Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

8:30 AM

You call this archeology?

When I was a kid I used to hate Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That first scene always annoyed me. We don’t need a logical and detailed explanation for every little detail of his previous movies (where his scar came from, why he is afraid of snakes, why he wears a hat etc). Isn’t it possible he just liked hats?

However, if you think about it, this is one of the most realistic movies of the Indiana Jones saga.

Claiming Indiana Jones is realistic is something rather tricky. The movie tries really hard (and succeeds) to make him a hero, but not a super hero.

Indiana doesn’t have any super powers. He is strong, but not in the same way Batman is strong. He is not young, he has a job – as a university professor and not a professional adventurer, mind you. He is afraid of snakes, he doesn’t know how to ride a plane. Spielberg stated that his main character could make audiences feel that with a little more exercise and a little more courage, they could be just like him.” But could we?

Despite Spilberg’s well constructed character and great, plausible stories, there is great amount of suspension of disbelief involved here.
Indy is still incredibly handsome. He gets most of the women he wants. He doesn’t go to prison or gets killed, because he can deal with nearly anything that comes his way – be that a giant boulder or a pack of annoying students.  

It took me years to give up being an archeologist, because I seriously believed that was the kind of live an archeologist lead.  Even Indiana himself admits to his students that “seventy per cent of archeology is done in a library.” The reality is the other 30 per cent is spent on a dirty excavation, not going on exciting adventures.

This is where the third Indiana Jones movie comes to play. It is probably the Indiana Jones movie that balances real archeology with fantastic adventures in the most convincing way. This was done mostly through two supporting characters: Henry Jones - Indiana’s father and their friend Marcus Brody.

After that long explanation on the first scene, Indiana is requested to follow a lead on the Holy Grail – the cup used by Christ during the Last Supper. He must do that not because this is his own field of research, but because his father went missing while looking for the Grail.

Suddenly, the movie sounds less like a fantasy. Henry Jones is a real scholar. He spent the last 40 years studying (and obsessing) over the Holy Grail. His work might have cost him his relationship with his son and wife, which he is aware of and doesn’t seem to care much.

The scene where he gets as excited as a child when Indiana describes the tomb of Saint Richard… anyone who’s a researcher knows that’s exactly how excited you get when you make the smallest discovery.

What comes after in this scene is even better: he congratulates Indy for his discoveries and Indy recognizes that his father did most of the work. Such displays of true humility are unfortunately not that common in the academic area.
And what about his diary?

An old leather bound journal filled with notes on perfect penmanship, amazingly realistic copies of medieval works of art, maps, discoveries. People keep sending it in parcels by mail all over the globe. It’s vintage, it’s cool. That’s the stuff nerds are made of.

And can we please talk about Marcus? I know he’s portrayed as this goofy character, but think about it: he’s hanging around in universities and medieval libraries in Venice (while doing little work himself). Ok, he once got lost in his own museum, but that means he has a museum.

Indiana makes fun of Marcus saying that he was only bluffing when he said Marcus could speak a dozen languages. We are supposed to laugh at him when we see him on the next scene looking totally out of place in Iskenderun asking “Does anyone speak English? Or Ancient Greek?”

That is funny, but I wouldn’t mind Indiana’s cracks about me, if it meant he’s lost in a nazi bunker somewhere and I’m chilling on my museum. Plus, let’s face it, who knows ancient Greek?
Later on this scene, Sallah tells Marcus twice to run but he just stays there, baffled. I can’t really say I would act differently in this situation but I guess his inability to act matches his personality – the one of a person who spends most of his time studying.

Indy is a decision maker. He sees a nazi entering his zeppelin and what does he do? He hits a zeppelin employee, takes his clothes off, put them on and walks around with a perfect pretext: asking for people’s tickets - the same pretext which will be useful to kick the nazi out of the zeppelin, by the way.
It’s difficult to imagine that a person who spends his time reading, thinking and analysing would be able to make split second decisions like that – all the time. Not impossible, but I think most nerds, including me, would react just like Marcus: “What? Run? Where to? Is that viable?”

When Henry tries to rescue Marcus, he doesn’t do it fast. He first scares Marcus and then they spend an inordinate amount of time singing and dancing to an old toast from the University club (“Genius of the restoration… aid our own resuscitation!”)

I used to prefer Indiana Jones and the Templeof Doom, but who am I in that movie? Sorry Spielberg, but the days I thought I could be Indiana are over. I can’t be Willy Scott – as a matter of fact I can totally be a whinning girly girl like Willy, but who wants to admit that? I also can't be Short Round (girly girls can’t be ninjas).

Now I’m older and nerdier and would love to be like Marcus and Henry in real life. I actually have a close resemblance to them, the only thing that’s lacking is to have a son/friend like Indiana. Suddenly, a hint of realism in the person of two old nerds pleases me more than Indy’s handsome awesomeness.

What's your favorite Indiana Jones movie? What about Marcus - the cat's pijamas or hipster doofus?

