Movie Review : Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
There's been a resurgence of love for Indiana Jones imagery since the election of Donald Trump and the many, many Nazi celebrations that ensued in America. And for good reasons: he's been doing a whole lot of Nazi punching in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But, was there a political meaning to Indiana Jones movies or are we simply imposing one out of frustration with the way the world is going? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade provides some answers in that regard, but perhaps not the answers we're collectively after.
The movie begins a introductory flashback sequence where young Indy (the late, great River Phoenix) attempts to steal Coronado's cross from grave robbers. The sequence serve no real purpose whatsoever outside of vaguely setting up Indy's rigid morals regarding found artifacts, but it is cool. Cool for the sake of cool is a recurring theme in the movie, so keep that in mind. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, our hero is tasked with finding the Holy Grail by a rich man named Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) because Indy's dad (Sean Connery) disappeared trying to find it. Quite simple, right? It's the most straightforward movie in the series.
So, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is basically a competition between the righteous American hero and the evil Nazis for the most important Christian artifact, which grants eternal life. It's a reenactment of World War II, really. The tough, brash, but outnumbered allies, fight the seemingly ubiquitous military power for the soul of humanity. And the competition in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is really a race. There are so many chase scenes in that movie: there's a boat chase, a motorcycle chase, a plane chase, a car chase following the plane chase, multiple chases on foot, etc. Harrison Ford is running more than ever.
But the Nazis of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade aren't really Nazis, though. They're a placeholder for evil, like Chuck Klosterman once said. They're German stereotypes with goofy accents and funny-looking uniforms. Indiana Jones isn't exactly fighting an ideological battle, here. He's fending off a convenient antagonist. A foreign military power people were already familiar with and could hate without being explained why. These guys couldn't be any more different than young American rednecks who spent too much time on the internet.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the most comedic and predictable film in the series. It's also the least interesting because of that. I mean, some of you might consider it's a plot twist that Dr. Schneider is actually working for the Nazis *. She's a blond woman named Elsa Schneider in a movie with Nazis in it, though. That shit wasn't hard to figure out. The movie is not without interest, though. Indiana Jones is an archetype of the strong, self-reliant American male and seeing him having to manage his aging father was uncomfortably pleasant. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas showed that Indy isn't above breaking the mold he came from.
The Indiana Jones movies are fun, but they don't take themselves seriously. It's a good thing to some degree because such pompous adventure stories wouldn't work without a sense of humor, but it's also treated like a hobby by its creators. It's something they did every four or five years in the eighties and stored in a drawer afterwards. Could it have been more than it ended up being? Maybe, but it could've also went overboard and alienated people in ten different ways. There was a 19 years radio silence after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and nobody complained because it was time to take a break from our favorite American conqueror.
* Spoilers? I mean, this movie turns 29 years old this month. Too bad if you haven't seen it.