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The Indiana Jones Films on DVD: Raiders of the Lost Ark Temple of Doom Last Crusade Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (The Adventure Collection) DVD Review

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie poster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Theatrical Release: May 24, 1989 / Running Time: 127 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Sean Connery (Prof. Henry Jones), Denholm Elliott (Dr. Marcus Brody), Alison Doody (Dr. Elsa Schneider), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah), Julian Glover (Walter Donovan), River Phoenix (Young Indy), Michael Byrne (Vogel), Kevork Malikyan (Kazim), Robert Eddison (Grail Knight), Richard Young (Fedora), Alexei Sayle (Sultan), Alex Hyde-White (Young Henry)

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By Christopher Disher

The 1980s were a decade when big directors exercised their big muscles to create exciting films. James Cameron released Aliens and The Abyss, Tim Burton delivered Batman, Robert Zemeckis took us Back to the Future twice, and George Lucas released two installments of his Star Wars saga.
Let's not forget Steven Spielberg was garnering critical attention with his '80s films: E.T., The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun and the gamut of the Indiana Jones Trilogy.

As a Spielberg fan, it is a bit unfitting to say I own none of the Indiana Jones films. Still, it may be somewhat understandable. The spectrum of his fare ranges from the tongue-in-cheek comedy/action of the Indy films, to a timeless blend of adventure and drama in Jaws, to sentimental observations of the human condition as in Schindler's List. My affinity gravitates towards the latter collection of movies but my admiration for his best-known trilogy of films remains strong, especially for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Spielberg passed on both Rain Man and Big to make the film, hoping to atone for the failures of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and to honor his promise to friend George Lucas. With a budget of $36 million, the crew shot in locations all over the world and hired some of the best in the industry to pull it all together. It was nominated for Academy Awards in Sound and Original Score and took home the statue for Sound Effects Editing. Last Crusade grossed nearly half a billion dollars worldwide, making it the most profitable entry in the series. According to Spielberg, it is also the most successful with audiences, citing their emotive involvement as a gauge for acclaim.

River Phoenix portrays the young Indiana Jones in the prologue that's set in 1912. Indiana Jones and old colleague Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) observe the Venetian stained glass windows that are meant to lead them to the missing Dr. Jones.

This third installment keeps and improves on all of the witty humor, choreographed action sequences, and character relationships from the first two films. Starting off in 1912, young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) enters the franchise with the curiosity and bravado the audience has grown to expect from his adult self (Harrison Ford). His noble quest to find treasure and preserve it needs no development.After coming across treasure seekers looking for the Cross of Coronado, young Indy sternly asserts, "That cross is an important artifact. It belongs in a museum" -- a sentiment repeated twenty-six years later as the grown-up Indiana successfully retrieves the important relic.

Like what follows, the prologue is fun, energetic, and edited to a steady pace. The comedic moments execute nicely and provoke the action, making suspension of disbelief not only easy, but desired. We consistently root for Indiana Jones, no matter how unlikely his survival seems. Our enthusiasm strengthens the more dire his circumstances become. When he finds an easy way out, we're all the more pleased with its convenience. With an economy of shots, likely due to ample storyboarding, the action scenes flow with greater ease than in the previous two outings.

Despite this, it's the subplot relationship between Indiana and his father (Sean Connery) that is most compelling. Even with its trite nature -- the eager to be loved son sour about his uncommunicative father -- the arc between them is nonetheless satisfying. Part of this is likely due to the unique chemistry between the two. A dull moment is never present, as their conversations in calm times are often as charming as those in dangerous.

Father (Sean Connery) and son (Harrison Ford) take flight in efforts to escape those darn Nazis. Illuminating with her lighter, Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) appears to be both helpful and a love interest to Indy.

Thinking that the inanimate Holy Grail was not a compelling enough McGuffin for the film, Spielberg created the father-son storyline and thereby saved the film from disappointment. It could have easily been a flop had a less adept director taken the reins. But with excellent casting to boot, the relationship between Jones Junior and Senior really pays off.

The hook begins when the wealthy Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) takes Indiana away from his unnatural setting (the University) and entices him with a quest to find the Holy Grail. The catch? Indiana's father is missing, inciting an otherwise uninterested adventurer to embark on a voyage to save his dad.
When he travels to Europe and discovers the Professor locked up in a Nazi castle, Indiana rescues him after traversing a series of secret passages and outwitting the Germans with ample doses of his adventurous cunning. Faced with the prospect of "Evil walking the earth," as his father puts it, the duo sets out to find the Grail before the bad guys do and thereby save it from wicked hands.

After a length of catch and release, harrowing action, and funny escapades, the characters converge on the grail's location, thanks to the help of returning ally Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) and the morally compromised Nazi babe Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody). With the Grail never being Indiana's motivation, Donovan shoots his father and sets the time table for Indiana to succeed in finding the Grail and exercise its healing power. After outsmarting booby traps and using intellect instead of emotion, Indiana finds the Grail, saves his dad, and rides contently into the sunset.

After nineteen years of being called the latest Indiana Jones film, Last Crusade gets followed up with next week's theatrical release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Naturally expected to make a big splash, the summer-blockbuster-to-be has already staked out supermarkets with promotional tie-in offers. Now it's ever so subtly reaching DVD shelves with Paramount's new releases of the first three Indy movies, individually and together in The Adventure Collection.

