(With apologies to Jonathan Tuckett for stealing his format. And writing style. And, you know, just in general.)
- The original series. I am obviously ignoring the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is obviously the weakest of the series as a whole. Although actually I think it’s better than most people give it credit for. It has some really good scenes—the opening, the CIA debriefing, and the scene with the fridge is no more ridiculous than jumping from a plane in a dingy, getting dragged under a truck or that leap across the chasm in a minecart… But the main point at which the series jumps the shark is that the Hebrew god (and Aztec and Indian gods)—who the central character disavows on a number of occasions—actually get involved in the plot. And nowhere more so than the denouement of the Last Crusade.
- There’s not enough Harrison Ford. He’s not even in it for the first twenty minutes. Then he has to share all his screentime with Sean Connery (although that he manages to compete at all is impressive).
- The plot is complete bobbins. Spielberg and Lucas admitted as much when they added a sequence to the middle – and that it was another chase sequence is telling. The film is structured like this: Beginning (20 mins—established Henry Jones and makes a bunch of references to the other films), Plot Setup (30 mins—mostly boring until Connery turns up, although I admit a complex admiration for Elsa, who is in my opinion the best looking of the Indy Girls, though lacking the chutzpa of Marion… Complex because she is a Nazi, after all. Still, no-one missed Willie, eh? (Except Spielberg lol)), Chase Sequence (about an hour), Christian Ending (20 mins). It’s boring. The chase sequence was a small part of Raiders and Temple, but here, it’s literally half the film.
- Sean Connery makes shit films watchable. That is the Mystery of Connery. See also: the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Rock, that one with Zeta Jones. Or, my personal favourite, Sword of the Valiant (see below). If you can think of other examples, please add that in the comments below.
- Spielberg’s using the “Daddy Issues” plot again. See also: ET, War of the Worlds, Hook, Munich, Catch Me If You Can, Jurassic Park…
- Again and again, the film riffs on Raiders. Say what you like about Temple of Doom, but at least it tried to innovate—Last Crusade is terribly derivative, but amplifies Raiders every time it copies it. Indy meets Nazis; Indy meets Hitler. Characters like Marcus and Sallah reappear, although tellingly, none from Temple of Doom. Most obviously, the sequence at Marshall College is a complete remake of the sequence in Raiders, except now so many students demand his time that he has to jump out of a window to escape. While a hot student writing “I Love You” on her eyelids is not part of my experience as a lecturer, it is at least believable, but in Last Crusade his teaching career becomes utterly cartoonish.
- Raiders was steeped in Christian imagery. But it is little noted that the mythology it uses is rather unorthodox, drawing from the same deep well that the Da Vinci Code and its ilk would later again capitalise upon. Indeed, the god of Raiders is somewhat complex in his motivations—he sets fire to the swastika on the boat on principle, yet seems only to kill those with their eyes open at the end (even if we doubt that Indy and Marion would have been killed, Belloq is killed extravagantly despite having never directly harmed anyone. Then Temple is all Hindu stuff, and we can say that it is at least heavy handed, or at worst downright racist in places, although the villagers themselves are portrayed very positively. But importantly, for Lucas et al, the agency of the Hindu deities is absolutely as real as that of the Hebrew deity in Raiders—a manifestation perhaps of the perennialist approach to religion as promoted by the Eranos school, and the writings of Jung, Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade. Significantly, Lucas was inspired by Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Masks, upon which Star Wars was built. But then… back to Christian imagery for Last Crusade. Except, even more so. Indy becomes a sort of Christ figure, rather than the tomb raider-esque rogue of before. So the tour of objects which embody various hierophanies is over. All we get is a bunch of platitudes about meek-and-mild Jesus’ rubbish old cup. Bah.
- …Alright, it does have its good points. Especially the best line in the film, improvised by Denholm Elliot: “Water? No thank you sir. Fish make love in it.”