25 October 2003

A few words on the Indiana Jones trilogy, finally released this week on DVD:

Watching these movies again, along with the sublime documentary features included on the bonus disk, I can only conclude that this is the greatest movie trilogy of all time. (Take that, Godfather!) It's amazing, given that the films were separately filmed and conceived, how deeply they seem to complement each other. You can make arguments for each installment as "the best" of the three, but from this vantage point, more than twenty years after Raiders was first released, it's hard to imagine the energy of Raiders without the darkness of Temple of Doom or the heart of The Last Crusade. Taken together, they provide a damned near complete picture of the reasons that we go to the movies in the first place, and one of the most complete heroes that the movies have ever given us. (Another ounce of introspection, and Indy might even overtake the fictionalized Lawrence of Arabia as our greatest movie hero.)

Of the three, my favorite would have to be The Last Crusade. Maybe this is for sentimental reasons; it was the first of the three I ever saw, I think, and it's probably the one that speaks most urgently to the bright eleven-year-old who still lives somewhere inside me. (I'm still occasionally tempted to bid on the many Grail Diaries that appear on eBay.) Looking at it objectively, the level of the energy and sense of discovery in The Last Crusade possibly, just possibly, falls slightly short of the first two. But it's still got a corker of a screenplay, with a great supporting cast, and it's the best movie I've ever seen about fathers and sons. Best of all, it's one of the last great action epics that still seems crafted by hand, not by computer...and I think that this is a big reason why it still stirs me so deeply. Steven Spielberg ends the documentary on The Last Crusade with praise for the carpenters, the plasterers, the painters, the electricians who made it possible, and tactile, and real. Hear, hear!

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