THE CURIOUS CASE OF INDIANA JONES
Updated: Feb 21, 2020
I decided to write a blog about the latest development in the ongoing “will they or won’t they” debacle that is Indiana Jones 5 because it’s a series that, while growing up, I absolutely LOVED. In later years, it became a source of inspiration, as evidenced by the exploration/mystical artifact nature that’s at the core of From Ashes of Empires’s plot. This is purely an opinion piece regarding the future of the franchise, and I know there will be others who feel as strongly as I do who don’t agree with my take on it. That’s not only perfectly fine, but to be expected.
In recent months, I’ve started to doubt that Indiana Jones 5 was ever going to happen. The conspiracy theorist in me chalked it up to…nefarious reasons. It seemed bizarre to me that, with the ticking clock that is Harrison Ford’s age, Disney was putting no real ‘oomph’ behind getting the movie off the ground. They’ve allegedly been trying to crack the script for ages, bouncing between writers like Jonathan Kasdan and David Koepp, and still…nothing. At face value, it seemed plain to me that Disney was running down the clock until Ford lost interest, decided he was too old—whatever—so they could reboot the franchise with clean hands.
The wrinkle in that theory happened at this year’s BAFTA Awards, where Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy broke the news that Indy 5 was indeed the company’s next project, it wouldn’t be a reboot, and Harrison Ford was excited to start.
Great news on the surface, but there are a lot of asterisks to attach to that announcement. One hurdle is Harrison’s age. Even diehard fans of the franchise have a sizable contingent that believes Ford is straight-up too old. Many thought he was too old to return for 2009’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when he was 11 years younger than he is now. And worse, the fandom is fairly universal in agreement that that film absolutely pales in comparison to the previous three.
So, what’s so curious about the case of Indiana Jones? The curious thing to me is this: where does Disney intend to take Jones once Indy 5 releases (if it does)? Harrison has stated emphatically that when he’s done with Jones, that’s the end—the character’s done. Elsewhere, though, there’s an argument that arises every so often amongst fans that there’s no reason actors can’t be swapped in and out of Indiana Jones just like the James Bond franchise.
In my opinion, that simply isn’t true.
Bond and Jones are two very different animals. Within the first ten years of the Bond film franchise, Eon Productions established that Sean Connery was not the only man who could play 007 when they replaced him with George Lazenby in Bond’s 6th outing, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and have continued to replace actors for a variety of reasons throughout the decades. Meanwhile, as far as the films go, Harrison Ford has been the adult version of Indiana Jones for the last 39 years, and no one else.
But the big difference between Bond and Jones is twofold: Harrison Ford has a monstrous personal stamp on the character. Ford is synonymous with Jones even more so than Ford is with his breakout role of Han Solo. Second, Jones is a much more fleshed out character than Bond is when it comes to mannerisms, the character’s past, as well as his relationships.
For the most part, Bond is a blunt instrument of MI6 who enjoys womanizing while on and off duty. Yes, there were moments that dipped their toes into a more personal nature such as Bond getting married and immediately losing his wife in the aforementioned On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but even that plot thread was summarily abandoned once Connery (briefly) wandered back into the role.
This, of course, has changed in recent years with Daniel Craig’s Bond—the ordeal of losing Vesper Lynd, delving into his youth growing up at Skyfall, and the odd half-brother-to-Blofeld retcon. Those choices, however, I feel have written Eon into a corner, making the interchangeability of Bond almost impossible. Those story threads have too much of a link to Daniel Craig’s take on the character. Touching on those with a new actor would be like when Roger Moore’s Bond visited Lazenby’s Bond’s dead wife’s grave. It felt weird…off.
So, that brings us back to Ford as Jones, and only Ford. Should Indy 5 even be made?
Disregarding the age factor, there’s an absolute glut of fans who are disillusioned with Disney-era Lucasfilm. However, the reason I’m hopeful it still could be an improvement over Crystal Skull, even under questionable Disney rule, would be if both Ford and director Steven Spielberg signed off on the script when it arrives.
Spielberg, as we know, was quite open about his displeasure regarding that film, calling his work on it “a favor to a friend” and admitting he wasn’t a fan of the direction George wanted to go with it. He would, in essence, vet the new script. If he’s comfortable with it, that’s a good indication the movie will at least be stronger than Crystal Skull. If it’s not, I imagine he’d just walk away, since he doesn’t have his friendship with George binding him to the film. And if he does walk, that’s your sign that Indy 5 shouldn’t be made at all.
All that said, I do hope Indy 5 does get made. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it did have its moments that I enjoyed and for that simple reason I’m glad it exists. I don’t subscribe to the strangely popular idea that a single movie (or potentially two, in this case) has the power to ruin a series.
This brings us to the inevitable question: where do we go from here?
Theoretically, let’s say Indy 5 is made and it is…whatever it turns out to be. Should Disney reboot the series with another actor? In my opinion for the core reason detailed above, no. Let Indy ride off into the sunset. Okay, but should Disney kill the franchise off for good, then? Again, no. What I do hope happens is a continuation of the spirit of Indiana Jones.
We live in a time when, for example, people are demanding a black James Bond, or a female Jane Bond. Meanwhile, traditionalists are saying ‘no, he was written as a white British man. By all means cast Idris Elba, but build a franchise around a new 00 Agent with his own backstory, etc. that exists in the same world as Bond.’
That argument should apply to Indiana Jones, regardless of whether or not another white dude were to be cast in the place of white dude Harrison Ford. Build a new character to carry on that same fun archaeological adventure that dabbles in the quasi-supernatural. Make a spiritual successor to Indy rather than just slapping someone else in the fedora, shoving him in front of audiences and telling them, ‘here you go.’ Let Ford run with it one more time and then close that chapter for good so we can celebrate it as is: one man who defined his character over five films and forty years.
Ford is Indy, and furthermore, Ford is right. When he’s done, so should be Indiana Jones.