Review: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Indiana Jones story had been planned as a trilogy from the start—the actor signing on to play Indy had to agree to a three-film deal—but it took five years after the release of Temple of Doom for the third film, The Last Crusade, to find its way to the big screen. During that time, the MPAA ratings board created the PG-13 rating, due in large part to the dark tone and graphic violence in Temple, and Crusade was the first film in the franchise to garner this “new” rating.
After the weaker box-office reception for Temple, director Steven Spielberg looked to lighten things up a bit for this third installment, returning Indy to more of the fun and light-hearted tone and elements that made Raiders of the Lost Ark such a
fan favorite. The result is a film that feels far truer to the original and is frankly just more fun to watch.
Also, while Temple was the second film in the series, it is technically a prequel story as the events in that film are set in 1935, a year before the events of Raiders. But nothing in that film really feels like a prequel, as it is just Indy off on another adventure, with no returning characters or continuity to the story.
With The Last Crusade, we get both a prequel and a sequel, with two returning characters who have larger roles in this adventure, including Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Indiana’s contact in the Middle East, and Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), the museum curator who is the recipient of many of Indy’s finds. More importantly, Crusade expands Indy’s family by adding his father, Professor Henry Jones, played brilliantly by Sean Connery. The dynamic between
LAST CRUSADE AT A GLANCE
The 4K HDR presentation of the third Indy film receives the same appropriately light touch as Raiders and Temple of Doom.
The restoration and 4K transfer make for a great-looking presentation, brimming with detail in many closeups and with some images so sharp that they look like they were shot digitally.
The new Dolby TrueHD Atmos mix never looks to go too far over the top but to just expand and enhance the original mix.
Harrison Ford and Connery is terrific, showing another facet of Indy’s character, and offering some additional humor and heart to the story, giving Indy something to care about more than just an ancient relic.
The film opens in Utah in 1912 with a 13-year-old Indy played by River Phoenix pulled into an adventure to recover a golden crucifix belonging to Coronado found/stolen by a treasure hunter while on a Boy Scout trip. Here we see Indy’s thirst for adventure as well as learn not only where he developed his affinity for the whip, but also see how he got the scar on his chin
and developed his fear of snakes, and where his iconic hat came from. (It’s also fair to say that this opening scene was the genesis of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series to come three years later.) That’s a heck of a lot of ground covered in a film’s opening moments, and setting up the adventure Indy embarks on when the film jumps to its 1938 timeline!
Professor Jones, an expert on all things related to the Holy Grail, has gone missing in Venice while tracking down a new Grail lead for Walter Donovan (Julian Glover). After his father’s Grail diary containing a lifetime of Grail lore, clues, and maps suddenly arrives in the mail, Indiana is off on a search for his father, which means following the Grail leads and ultimately coming face-to-face—once again—with the Nazis (“I hate those guys”).
This film’s first act involves puzzle solving and adventuring that feels like it formed the blueprint for Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon character in The Da Vinci Code to come years later, before settling into the action that launches characters towards the finale and adventures that take them around the world. It also feels like Spielberg and Ford have settled into the rhythm and feel of Indiana, and the movie just clicks along, hitting familiar beats while also feeling new.
Filmed just eight years after Raiders and five years after Temple, Crusade’s video quality is similar to those films, which is to say the restoration and new 4K digital intermediate make for a great-looking presentation, again
brimming with detail in many closeups. I noticed far fewer instances of softness or focus issues compared to Raiders, and right from the opening, skies here looked bluer and less grainy.
Tiny details like fine bubbles rising in Indy’s champagne flute, and the texture in clothing like the tweed in Professor Jones’ suit, the heavy wool of Nazi SS uniforms, or the texture in Indy’s hat band, and the whiskers and pores on his preternaturally sweaty face are visible throughout.
As with the first film, there are scenes that have such razor sharpness, clarity, and detail that they could pass for modern digitally shot media. One such moment was where Indy and dad are on a motorcycle in front of the crossroads sign to head to Berlin or Venice, which was stunning. Outdoor scenes, specifically the day shots in Venice, look like gorgeous travelogue material, and you can really appreciate the scope of the outdoor tank battle.
The HDR color grading is again reserved, but it adds depth and texture to images, especially shadowy and dark scenes or the brightest highlights of the desert. You can also really appreciate the brilliant colors of a stained-glass window in the Venetian church/library.
Like the picture, I’d say that Crusade’s new Dolby TrueHD Atmos audio mix takes a similar track as the other films, never looking to go too over the top (pun intended), but to just expand and enhance the original mix. Sound elements like driving wind, rain, and waves crashing up over the sides of a boat, or motorcycles racing up from the back of the room along the sides to pass into the front, and the room-filling roar and crackle of fire are all enhanced and expanded with the new mix. We also get more expansion of echoes, such as the hammer blows as Indy is trying to shatter marble, the ambience of water drips inside of catacombs, or tank shells that fly overhead.
Sonically, some of the film’s most dynamic and active moments come when some German fighters are attacking. Here we get planes strafing Indy and dad in a vehicle, and the planes buzz all around the room, flying overhead, along the
sides, and into the back. Their engines and guns are mixed aggressively, and definitely add to the excitement of the moment. While never overused, the subwoofer is called on when appropriate, adding depth and weight to the soundtrack for things like explosions or collisions.
With Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we are brought back to Indy’s beginnings and earlier adventures in the best ways possible. Even the ending echoes moments from Raiders’ opening cave scene, but in a fresh way. And as our characters literally ride off into the sunset with John Williams’ iconic score erupting from all around, you can’t help but have a great time.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at @SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.