how much did I still like them? And some movies straight missed out due to this rewatching – Lost Horizon, The Secret of NIMH, and Falling Down are not what 12-year-old Joe would’ve had me believe! One thing I didn’t think I would need to rewatch was Last Crusade, as I’d seen this movie a billion times, even if it had been a few years. But I just happened to catch it on TV around this time, and was surprised to find that (as of fall 2017) one of my top 20 films struck me quite differently than expected.
Now, I’d not seen Temple of Doom in a while either, and ended up watching them back-to-back. That may have hurt Last Crusade? Not because Temple of Doom is way better – I genuinely believe it is not – but that Last Crusade feels shockingly tired when viewed immediately after the Raiders’ prequel. It’s still largely what you remember – fun action pieces and terrifically funny scenes between Indy and his dad – but there’s also a lot of lame dialogue and pointless interluding that feel unnecessarily thrown in. I liked the River Phoenix flashback opener, but it feels gimmicky. And Indy meets Hitler?! Come on, have you always been okay with that choice?
And really, as great as Sean Connery is as Henry, doesn’t it feel like a last gasp move by a franchise out of ideas? They already partnered Indy with a kid, and now it’s his dad? I hate just slamming Last Crusade – it’s still ahead of all but 70 movies for a reason – but I was frankly stunned to watch it after the years distance and not be blown away anymore. In fact, if you watch this alongside Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you can see a progression in the mentality that arrived at that steaming pile. The first two movies don’t necessarily hold together as one unit – Raiders and Last Crusade always shared more of a connection, thanks to biblical relics + Nazis – but Temple of Doom manages to not feel totally worn out either, where Crusade has got a lot of wrinkles and more than a touch of arthritis, to burn out this metaphor.
But again, it’s largely what you remember. The Grail Knight finale and the tests of faith are still solid. That tank battle is great. Hell, the dirigible/dog fight sequence is still a lot of fun. How great is Alison Doody’s duplicitous Elsa? How funny is Marcus in this go-around? He once got lost in his own museum! “We named the dog Indiana.” That was the name of George Lucas’s dog! We come full circle!
I also can’t say this loudly enough – we don’t need a fifth Indiana Jones movie. I could save this argument for multiple days down the road (spoiler alert) but as I have no idea when Indy 5 is supposed to reach theaters, the sooner the better. Who the hell wants to see 90-year-old Harrison Ford’s stunt double battle, I don’t know, the Vietcong, or wherever we land time-wise? Why don’t we let this go, folks.
Spielberg becomes only the second Seven-Timer director, following #226 Munich, #294 1941, #109 Hook, #331 Twilight Zone, #123 Jurassic Park, and #98 A.I., still efforting to cut into Woody’s huge lead. Connery, meanwhile, becomes the 12th Seven-Timer in the acting wing, after his Bonds #153 Dr. No, #138 From Russia with Love, and #78 Goldfinger, plus #374 Murder on the Orient Express, #354 The Untouchables, and #293 Prince of Thieves.