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  1. I think you're right about the fact that this is the most realistic one out of the three. But my favorite is The temple of doom, maybe because of willy. She's the funniest Indy girl. Marion is too tough and the nazi one, no comments.
    And i can't forgive marcus for getting lost in his own museum. Marcus, that's just stupid.

  2. I know, Willy is so funny! I love when she says something like "I hate water, I hate getting wet, and I hate you!" Poor girl... She goes through so much in that movie...

    You know, I think Marcus getting lost is slightly cool. Maybe it means his museum is huge - who knows? lol

    Have a great Saturday!

  3. When Riders of the Lost Ark came to light, it was about four years I had seen Star Wars IV (the saga started in the middle, with Han Solo and Leia and Luke ...) and I wandered around the home repeating that " May the Force be with you" ad nauseam and so forth ... Not a real adventure movie at sight, then Mr. Spielberg gave us this Christmas gift (it was the Christmas of '82) and someone you know very well had to drag me off the movie theatre because I was transfixed!! THAT was adventure! The big stone, the "cobras", the traps at the temple...! Talk about suspension of belief!! But I do agree with you: the third movie was the best: I didn't think about the nerdiness of Indy's father and Marcus Brody, but I kinda think I would be more like Marcus: sometimes I get lost in my own museum ...! The part I love the most? When Prof. Jones attacks the nazi soldier by squirting him with the ink of his fountain pen. That makes me think about getting me a fountain pen with that ink pump ... (hehehehehe). No questioning about the three steps he had to take to get to the Grail. That was simply holy!

  4. "I get lost in my own museum" - lol that's so funny

    You mentioned the ending, the whole story of the movie is very interesting, showing just how much courage and integrity Indy has.

    The deal about the fountain pen, boy I had enough with fountain pens. It would be very helpful in a situation like the one in the movie (would it?) but mine always get dry and smudge my fingers... Maybe a sword would be better!

    Have an amazing weekend!

  5. When I was younger I always used to mix this one with Raiders - they both have Nazis and desert :)

    I've recently rewatched all of Indy movies as we were making series of articles called "Week with Indiana Jones" on our blog.
    And I agree that Last Crusade is the best. It's simply the most complex one in the entire trilogy. It has some element from previous ones, lots of humor and it's basically one big never ending climax!

    Bad guys are the bad guys, there's a lot of great 2ndary characters, lots of humor... and the FATHER of course.
    I've written this in my own review of Last Crusade, but what gets me is the surprising way the story and Indy himself is treated in each movie, which makes them all so different yet amazing and independent and watchable sequels...
    Thre's Raiders in which we still learn a lot about Indy's character, we learn to live adventure with him, we taste this new movie genre that was born in the late 70/ early 80s...
    then horror-like Temple of Doom where we learned about Indiana's past when he was more like a grave robber and bounty hunter who needs to enter indian Hell to become a guy telling us that "artifacts belong in the museum"...
    and finally... 3rd one... a movie where our fearless and invincible hero who used to told everyone what to do and saved his sacred hat from every oppression becomes his own father's son... abused all the time with a terrifying word "Junior" and showing his early start as a scout-hero...
    on a paper this shoudln't work... but it did... and did greatly :)

    And I'd say that one of the reasons for this was that Spielberg himself evolved together with this character - artistically this one is definitely the best, as Steven did have some flaws with story telling and tension in Raiders :)

    Talking about realism... there's just one thing here that is not real... Elsa Schneider... as much as I am concerned that we could find plenty of Indiana-like adventurers among archeologists I don't really think there would be one sex-crazed, or would even say "artifact-stimulated", evil Elsa :D
    we could probably find such beauties like her among female archeologists when she was still "normal" in Venice but no more... ;)

    Still, she wasn't that bad at all, she's a pretty likeable character and I think she did not deserve that ending :/

    ok... that's enough from me for now...
    and yeah... I do like Marcus and his first scene in Iskenderun too ;)
    as for me... eh... one part of me would like to be like Indy, the other part like "those older proffesors" ;)

  6. I'll definitely check out your review, since I really like Indiana Jones movies. I need to watch Raiders again. It's my least favorite of the trilogy, but with this new, modern Indiana it's probably going to be my 3rd favorite movie. ;)

    About Elsa: I've always thought of her as someone who is pretty close to being a spy or double agent. That's probably why she is so beautiful, no?

    Have a great weekend!

  7. yeah... You've got the point :)
    I actually wanted to write an article about Indiana's women, to let's say "review" all of them with their differences but didn't have time for that yet ;)

    heh... funny that after that terryfing Indiana IV I still can't wait to see Indiana V ( if it will ever happen )... I guess good trademarks and hopes never die ;)

    And what do You think about Young Indian's Chronicles? They're often considered inaccurate when telling history, especially some World War 1 cases, still very enjoyable and you can learn a lot from them! I mean.... he met everyone! - from Picasso to Gershwin to Bronislaw Malinowski ;)


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