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From Under A Rock: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

November 12, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade  


Let’s all get together and enjoy a movie, readers. Today we have the pleasure of watching a movie starring one of the greatest characters in the history of the business. It isn’t the best film in the franchise, but its quality helped ensure the legacy of the series.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael showed Aaron the direction our country is headed by showing him Idiocracy. This week, Aaron excavates Michael from under the proverbial rock for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Released: May 24th, 1989
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: George Lucas, Jeffrey Boam, & Philip Kaufman
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Sean Connery as Professor Henry Jones, Sr.
Alison Doody as Dr. Elsa Schneider
John Rhys-Davies as Sallah
Julian Glover as Walter Donovan

Aaron Hubbard: I’ve been thinking about a question for a while. When I think of Harrison Ford, does my brain go to Han Solo, or to Indiana Jones? Turns out it goes to Indy, and there’s no way I would have passed up the opportunity to talk about an Indiana Jones film on this column.

Michael Ornelas: I’ve kind of seen this movie before, but not in its completion, and I wasn’t very focused, so as far as I’m concerned, it counts as something I hadn’t seen before this review. I rewatched the whole trilogy for this and, I know I’m in the minority on this but, I thought they were good. I never grew up on the movies, so they don’t hold a special place in my heart or anything. Raiders is definitely the best, but let’s unpack The Last Crusade below!

Action Movies Done Right
Aaron: Let me start this off with something I firmly believe to be true; Raiders of the Lost Ark is the greatest action-adventure movie ever made. The scale of the stunts, the pacing, the editing, and the attention to detail all make that film an amazing achievement. The Last Crusade isn’t quite as thrilling, with character development balancing the scales. But there are some amazing action scenes in this, as well as the best use of puzzle solving traps I think I’ve ever seen.

Michael: While it lasted a little on the long side, I would actually argue that all the stunts and action involving the tank were very well done and exciting. Maybe the best actual action of the series? I was along for that ride hook, line, and sinker. When this film slowed down a bit, I found it a little bit tougher to stay engaged, but like you said, there is a healthy amount of character development. I also really appreciated the callback to the Grail, and it being the driving force of the plot. Then when we upped the ante by making the Grail the only thing that could save Indy’s father after he was shot…I found that to be brilliant. It’s a smart movie without ever feeling forced, and I appreciated that.

Aaron: I would personally go with the scene in Raiders where Indy goes under the car and climbs back up, but the tank scene is great. I also love the boat chase. But what sticks out to me about this movie in particular are the Grail challenges and the trick door in the castle. These are commonplace in board games, books and videogames but can be tough to work into a film. This movie pretty much wrote the book on that.

A Leap of Faith
Michael: One of the things about this movie that reached out to me more so than the two movies that preceded it was the idea that there’s more than meets the eye. I’d say the emphasis was religious if we didn’t start the movie with a magic trick in which Indy disappears off the train. I actually really liked this idea as the movie progressed because Indy is able to figure out the illusions at the end to get the Grail with the help of his father. We are pulling the curtain back and seeing how these mysterious things work when Indy himself is figuring them out, but other than that, he’s a master manipulator. And I mean that in several ways. His actions often have you looking left while he goes right (his horseback riding causes a tank to collide with Nazi vehicles). He escapes on the zeppelin using misdirection. This movie is full of “magic” without being too corny about it, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Aaron: All of the Indiana Jones films have a theme of skepticism and the unexplained. Indiana is a practical person and a skeptic, but he always meets thing that challenge his beliefs. The Ark of the Covenant, the Thuggee cult and the weird stones, the Holy Grail, and the crystal skull and the aliens. People will disagree over whether some of these things are less fake than others, but the important thing is that it works for the movies. Indiana is an archeologist; he is supposed to pursue knowledge and understand things lost to time, but some things just defy easy explanation.

Michael: Exactly. The key is that they work for these movies. It’s also why Crystal Skull does not work. It’s way over the top and stretches the veil of believability way too thin. Sadly, that was the first Indiana Jones movie I ever saw…

Aaron: I disagree to an extent. Crystal Skull has many failings but the basic idea of Indy being a skeptic of the supernatural and coming face to face with forces he doesn’t understand are still there. I prefer it over Temple of Doom, which was my first exposure.

Henry Jones, Sr.
Aaron: The thing that makes this film stand out is Sean Connery as Indiana’s father. He is the best supporting character in the series by a wide margin, and their relationship gives extra drama and heart to a series that admittedly lacked these things in early movies. This is actually my favorite Connery role, and their dynamic is the highlight of the film for me.

Michael: I actually disagreed with that notion until the third act. The final 40 minutes of the movie are tremendous with how they use his character, both on his own and how he affects Indy. The final trial’s stakes are made to be high because of the character development with Henry and it allows the audience to care and bite their nails until we hit our resolution. He was a fantastic piece of this awesome puzzle and while it’s not my favorite Connery role (that actually goes to the movie Entrapment), you were right about his being the best side character in the franchise.

Aaron: I think it’s important that while everyone is after the Holy Grail, it is not the ultimate reward for our hero. While Indy successfully grabs the McGuffins of the first two films, the Grail is lost. What’s most important is that the quest brings the father and son together. The search for the Grail is, as the movie puts it, the search for the divine in all of us. And I believe that the mutual love, understanding, forgiveness and appreciation that Henry Jones Sr. and Jr. come to is the realization of that.

Aaron: The Last Crusade is one of my favorite sequels to one of my favorite movies. In many ways it is superior to Raiders, with a stronger final act and richer, more dynamic characterization. While I can take or leave Temple of Doom and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, these two are always going to be in my rotation.


Michael: This movie ended up getting better and better as it went, and I’d say that the final act was my favorite part of the franchise, and the tank stuff was my favorite action sequence of the franchise. I don’t think this is better than Raiders, but it’s definitely in the same conversation. The story felt slow at time, but the characters were strong and the action was even better. Definitely a classic that is underrated because it’s not the definitive movie in its franchise.


Aaron: On a final note, Elsa Schneider is probably my favorite “Jones Girl”; certainly the most interesting.

Michael: Oh! Yes! I forgot to bring that up, but I absolutely agree with you. One hundred percent.

What are your favorite Steven Spielberg films?

Next week:

Michael: Our next pick is a movie that I saw for the first time only 2-3 years ago and I’ve watched it at least 5-6 times since. Such a great movie. It’s kind of in the horror genre (at least at the end), but it’s so much more interesting when taken as a straight up sci-fi drama.
Aaron: I believe I specifically asked you to add this to our list? I’m really excited to see it.

Michael: You did, and I gladly obliged. You’re in for quite a treat. Grundle-fly is disgusting.

If you could fuse with one animal, what would you pick? I’d go unicorn…

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I know I’m a little late in posting this since Halloween was a little under two weeks ago…but I made this and still wanted you to see it. Enjoy!

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 600 films. Recent reviews include the original Indiana Jones trilogy, Deadpool and Gentleman’s Agreement.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
The best Indiana Jones sequel is a truly great follow up to the amazing Raiders of the Lost Ark. The amazing action scenes and thrilling puzzles and traps return, while Sean Connery and Harrison Ford's father and son relationship adds dramatic heft to the story. If you haven't seen both, you are doing yourself a disservice.