Quick Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

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Sometimes we enjoy the latter films in a series simply because we like the characters and we’ve become invested in their lives. And I wondered if that was the case for The Last Crusade. Because it resembles Raiders of the Lost Ark. Perhaps in an attempt to right all of the wrongs from that movie.

And it does. It takes the first film and improves upon it immensely. Other than the iconic opening scene, Raiders of the Lost Ark drags and doesn’t hold up incredibly well. But Last Crusade is easy to follow and has some really well-constructed action sequences–including a fun scene on a tank that feels like something out of Mad Max.

At the start of the film we get a pseudo-origins story for Indiana Jones, which is pretty cool. Set in 1912, Young Indy is played by River Phoenix. It’s not terribly relevant to the rest of the film, but it’s definitely fun for fans.

Years later, in 1938, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) finds out that his father, Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery) has gone missing in pursuit of the Holy Grail. Now Indy must find him and get to the Grail before Hitler’s Nazis do.

The journey there is far better than the one to the Ark of the Covenant. It doesn’t give away the mystery right away, which keeps the audience along for the ride.

It’s more of a Western compared to the first two. It’s not dark like Temple of Doom. It’s pretty light. In fact, it borders on farce on a couple occasions–even poking fun at itself. It has some genuinely great comedic instincts, with Connery’s character providing good opportunities for humor.

He and Ford have solid chemistry, but the film doesn’t try to say too much about their characters’ relationship. Even though implications arise that they’re close, it’s unclear if this is even intentional, since these ideas are contradicted a few times. For most of the film, Henry, Sr. acts like a bumbling old man who hasn’t yet caught up with the changing times. But he never settles into that role convincingly enough. At first they have him acting like a strict and neglectful father, having us assume that Indy resents his dad. But that’s soon abandoned and forgotten about. There are some other more innocuous plot holes and convoluted details, but they all get fleshed out in the end.

The camerawork here is really impressive. I know the first two films have their fair share of iconic shots, but honestly, overall this movie might have even more well-deserving ones than the previous two.

Raiders of the Lost Ark has a memorable ending, but the ending in The Last Crusade is just really cool and mystical. In a way, representing the type of reward that Indiana Jones wishes to get out of all of his expeditions. We, as an audience, feel it too. A perfect way to wrap up the original trilogy.

Twizard Rating: 99

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Quick Movie Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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It’s difficult to review Indiana Jones with fresh eyes. It’s one of those iconic movies that almost everyone grew up watching over and over again. Once being the freshest movie of it’s time, it now has that classic cinema feel. When that transition happened is unclear, but watching it now it’s obvious that the iconic scenes seem to make us all forget that the movie is not exactly perfect.

While it gets more and more dated as time goes on, its faults also stand out more. For one, it drags a lot, continuing on longer than it probably needs to.

Perhaps its biggest issue is that the rest of the film is just trying to live up to that amazing first scene. In one of the most iconic openings in movie history, Indiana Jones is going through some booby-trapped temple in Peru to retrieve a golden idol. It’s exciting, it keeps us on the edge of our seats, and is still one of the most exhilarating sequences in any action film ever. Plot-wise, it has little-to-nothing to do with the rest of the story. It merely sets up who Indiana Jones is. Yet, throughout the film we never get anything really close to this type of scene again.

Luckily, it’s carried by a cool story and concept. As a society, we’re fascinated with the occult, so that aspect still holds up.

Set in 1936, Raiders of the Lost Ark follows Jones, played by Harrison Ford, as he’s hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can get to it and utilize its suspected powers.

As much as we try, we just can’t ever imagine anyone else playing Indiana Jones. His dry humor and make-it-up-as-he-goes demeanor have always been able to make any dialogue sound cool, but give him a good script and he’s simply one-of-a-kind.

John Williams’ epic score matches the grandeur of what director Steven Spielberg had in mind. So even when things are a little slow, we’re able to forget it a little.

There’s no denying that Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most important movies of the New Hollywood era as its impact is still very much seen all over today’s cinema. Maybe it’s a good thing we only remember the good parts. Most of us have seen it so many times, we can just fast forward to them anyway.

Twizard Rating: 91