X Will Mark the Spot

Compare John Williams’ musical themes for the Nazis in Last Crusade and the Empire’s march in Star Wars; the thematic synergy between them is undervalued genius.

Raiders of the Lost Ark dodged the Nazi problem. They felt like story pawns. Last Crusade elevates the party into ravenous, suffocating inhumans. There’s a book burning amid visual egotism in Germany’s capitol that suggests an enormity beyond Jones’ own quest. Historically known, obviously, but adding an in-universe gravity to a flighty comic adventure.

Last Crusade isn’t overt in theology, yet smart and genuine as to make it notable

Last Crusade is the best of the four films because it humanizes its hero. Jones (Harrison Ford) came across primarily as lucky in two movies before, without offering a sense of why he so willingly faces danger to acquire relics. Enter Henry Jones (Sean Connery), a masterfully calm performance amid tank battles, bi-planes, and numerous near-death escapes. Yet, it’s universal as Connery seems to judge his son’s moves, when in actuality, Henry is certain of how he raised his child, to take care of himself, to do right, and learn from history.

The script is too perfect, arguably the best studio action/comedy/adventure. It’s comically self-referential about the past, kitschy in its foreshadowing, generous in action design, and overflowing with intelligent character depth.

Consider the final action, Indiana hanging from a cliff, Henry holding on, the holy grail within reach. Before them, the Nazi chose greed and lost. Indy thinks his father needs the chalice to define his life’s quest. But no, that’s a singular moment where the two realize the truth about one another – Indy will risk death to satisfy his estranged father, Henry won’t place objects above his kin. It’s a sublime climax to an entertaining, head-butting family feud throughout Last Crusade.

Set within Christian beliefs, that’s an added quality and nuance. There’s the Nazis, betraying the faith via their brutality and power, worshiping a false idol. It’s logical when faced with a choice to select the holy grail, the Nazi mindset only considers artificial wealth, dooming themselves. Then the Jones’, Henry especially, who’s steadfast in believing he’ll find the grail, or Indy who needs to find his personal faith to reach the goal. Last Crusade isn’t overt in theology, yet smart and genuine as to make it notable. The war is fought for centuries old myth, but in execution, it’s a battle for common morality.

Video

Sporting a slightly thicker grain structure than the previous two films, it’s lucky Paramount’s encode is up to this challenge. A slight noise is evident in spots, but marginal. Certainly this doesn’t impact detail or fidelity. Impeccable sharpness defines everything to the extremes, making full use of a true 4K scan. There’s brilliant luster to this image, resolving the finest facial detail and environmental texture. Rocky landscapes courtesy of this resolution make the location cinematography dazzle.

After Temple of Doom’s underground darkness, Last Crusade changes tone to a literal and figurative brighter aesthetic. Aided by Dolby Vision, the visuals shimmer, given renewed – some might say eternal – life. Sparkling contrast floods the frame, and when needed (say the stormy boat in the beginning) black levels perform their end flawlessly. Those deep shadows maintain detail.

Heavily lit scenery allows color to flourish too, bringing forward the sandy earth tones, generous flesh tones, and utterly vivid primaries. Venice looks glorious between the paint, flowers, and rich waters. Stained glass never looked better on a home screen.

Audio

It’s possible to hear the advancing sound technology by viewing the films in order. Last Crusade benefits the most in the move to Atmos, evident from the first action scenes, especially the stormy water that uses the height channels extensively.

Both waves and rain rush through the soundstage, convincing in their boldness and scale. Subtler moments like Indy smashing the marble library floor resonate smoothly as the impacts echo. Bike and boat chases send engines panning to the sides or front to back; transitions are flawless. The dogfight is masterful in this way too.

Bass is the only lacking element. Marginally powerful in brief spurts, the depth never reaches impressive lows. Tank rounds barely generate a rumble (although the shells travel perfectly). Explosions erupt with minimal oomph.

Extras

Just trailers, although the box set does include an additional Blu-ray containing bonuses.

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
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5

Movie

The Last Crusade is the best of the Indiana Jones series thanks to its entertaining humanization of Indy himself and Sean Connery’s hilarious calm.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 63 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: