Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade manages to reclaim much of the adventurous spirit that Temple of Doom tried to strangle and bury in a shallow grave. It was great watching this trilogy almost entirely at once. I got to watch Spielberg treat a storyline with almost the exact same style of filmmaking throughout. Generally when a series of films is being made, the director (assuming it's the same one throughout) grows as a filmmaker. I'll never say that this is a negative though there are plenty of film series that change dramatically in visual style and tone as they go on. Generally it fits in with the tone of the story being told. Spielberg becomes a nice exception to the rule. All three Indiana Jones films are treated very similarly in terms of production style. Though they do get bigger and better in the traditional sense they look and smell the same. As if they were all made at once and cut into three sections much later in the creative process. Even a series like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings shifts dramatically in presentation from film to film. Color schemes and even lighting and camera style are all over the place in that series. Now I'm not calling it a detriment to the films but to people who cut apart cinematography in their spare time (i.e. the people who write for this blog) it makes that element of production seem like an afterthought. What I'm trying to say is that Indiana Jones doesn't do this at all. All the films have a great look and feel that carries over between entries. And why shouldn't it? These films are an homage to a bygone era of storytelling. Spielberg and Co. weren't reinventing the wheel with these films. They were using a pre built template to tell a new story in an old medium. Still with me? Good. Let's roll.
Steven Spielberg took five years to decide exactly what kind of film Last Crusade needed to be. As I wrote in my review of Temple of Doom, Spielberg wasn't the biggest fan of his contribution to that film and took a much more assertive role in the production of the third installment of this franchise. The film's many script and story ideas rival that of Alien³. Spielberg was hellbent on making an enjoyable film to apologize for the last outing.
His big push was to include Indiana's estranged father as a major story arc. This is where Spielberg's tastes really begin to appear. Close Encounters, Hook, E.T. and even future films of his like Catch Me if You Can and Minority Report deal in one way or another with a strained relationship between fathers and sons. Though Spielberg's treatment of the issue is fairly lighthearted in this film he's still using it as a powerful tool. The climax of the film sees Indy and his father Henry finally reuniting for a common goal and admitting their true feelings for one another. It brings a sense of heart to the trilogy that it had been missing before and it really helps to conclude a great adventure story. By adding this element to the series, it forces an audience to care about the characters in a way that the previous entries had never done before. Spielberg achieves the impossible by very realistically portraying a working relationship between father and son in a fantastical adventure story. As a son there is hardly a more powerful drive in life than not only impressing your father, but surpassing him and being told you've done well by him. It seems trivial but it's an incredibly important element in a young man's life. Spielberg's choice to include it in Last Crusade , even in the scenes you may not always remember when discussing the film with friends, brings the film from simple adventure territory to a film that can safely reside close to home.