'80s Movie Month: "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" Review

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The third installment in the beloved Spielberg/Lucas action-adventure saga has its title character (played by Harrison Ford) battling the Nazis, who have launched an expedition to uncover the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. Joining Indy on his hunt for the prized artifact is Dr. Henry Jones (Sean Connery), his long lost father. An avid archaeologist, Dr. Jones had also been looking for the Grail before he disappeared during the mission.

'80s Movie Month: "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 127 minutes
Release Date: May 24, 1989
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Action/Adventure

The "Indiana Jones" franchise has been one of the most successful adventure hits of all time. For actor Harrison Ford, the lead role of Indiana Jones is perhaps his most well-known role out of a long and successful career. The key premise of the series revolves around mysterious treasures, such as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Even though the original film came out more than three decades ago, much interest remains as to whether another sequel will be produced in the near future or not.

The first sign of the "Indiana Jones" series developed in 1973 when George Lucas wrote a script and passed it to several top movie executives. A deal was signed with Paramount Pictures for a total of five "Indiana Jones" films, of which the first came about in 1981. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was a resounding success, and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" quickly followed. However, the second film was not well received by critics and moviegoers alike. This led to Lucas and director Steven Spielberg deciding to recapture the spirit of the original by offering up a third installment, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

The script was reworked many times over a number of years before both Lucas and Spielberg could agree on it. Harrison Ford returned to reprise his character of Indiana Jones, while Sean Connery was brought onboard to play Henry Jones Sr. After three years of planning and refining, production finally got underway in May 1988. Major shooting locations included Spain, England, Italy, Jordan, and Austria, not to mention many locations across the United States.

The film opens with thirteen-year-old Indiana Jones attempting to recover a golden cross from thieves, but after taking it, he is forced to give it up. A couple of decades later, Indiana, or Indy as he is affectionately called, rediscovers the cross and donates it to a local museum. While doing so, he learns that his father has gone missing while searching for the Holy Grail. A letter sent from his father causes Indy deep concern, so he travels to Venice to locate his dad.

However, while searching for his father, Indy discovers some clues that may lead him to the Grail. At the same time, he learns that his dad is being held in a castle on the Austrian-German border. Indy and a couple of colleagues go there to rescue his father, but he finds out his friends are actually Nazis and want him to find the Grail for them.

Indy and his father follow their noses to Turkey, where they find the Nazis are close to discovering the Grail. Many Nazis are killed trying to get to the Grail, but a couple of them are left to go the rest of the way with Indy and his father. The group discovers the temple where the Grail has been kept for hundreds of years, but they are unable to pass three booby traps. In all the commotion, Indy's father is shot, and Indy has no choice but to carry on, so he can find the Grail, and use its powers to heal his father.

Once Indy and a couple of the Nazis bypass the booby traps and make it to the Grail's chamber, each person is told to find and drink from the correct Grail. Indy uses his knowledge and intuition to drink from the true cup. Once he has it, Indy takes the Grail back to the temple entrance to give to his father. The film ends with Indy, his father, and a couple of friends riding off into the sunset.

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was released on May 24, 1989. The film had an immediate impact, becoming the first movie in history at that time to make more than $10 million on its opening day. Reviews for the film were largely mixed, but based on expectation and hype the film did better than expected. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" went on to make almost $500 million worldwide and was the highest-grossing film of the year.

After this film, it was almost another two decades before a follow-up was released. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was a resounding success, making more than 750 million dollars at the box office. Not accounting for inflation, this film became the franchise's highest-grossing movie. In October 2012, Walt Disney Company bought the ownership rights to the franchise. This led to speculation that a fifth film of the series may be in the pipeline sometime soon. If it were to come to pass, it would have to happen soon; Harrison Ford is now 71 and may not be up to the rigors and intensity required to play the role of Indiana Jones.

Rating: 4 out of 5