Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Sunday, July 15, 2007

As a nine-year-old kid, during sport's day no less, I passed on the opportunity to go and see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. My rationale at that time, having seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and been terrified by a scene where snakes crawled out of the mouths of skeletons, was that it was bound to include something that would have me shit my pants. And yeah it does include a couple of things that would be scary to a little snot-nosed scaredy-pants kid, but it's actually a much lighter Jones film. If anything it's more a comedy than an action film.

In some quarters that's grounds for consternation. Some people think it's far too jokey. They prefer the all-out action of Raiders or the darkness of Temple. But although I can kind of see their point, I think Last Crusade works wonderfully on its own terms. Certainly, with Indy accompanied by his father, it ensures that we're seeing something fresh, that we're not going over the same ground again. And as for the jokes, well, they either work or they don't, and I think they work superbly.

For instance, how can you not enjoy the idea of father and son unknowingly porking the same woman? It's a terrible blow to Indy's ego to think that his dad had slept with a hot blonde before him and as well as being amusing it also gives Indy's dad an extra dimension – at the beginning we think of him as we all think of our fathers, completely sexless, but the revelation here makes him more human and ultimately allows the two characters to bond (they come to understand one another better, realising that they're not quite as different as they think they are).

I also enjoy the scene in Berlin where Indiana is confronted with Adolf Hitler. It's a great little moment, played to perfection. And how can I forget the crowd-pleasing moment when Indiana punches out a Nazi officer and throws him out of a zeppelin before announcing that he had 'no ticket'? (By the way, is it just me or does the Nazi officer Colonel Vogel look remarkably like David Gilmour?)

However, funnier than all these moments, for me, is the scene where Sallah picks up Marcus Brody at the train station. The two are quickly accosted by a couple of Nazis, who demand to see their papers. Sallah then, while telling Brody to run, produces a newspaper and punches one of the Nazis in the face through it. Honestly, is there anything better in the world than punching someone in the face through a newspaper? I somehow doubt it.

I also enjoy the scene where Indy gets his tonsils sucked out by Dr Elsa Schneider. "Ah, Venice," he sighs. And after Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom, it makes a nice change to have a female character with a bit of spunk. And Dr Elsa Schneider further proves my theory that the best film villainesses are sexual deviants. After all, here's a woman who sleeps with father and son and who cops off with a man as he's tied to a chair. There's nothing not to like about her (let's just ignore her Nazi sympathies).

But as funny as Last Crusade is, it does also contain a few wonderful small moments that help elevate it about your standard action/adventure fare. In particular I like the scene where the tomb of Sir Richard is found. The music is wonderful, as is Ford's acting – "giddy like a schoolboy," says Dr Schneider. And then there's the scene that bookends this where Indy tells his father that he found the tomb. Again the music and the acting make it. And there's also the scene at the end when Indy is dangling over the edge of a precipice while being held by his father. He tries reaching for the grail, but then for the first time his father calls him by the name 'Indiana'. Almost instantly Indy is broken free from the trance he's in and lets his father help him up. It's a nice way of showing that his relationship with his father has more worth than this object they've both been searching for.

Another small little moment I like in this film is when the knight who guards the grail is confronted with Indiana. "You're strangely dressed for a knight." Once again the combination of fantastic acting with a magnificent score elevates the film immensely. And I also like the way that after being confronted with his first visitor in 700 years another couple of people turn up. Geez, immortality is like buses. You wait 700 years for someone to turn up and then three arrive at once!

However, the film doesn't exactly paint a fun view of immortality. The poor bloke is stuck in a temple for the rest of eternity with only a book and lots of cups to keep him company. How boring would that be? No wonder he has plenty of time to refine his sarcasm. "He chose…poorly." What a great line delivery that is.

Where the next film will go, though, to keep things fresh, I have no idea. We've already had elements of science-fiction, musical and comedy, as well as the obvious action and adventure. Oh well, I'll still be looking forward to it. Indy hasn't let me down...yet.

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