The Holy Grail of Adventure Movies
After the darkness and slight disappointment of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" it did surprise me when they decided to make another sequel. But it's a good thing that they did because "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" contains everything which was good about "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and more. That more comes in the casting of Sean Connery as Indiana's father Professor Henry Jones, providing scene after scene of comedy. But whilst there is a lot more comedy in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and the darkness of the previous movie has been dispatched with it is still full of action and adventure which makes it a joy to watch from beginning to end.
Having finally recovered the Cross of Francisco De Coronado which has bugged Indiana (Harrison Ford - Working Girl) since he was a child the adventurous archaeologist finds himself and Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott - Defence of the Realm) on the trail of the Holy Grail. But not just the Holy Grail but also his father Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery - The Untouchables) who has suddenly disappeared. Along with some Nazi's who are also looking for the Holy Grail is once more a swashbuckling adventure for Indy.
One of the many nice things about "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is that it gives us an opening which in a way explains why Indiana became a swashbuckling Archaeologist. We watch a young Indiana, played by River Phoenix, trying to stop some thieves from stealing a precious cross and in the space of a few hectic scenes we discover how Indiana comes to use a whip, have a scar on his chin, fear snakes and wears a fedora. These scenes have little to do with the main story, although they do establish a rather strained relationship between young Indy and his father, but they help build the legend of Indiana Jones. And in many ways the casting of River Phoenix as young Indy is a master stroke as he manages to deliver the same mannerisms and comic timing as Harrison Ford.
But that is very much just a fun intro and works as a lead in to the main story where Indy along with Marcus Brody not only go in search of the Holy Grail but also Indy's father Professor Henry Jones who has gone missing following his search for the Holy Grail. Now on one level "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is basically what we have seen before so as Indy solves some puzzles he makes his way to finding the Holy Grail and navigating some deadly traps at the same time. It's what we've seen before but that's not a criticism as watching Indy going through rat filled tunnels, ducking blades and battling bad guys is all great fun and is a big part of what made these "Indiana Jones" movies so much fun. Combined with the fact that the action features a lot of great stunt work all delivered at break neck pace and there is never a dull moment.
What though makes "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" a better movie than "Temple of Doom" is that all the darkness has gone and it is filled with laughs. You have the usual laughs which come from Indy dealing with bad guys who just never give up as well as a comical romantic liaison but this time around there is more. And that more comes from introducing us to Indy's father Professor Henry Jones who just loves to call his son junior. The amount of antagonistic comedy between them is just wonderful as Indy is exasperated by his father and his father is shocked by the way his son works. There is barely a scene which doesn't have some form of comedy in it and although there are some great set pieces it never feels forced.
As such the casting of Sean Connery as Indy's father is spot on and the banter which flies between Connery and Ford is just brilliant and so natural. Even when Connery gets a scene which doesn't feature Ford it all works and there are some amusing scenes which feature him and Denholm Elliot who gets a much bigger role this time around. Aside from the masterful casting of Sean Connery and Harrison Ford who feels more comfortable this time around with the light hearted humour the supporting cast are not too shabby either. John Rhys-Davies makes a welcome return as Sallah and Alison Doody delivers the right amount of sexiness as love interest Dr. Elsa Schneider. Plus Julian Glover and Michael Byrne make two perfect bad guys for Indy and Professor Jones to battle against.
What this all boils down to is that "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was a return to form for the "Indiana Jones" franchise and at the time was a great way for the franchise to end. It manages to loose all the darkness which encroached on "Temple of Doom" and bring back all the lightness and comedy which made "Raiders of the Lost Ark" such great fun. Plus bringing in Sean Connery as Indy's father is just brilliant and some of the best bits come from the respect and almost fear Indy has for his father leading to plenty of comedy.