Buy Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Special Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.20:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English),
Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish;
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $26.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
THX-Certified
Black Slimcase (The Adventure Collection in Holographic Cardboard Box)
Buy Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection 3-DVD Set from Amazon.com

VIDEO and AUDIO

Last Crusade is presented in anamorphic widescreen in approximately its original 2.20:1 aspect ratio. The DVD carries the same transfer as the 2003 release and holds up to the standards one would expect for a Spielberg/Lucas production. Like the other films in the trilogy, the frame is free of dust, scratches, and other artifacts. Although a bit saturated and fuzzy at times, the image is overall crisp and accurately presented.

John Williams' score is triumphantly blasted in full surround but is never overbearing on the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The center channel holds up well amidst the action sounds and music, but could use a tad boost during the more emotive character moments. With the excellent sound design and editing, the surround environment does it justice.

Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, and Steven Spielberg have a chat in the shade in footage seen in The Last Crusade's introduction. Alison Doody, Kate Capshaw, and Karen Allen sit down with Jean Firstenberg, then CEO of the American Film Institute, for a discussion of "Indy's Women" -- the three rather different young ladies who caught the adventurer's eye. Supporting characters like Nazi babe Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) are the focus of "Indy's Friends and Enemies."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

It's not always true that the most recent release of a film is the best one. With this special edition, The Last Crusade is far down the list of Spielberg films that contain a modest selection of bonus material. Having only one disc per film, the content is limited to basic and often uninteresting material.
The first selection is "The Last Crusade: An Introduction" (6:13) with director Steven Spielberg and story writer/producer George Lucas discussing their feelings about the film. We learn about Spielberg's father-son subplot idea but not much else is gained in this short segment.

Next is a lulling tribute titled "Indy's Women: The American Film Institute Tribute" (9:23). The leading ladies from all three films -- Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, and Alison Doody -- are interviewed by AFI's Jean Firstenberg on a boring, poorly-lit stage. It's only an excerpt from the full event and therefore succeeds in its brevity.

The final true video piece is "Indy's Friends and Enemies" (10:46). Producer Frank Marshall and the screenwriters join Lucas and Spielberg in discussing the trilogy's heroes and heroines, as well as all the antagonists who confront them. A great deal of attention is paid to the women of the film, the villains, and even little Jonathan Ke Quan. Finally, a minute is devoted to speculating on Indy 4 and a few pieces behind-the-scenes footage from the film are thrown in to tease.

Steven Spielberg and his crew recreate a Nazi gathering in one of the galleries' many production photos. Lego Indiana Jones wields a duck in the commercial for his strangely alluring new computer game. Like those found on its predecessors, the main menu for The Last Crusade settles down from its stylized montage for a slowly-moving title and world map jaunt made exciting by John Williams score excerpts.

The storyboards selection features Last Crusade's opening sequence (3:40) as young Indy jumps on to and escapes from the moving train. The slides move quickly above a small thumbnail of the film's footage and the presentation is overall attractive but of little import.
It is, however, plain to see that the action sequences were heavily storyboarded.

Next are four photo galleries for Illustrations and Props (53 stills), Production Photographs & Portraits (123 stills), Effects/ILM (52 stills), and Marketing (16 stills). The images provide a surprising amount of visual information on the making of the film and each still is of the highest quality. There aren't any thumbnail galleries, so navigating the hundreds of images must be done one by one.

Concluding the list is a game trailer for Lego Indiana Jones (1:19). Some may find it interesting if they're fond of the Lego Star Wars game but most will skip over it.

The case features the iconic Indiana Jones font and artwork around a black slimline case, when part of the collection, with a holographic box to encase the three films. There are no inserts but the graphics are consistent on both the disc and the case.

By 1938/1989, Indiana Jones/Harrison Ford seem to have the whole cheating death/playing hero thing down pat. Two Dr. Joneses are feeling hot hot hot while tied together and surrounded by flames.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It is always a challenge to create a sequel that bests its predecessor. With box office results as a gauge, Last Crusade certainly triumphs over the previous two. Still, fans cling to their favorite with enthusiasm while still respecting the good qualities in all of them. To me, none of the films are as everlasting as Spielberg's dramas. But the nostalgic value, the enthralling popcorn fare, and near-flawless execution make the trilogy a classic one. Unlike Raiders of the Lost Ark, Last Crusade is not just a series of set pieces but an emotionally satisfying adventure between the bonds of father and son.

Buy from Amazon.com: The Last Crusade / Indiana Jones: 3-DVD The Adventure Collection

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Related Reviews:
On Blu-ray: Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures
The Adventure Collection DVDs of the Indiana Jones Film Series: Raiders of the Lost Ark Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull | Produced by Steven Spielberg: Who Framed Roger Rabbit Poltergeist Transformers

Movies of the Late 1980s: Wall Street (20th Anniversary Edition) Big (Extended Edition) The Little Mermaid

The Cast and Crew of The Last Crusade:
Sean Connery: Darby O'Gill and the Little People | Menno Meyjes, Story: Martian Child | John Rhys-Davies: Shadows in the Sun

Part 3s: Ocean's Thirteen Rush Hour 3 Shrek the Third The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

Indiana Jones Adventure - The Disneyland Ride:
Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic A Musical History of Disneyland Interview with Tony Baxter, Senior VP Disney Imagineering

Globe-Trotting Adventures:
Voyagers!: The Complete Series National Treasure Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Aladdin

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Reviewed May 13, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1989 Paramount Pictures and Lucasfilm Ltd., 2008 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.