BAYHAM: Indiana Jones And The Last Movie

Silver Screen archeologist Indiana Jones is more than just a character from a movie.

He’s the American equivalent of James Bond- our entertainment contribution to popular culture who embodies patriotism and cowboy ruggedness who improvises his way through various adventures across the globe.

And there’s a sense of American 20th century selflessness in the character as Jones puts himself in great peril not for personal gain but for the public study and preservation of culturally important artifacts, ranging from the tribal to the Biblical.

In a way, Indiana Jones is the swaggering ideal of the Monuments Men from World War II, the unit of museum curators sent to Europe to reclaim the pilfered Western European works of art from personal collections (in many cases of Jews) and centers of art in occupied territories that became Nazi trophies (and in the case of Hermann Goring, personal plunder).

I always thought it unfortunate that nobody in Hollywood tried developing this connection even as subplot in an Indiana Jones film.

Who wouldn’t want to see Indy knock out the kleptomaniac Luftwaffe chief even if just in a film opening scene?

Decades after Raiders of the Lost Ark kicked off a new lucrative franchise for the tandem of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the character endures as one of the most popular in motion pictures. There’s always one at any given Halloween party and dozens at a comic con.

There’s a great deal of public attachment to the Indiana Jones character, especially from Raiders and Last Crusade, in no small part of the latter thanks to the on-screen presence of Sean Connery, who hilariously portrayed his stoic though at times frivolous father. And like all action films, Ford’s character was complemented with formidable villains within excellently scripted plots.

So when Indiana Jones returned to the big screen after a 19 year hiatus and missing some of the franchise’s supporting characters due to death or retirement there was a bit of excitement…and some apprehension.

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, whose clairvoyance on many future societal absurdities, warned us via the most graphic analogies.

And the new managing owners of Casa Bonita proved devastatingly accurate in their predictions.

To this day I cannot believe Kingdom of the Crystal was not only produced but financed.

They would’ve been better up placing the finished product in a casket and firing a panzerfaust at the films to blow them back to G…no, the Almighty cannot be assigned any stewardship of this franchise abomination.

As a friend observed Indiana Jones 4 was more X-Files than the X-Files movie that was released that same year. And that was pretty awful too.

Granted not every film in even the most successful franchises are home runs. The Man with the Golden Gun almost succeeded where Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga failed in knocking off 007.  Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It was so bad it’s not even included in the Brooks collection. And don’t get me started on “Star Woke” Episode 8, The Last of the Jedi. And the George Clooney Batman was so terrible the franchise was shelved and rebooted much later under the masterful hands of Christopher Nolan.

So when talk of an Indiana Jones 5 a decade and a half after Crystal Skull was released…or rather allowed to escape, cynicism was in no short supply.

That the franchise would once again swan dive into the pool of fantasy wasn’t encouraging.

However this is what we knew: this would be the final Indiana Jones as Ford was now 80.

Furthermore the loathe-to-retire-Maestro of the Movies John Williams would score the film. At a recent performance of his film music by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, Williams figured if Ford could act as an octogenarian than Williams could write and conduct at 90 (and the 53 time Academy Award nominee showed he still had gas in the tank waving the baton for two encores and engaging in a playful light sabre duel with LA Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel from the podium).


Without giving away spoilers aside from the well-known fact that this is the final installment, Jones finds himself struggling as a bachelor city college professor in 1969 teaching history in a class comprised of students exhibiting the same enthusiasm for the subject matter as Ben Stein’s charges did during his lecture on Voodoo Economics in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Jones himself has become a living relic who hasn’t adapted to the new times. He meets up with his goddaughter who tracks him down to loot an incomplete artifact from the school archive before being pursued by Federal agents whose true allegiances are suspect. As this is the moonshot decade, a captured Nazi scientist whose skills in engineering are utilized by the US government figures prominently in the storyline as he has an interest in the same relic.

The movie focuses on the race to secure the other half of the relic, which like the sought after items in the other movies, possessed some great power that is covered by those who seek to use it for personal gain to the consequential detriment of the world.

The film has too main criticisms. The first is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character Helena Shaw. The installment ‘s leading lady, she plays the daughter of Jones’ colleague Basil Shaw, a Marcus Brody-type helpless character, though it was nice to see Toby Jones not play a bad guy in a movie. Waller-Bridge is a hybrid of Jones and his arch nemesis from Ark, the unscrupulous artifact poacher Rene Belloq.

Waller-Bridge is forced into being a greater character though resembles Ms. Hathaway from Beverly Hillbillies cast as Lara Croft. There’s definitely a “Mary Sue” thing going with the Helena Shaw character (Google it).

Then there’s the most blatant unnecessary pc scene where a white child of privilege is shown mocking the poor attire of Shaw’s sidekick Teddy Kumar, a Moroccan version of the artful Dodger from Oliver Twist. Teddy retaliates by pickpocketing the pint sized representative of a power class and using the lifted cash to buy himself ice cream.

Mads Mikkelsen’s Nazi Jurgen Voller is a solid villain but undermined by poor scriptwriting and a not-so-well-developed plot.

On the positive side they do manage to create subtle linkages to the more agreeable parts of Indy 4 and they do bring back popular characters and those who portrayed them from past films, though the resourceful Sallah is relegated to the life of a war refugee who drives a taxi. Perhaps those are the limits of John Rhys Davies range at his age and condition. Also Antonio Banderas has a bit role no more relevant than Benecio del Toro’s role and relevance in the aforementioned and lamented Episode 8.

Indiana Jones 5 is already being declared a bust financially and when considering its half-billion dollar budget and what it came after, it would’ve needed to be on the level of Ark and Crusade to have stood a chance.

And it’s not.

However if you are a fan of the character and suffered through Crystal Skull, Dial of Destiny is at least an improvement of its antecedent and it does complete the franchise giving Indy an honorable though not spectacular exit.



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