In hindsight, this was far from a promised last crusade. Final remarks are made after all the commas, hyphens and semi-colons which brought about the ongoing story of Indiana Jones. But Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had a finality to it, undone by the Hollywood machine. Although we cannot be too harsh on what came afterwards, we always have the charms of a neatly pieced final feature to a trilogy which rose, fell and rose again. What a life for Harrison Ford and Stephen Spielberg, their collaborative efforts here at their peak and never reaching this high again. This is what happens when you through a classy bit of work from Sean Connery into the mix, though. It is a formula they tried and tried again, new ideas were not the focus, but engaging characters, someone new to carry the supporting torch.
Here it works most of all, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade benefits completely and fully from Connery. He and Ford bring about such grand chemistry to this feature, one which sees Spielberg learn from the many mistakes found in the Temple of Doom. Gone are the studious adventures, back are the villainous Nazis and their obsession with Catholicism. Odd considering the history of Nazi Germany and organised religion, but let it slide as they traverse the plains looking for the Holy Grail. Nasty pieces of work they were, and for all the blimps and Julian Glover appearances, they are still simply unlikeable. Ford is at his finest here, finally working himself into a great deal of comfort.
Crucial to this comfort is the explosive force Connery provides. His presence here is the effect Kate Capshaw should have had as Willie in the previous instalment. Take a steady character and throw him off-kilter with a surprise inclusion here or there. The Last Crusade is the outcome of madness. They did it again with Ray Winstone in the unnecessarily bashed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Nostalgia is a fickle plaything and although much of the love for The Last Crusade comes from watching it while smothering pancakes in treacle. Those were the days. Even The Last Crusade has this moment, the origins of Indy and aptly considered by River Phoenix in the opening. It bleeds in a stern father and son relationship which is turned on its head when the former is senile and the latter is sensible.
It all comes together with the broad beauty of brown archaeological digs and daring ventures through the wild fields Indy has always been part of. The Last Crusade manages to transcend its era, as The Goonies did not but as Raiders of the Lost Ark did, by bringing about a tremendous story and sharp direction from Spielberg. It is not tethered to a style of the time. Spielberg could never. He was always a leap ahead and with that, it should be no surprise his work on The Last Crusade presents one of the all-time greats. Not too far off what LEGO Indiana Jones taught us all back in the late 2000s, although it is good to hear everything turned around with words, rather than manic, plastic motions.