Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade has a loving fanbase that bewilders me. Honestly, it was the start of Boomer Spielberg vs. Creative Spielberg. While nostalgia is one of the most powerful things on the planet, very few times is it fun to watch a director relive his loves and issues onscreen. Even Hitchcock moved off his torturing blonde women fetish. Hitchcock would eventually be dead within 15 years of moving on from his film fetish.
15 years after Last Crusade, Spielberg was prepping Munich and War of the Worlds. Add onto another 17 years and you’re in a present where Spielberg is staging a rather amazing looking West Side Story adaptation. It’s amazing how far we fall as we age, but what does that have to do with Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade? Only everything.
Harrison Ford loves doing Indiana Jones, yet seems to have a subtle hatred for Han Solo. I never understood that beyond the typical actor ego stuff. It’s hard to support the ensemble picture, when you have a leading man franchise under your belt. But, it’s not like we ever hear him clamoring to be Jack Ryan again. Indy is a classic leading man role that allows for big action and set ups that stick in the audience’s brain.
By the time we landed at Last Crusade, things had changed. Spielberg was now becoming one of the major creative driving forces in Hollywood. Lucas had stepped back after Return of the Jedi and now he was producing and tossing stories to pals. A few months after Willow opened to decent numbers, Lucas was back in Spielberg’s world…but something changed for The Beard.
Sean Connery had always been a get for Spielberg. He was part of the generation that worshipped Connery’s Bond and wanted to find a way to bring one of the character roots for Indy into this world. Given the age difference between Connery and Spielberg, something familiar to Spielberg’s work started appearing. He was going to give Indy an absentee father figure to work out his origins.
The end of the decade marked quite a difference between how Spielberg first approached Indy. Last Crusade came as Spielberg was entering a new phase of his life with a new wife. He had a young family forming up, while he was trying to make sense of the artist he was at that point. George Lucas was trying to make an Indy movie, as he worked out most of his anger issues during Temple of Doom.
The Crusades serving as a plot point for The Last Crusade makes sense. Focusing on the effects of men with lofty goals having to face the consequences of their choices permeates the film. Whether it’s the two Doctor Jones hunting down a diary with secret Grail notes or the imprisoned Knight ghost. This is a film about men having to make peace with their past choices. Eventually, it turns into a pop therapy session of letting go the unattainable to live a life with your family and friends.
It was 1989, people were fascinated by Hypercolor shirts and shoes that you could pump up. Spielberg made a movie with The Last Crusade that spoke to the dummies. Said dummies ate it up, because it’s simple to wrap your brain around be nice to Gramps and be cool with Jesus’ property. Plus, this is back when people thought movies wrapped up and ended.
While this is the last film that Spielberg made with Nazis as villains, it feels like a cinematic white flag being waved to all of the things he did well. It’s great to see that Spielberg would later branch into things like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Munich. But, what has he done for me lately? I enjoyed Lincoln, but that was more due to Daniel Day-Lewis and the cast.
It’s weird to have a such a definite turning point in a director’s career saved in perfect 4K. However, I wish I could say it was for the best. What we have here is such the preamble to such a mixed bag from a talent artist that it’s hard to say I enjoy it.
Paramount brings Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade to 4K with an incredible package. Honestly, the Mountain has spent 2021 doing so incredibly well by their classic film titles on 4K UHD. I wish other studios could attempt to match the level work going into these 2160p transfers and Dolby Atmos tracks. The special features continue as a mix of production featurettes and looks at the creation of the final product. Honestly, if you’re an Indy fan…you’re already onboard.