Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
by Rob MacGregor
Published by Ballantine Books
Adrick's Rating: 2 out of 4
The fearless archaeologist Indiana Jones returns in a spectacular new adventure!
The time is the 1930s.
Indiana Jones had always managed to get into enough trouble on his own. But this time, he finds himself in the deadliest situation imaginable—he must rescue his father, eminent professor Dr. Henry Jones, from the Nazi’s clutches to keep them from discovering the secret information only Dr. Jones possesses. The perilous race is on—to recover the most extraordinary ancient relic of all time—and to prevent the Nazi’s and Dr. Jones’s devious rivals from finding it first!
MacGregor begins the book with a quotation from Joseph Campbell, which shows that he really understands the spirit of Indiana Jones and this particular film. While this movie would be the last many of us would see of Indiana Jones for years, this represents the beginning of MacGregor’s relationship with Indy. MacGregor went on to author several original Indy novels, so this is at least a promising start.
Like the two previous Indy films—actually, like pretty much any film—many bits of the story that were lost in the final cut can be found in the novel. If (like me) you’re one of those people who has watched Last Crusade a few dozen times, then you’ve probably asked yourself questions like “Why was the Cross of Coronado on a freighter at the beginning of the movie?” and “If the Grail grants immortality, then how come the Grail Knight at the end of the movie is so old?” Normal people would tell you “It’s just a movie, let it go.” I’ll tell you “Read the novelization. These questions are answered there.” The novel also provides an additional connection between the opening segment and the Grail quest which, though just barely hinted at here, is very clever indeed.
Let’s face it: novelization authors have it tough. A lot can change between the time an author is handed the script and when the film is packed off to theaters everywhere. Scenes can be reshot, added, deleted, or shuffled around. Actors ad lib lines, writers can tweak scenes until just before the camera rolls—or even after, if dubbing is used. And so on and so forth.
If the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Crusade novels are any indication, Indiana Jones scripts just aren’t very good until after all that has happened. (The best example is probably the whip/sword battle from Raiders that was dropped in favor of a hilarious, iconic gunshot.) Last Crusade is a darn funny movie, but this book is just not funny. This is mostly because a lot of the funniest moments just aren’t there. Still, MacGregor doesn’t seem to have been able to transfer the comic timing of the script to paper. In the book burning scene, for example, he spoils the joke by explaining directly that Hitler is taking the Grail diary to autograph it. A more subtle approach might have preserved the gag.
Finally, unlike the last two novelizations, Crusade doesn’t really reveal anything more about the characters and their motivations. It’s a decent effort, but as novelizations go, it’s pretty average.
Henry and Elsa…or Indy and Elsa later. Take your pick.