Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is proof that lightning can indeed strike twice, and while it might not quite hit the extreme highs of Raiders, it returns the series back to its fun and adventurous spirit with spectacular results. The Last Crusade is everything anyone could ever want from an Indiana Jones sequel, all while also showing off some truly impressive character development for its iconic protagonist.
The Last Crusade is like a return to form for the series, and even though I really enjoyed The Temple of Doom, I love that this film stays away from the darker nature of its predecessor and instead fully embraces the fun-loving feel of the original. The stakes are still high, and the suspense is heavy, but the banter and lighthearted nature of the characters are back and better than ever.
This movie takes place a couple years after the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but rather than starting the story off by reintroducing us to the Indy we all know and love, the film makes the bold decision to go back in time and show us what is basically Indy’s origin story, creating for a surprising and exciting direction that never really slows down.
While seeing Indy as a young boy might not seem like the wisest way to start an action/adventure movie, thanks to the fantastic script and character development, not only is this opening sequence a lot of fun in its own right, and spawned a popular television series for itself, but it also brilliantly sets up what becomes one of The Last Crusade‘s most important aspects; the relationship between Indiana and his father.
Up until this point, Indy has been a fearless and unstoppable action hero who has rarely shown his softer side to anyone. But by introducing his father into the mix, and literally forcing the two of them to work together in order to save the world from the villainous schemes of the Nazis, forces Indy to face a side of himself that he would’ve far preferred stayed hidden.
The dynamic between Indiana and Henry Jones Sr. is every bit as perfect as anyone could’ve hoped it would be, and while focusing on family relationships might be a cliche Spielberg is sometimes a bit to reliant on, he’s never done it better than he does with The Last Crusade. The dialogue between father and son is fantastic here, and wonderfully blends both the franchise’s signature sarcastic humor with some real, heartfelt character development.
One of the primary reasons this relationship works the way it does is because of the phenomenal talent of both Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, who have some outstanding chemistry together, and it’s great fun seeing such a different, more vulnerable, side of Indy take center stage.
However, as you can imagine, Sean Connery comes very, very close to outright stealing the show from Harrison Ford, and even though the movie is still Ford’s to own, Connery delivers such a wonderful and grounded performance that you can’t help but fall in love with his character from the very first time he makes an appearance on screen.
The rest of the cast also fares really well, and brings back some familiar faces while also introducing some new ones, most notably Alison Doody’s character of Elsa Schneider. While Elsa might not be nearly as charismatic as Marion was in Raiders, she’s still a lot of fun and has some really nice chemistry with both Harrison Ford and Sean Connery that helps to enliven both of their relationships.
It was also great to see both Sallah and Marcus Brody in expanded roles as well, and even though they don’t play huge part in the plot, they’re a lot of fun to have around and still end up having more than a couple stand out scenes, including one particular sequence involving a tank which is probably one of my favorite moments from the entire film, as it brilliantly combines the series’ signature humor and action in some fantastic ways.
The villains, however, aren’t nearly as developed as I would’ve liked them to be. They get the job done, and offer some nice resistance to Indy and cohorts, but their motivations are unfortunately dull and uninspired, and they just lack that signature charisma and magnetism that was so prevalent in the primary antagonists in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The script also seems to play it a little too safe, and while it’s certainly not lacking in exciting set pieces and character moments, it doesn’t quite reach the heights achieved by the original film, and I think there were a few moments where the film could’ve pushed things a little further in order to make the movie even better.
Still, The Last Crusade is an absolutely entertaining and exciting action flick that perfectly expands both the characters and world of Indiana Jones. There are at least half a dozen memorable moments spread throughout the film, and they all come together to make for an experience that is an absolute blast to be a part of from beginning to end.
Spielberg’s directing is once again top-notch, and in some ways even more creative than it ever was in the previous films. His camera work is consistently excellent, and the way he effortlessly maneuvers the audience through both the breathless action scenes and the quieter, more personal character moments is simply outstanding. And it’s made even better by John Williams’ brilliant score, which once again makes each and every scene that much better.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is everything I could’ve hoped for from a sequel to one of my favorite movies of all time. While The Temple of Doom succeeded at showing us a darker, more intense side of the franchise, The Last Crusade reminds us why we fell in love with the series in the first place, and delivers an effortlessly fun and enjoyable ride that never once lets up.
It might not be the flawless masterpiece the original film was, but it comes awfully close to it. Even with a slightly less engaging antagonist and a script that isn’t as groundbreaking as its predecessors’ were, The Last Crusade is Indiana Jones at his best, and it brilliantly develops its main protagonist while also introducing one of the most recognizable and lovable father figures in all of movie history.
The Last Crusade is a fantastic film, from start to finish, and it only gets better with each and every viewing. The entire cast and crew are at the top of their game with this film, and it makes for an absolutely timeless and classic adventure that only gets better and better with age.