"It belongs in a museum!"
"So do you!"
The third film in the "Indiana Jones" trilogy is a lighter, more action-packed affair, done after the reception to the darker "Temple of Doom" was met with criticism. Even after "Temple of Doom", though, audiences still wanted to see another adventure with the beloved character. While the idea to swing the franchise back towards the tone of the first picture was a fine idea, nothing in the series has been quite as inspired as the idea of pairing Indy with his father, played wonderfully by none other than Sean Connery.
The third film does not have quite the opening of the prior two, but it still fits quite perfectly with the tone and themes of the tale. We follow young Indy as he barely manages to retrieve a stolen relic. Flash forward and we see Jones in 1940, still trying to protect said relic from the same criminals. Indy finds himself on the search for the Holy Grail, a journey that his father - now missing - has already been on for years.
The elder Jones (Connery) has been adultnapped by the Nazis, who are convinced that he knows where the Grail is hidden. He sends Indy, Jr. his notebook, which provides clues that lead him and Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody, who must have gotten made fun of on the playground as a kid) into passages beneath Venice. Eventually, the two find themselves in a castle in Austria, where the elder Jones is being held.
It's at that point that this film really gets into high gear and, at points, really nearly matches the level of "Raiders". Connery and Ford are brilliant playing off one another, with Connery's stubborn father bringing out the best in Ford's bewildered, dry humor. While the prior films have involved Jones against a large amount of enemies, "Last Crusade" has, as one character says, "Germany declaring war against the Jones boys."
The film's action sequences are some of the best in the trilogy, especially a dogfight in the air that turns into a plane-vs.-car battle. There's also a superbly staged tank chase latter in the picture. The screenplay, by Phillip Kaufman, George Lucas and Jeffrey Boam, may not have come up with a terribly original screenplay (it feels like "Raiders" at times, only with different elements), but there's certainly some classic lines of dialogue, such as the elder Jones's "I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers", when he finds that junior has brought along his diary to his escape attempt - the same diary that includes the map to the Grail.
Even if the fourth film in the series is never made (although it's looking more likely now, with a possible 2005 release), this third film would be a perfectly satisfying way to end the story of Dr. Jones. A perfect combination of witty humor, adventure and action, "The Last Crusade" still stands up quite well.
Available only in the "Trilogy" 4-DVD box set.
VIDEO: "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", as with "Temple of Doom" and (to a slightly lesser extent) "Raiders of the Lost Ark", looks tremendous. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the picture quality certainly exceeded my expectations. Sharpness and detail are extraordinarily good, as the picture looks surprisingly rich and detailed throughout - definition once again remains consistent, even in the darkest scenes. When Indy flips through a little book to gain clues, we're no longer trying to squint to quickly get a look at any of the information that he's flipping through.
This presentation is also a little bit closer to perfection than even the excellent effort for "Temple of Doom". Edge enhancement popped up very briefly once or twice here, but again, really didn't cause a distraction. As with the first two pictures, the print used here was immaculate, with nothing in the way of debris, marks or dirt that I could see. No compression artifacts were noticed.
The film's naturalistic color palette varied with the locations, but appeared accurately rendered and clean, with no smearing or other concerns. Black level was solid, as well. Excellent work.
SOUND: "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Given that this is the most modern of the three, the film's sound recording and mix are the most advanced. The film's soundtrack puts the rear speakers to fine use during the action scenes, offering plenty of well-recorded sound effects. However, while the action scenes provided a good deal of surround activity, I was pleased to hear the rear speakers offer a bit more in the way of ambience than they did during the prior two films. In the scene where Indy makes his way into the castle, rain and thunder can clearly be heard all around the viewer. Sound quality is an improvement, as this film's soundtrack seems more dynamic and fierce than the prior two - some of the instances of tank fire in the chase scene later in the film hit with particularly strong force. The John Williams score sounds marvelous once again, while dialogue remains crisp and natural sounding.
EXTRAS: All of the extras are on the fourth disc of the set.
Final Thoughts: Although not the best in the series, "Last Crusade" still stands up quite well as a fun adventure that's aided greatly by the wonderful pairing of Connery and Ford. Paramount's DVD edition offers fantastic audio/video quality.
Again, it is only available as part of the "Trilogy" 4-DVD box set.