03 April 2014

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Inner Journey (1)

Henry and Indiana Jones at gunpoint.

This is an analysis of the characters' arc in the third Indiana Jones film.

The article will span in two parts. In this, first part, we will analyse the character flaws of Indiana and Henry Jones, as well as the armour that Indiana has developped, to keep his flaw hidden.

In the second part, next week, we will go deeper into the father-son subplot and how it interweaves with the main plot, as well as discover and state the film's theme.



Henry Jones has a flaw: he is obsessed with the Holy Grail, an obsession that excludes any meaningful communication with his son, Indiana. The search for the Holy Grail has taken such mythic a size in his mind, that he is unable to experience the upbringing of his son and be a father to him.

Indiana Jones's wound is a chronic one: because of Henry's obsession, he was always ignored by his father.

We see this in the film's first sequence, when Indy risks his life to save the Cross of Coronado from antiquity smugglers. When he takes the cross home, his father completely ignores him, absorbed into his studies.

Young Indy takes the Cross of Coronado to his busy father.
Indy: "What you taught me was that I was less important to you than people who'd been dead for five hundred years in another country and I learned it so well that we've hardly spoken for twenty years."

As the story unfolds, we understand that, even more than his father's attention, Indiana begs for his approval. Henry's indifference has left him with a serious flaw: even as an adult, he makes great effort to impress his strict father.

A remarkable element of irony is the heredity the two Jones share in regard to obsessions of archeological interest. They both seek trophies, perhaps forgetting their deeper meaning. The fact that, in his forties, Indy is still chasing the Cross of Coronado, is an indicator of how deeply rooted this tendency is. Henry, on the other hand, has devoted his whole life to the search of the Grail.

Note: We don't know what wound has caused Henry's obsession. We can only speculate as to whether his own father had played some part to it.



In order to cover up his flaw, Indy wears the armour of his own adulthood. Of course all these issues belong to the past; he is not a child anymore. His father can't tell him what to do. He is a scientist and an academic. And an adventurer. And he flirts and sleeps with women. He is a grown man!

Indy and Marcus meet Elsa
When introduced to Elsa, Indy flirts with her, without expecting what's coming...

This armour doesn't take much to get slammed, though. Firstly, every time he gets close to his father, Indy turns into "Henry Jones Junior," a boy living under the shadow and struggling to win the approval of a self-absorbed father figure.

Secondly, we never know whether his choice of profession is another way of proving himself to his father.

Finally, in regard to the ladies, Indy will soon find out that he and his dad share more than the passion for archeology, making their relationship even more awkward.



There is one element of Indy's personality that does actually help him (and Henry) in their quest: his being an adventurer. This makes him very different to his father, who is a bookworm (and hates rats). Without Indy's adventurous personality, Henry would have never gotten to see the Grail.


The second and final part of this analysis is here.


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