Movie Review #817: ‘The Last Crusade’ is really campy, but Ford and Connery make it mostly worth it.
By Red Stewart
|Rated PG-13 (contains religious subject matter, violence)|
First, let me pay my respects to one of the greatest human beings who ever lived and sadly passed away at a young age; Mr. River Phoenix, who is perfect as a young Indy.
“The Last Crusade” is what happens when you convince Steven Spielberg he needs to make a lighthearted movie out of an already cheery script. The result is an overly comedic and campy film that could’ve gone to dramatic lengths, but decides to take it too easy.
I suppose the alleged overabundance of “darkness” critics derided in “Temple of Doom” is what convinced Spielberg to follow this approach with the sequel, and it’s a shame because you can definitely see how “The Last Crusade” could’ve been as great as “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Returning to Christian mythology, the story follows Indy’s search for the Holy Grail when his father, Henry Jones, goes missing looking for it.
Obviously the biggest addition to the third Indy film is Sean Connery, who has excellent father-son chemistry with Harrison Ford and brings an interesting dynamic to the series’s established formula. Connery isn’t the only change Lucas wrote into the story though. After going from the strong-willed Marion to the screaming blonde in Willie, Last Crusade rises with a new, femme fatale protagonist in Dr. Elsa Schneider. Marcus and Sallah also return from Raiders, though to be honest, their presence felt more forced than genuinely implemented.
Unfortunately, because of the film’s family-friendly constraints, many ideas aren’t expanded to their highest potential, meaning we’re left with countless scenes that could’ve been altered to fit a more mature paradigm but instead are played out for laughs. Note, that I did enjoy a few of these, such as when Connery accidentally destroys the tail rotor of the plane Indy’s flying, but for the most part it’s more inane than anything else.
Up until the grand finale, which is the best climax in the entire franchise, there really isn’t much of an adventurous feel in “The Last Crusade”. Compared to the previous two Indy’s, it relies more on being driven by conversational discourse than action. While this is an interesting change of pace that gives more insight into the character of Indiana, at the same it regrettably expands upon the goofy texture present in “Temple of Doom”. Still, it’s hard to argue against the onscreen presence of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.