By Matthew McKibben | March 28, 2014
Earlier this week, the movie rumor/review site Latino Review ran a story that the powers that be at Disney were weighing whether to make one last Harrison Ford Indiana Jones movie or to reboot the franchise altogether with Bradley Cooper donning the fedora and Frank Darabont taking some form of creative (writing, directing, producing) control. All the named parties have since debunked the rumor and the fate of the 5th Indiana Jones movie is still unknown to us fans.
There really isn’t much to weigh in on regarding that particular rumor but it did get me thinking about that franchise and what’s in store for future movies. There seem to be four distinct possibilities at play with the Indiana Jones saga…
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the final Indiana Jones movie that is ever made. While the movie starts off well enough, you’d be hard pressed to find many who consider it a success on any level. Harrison Ford seems, at best, old and slow, but at worst he appears disinterested and with his head not in the game. As the face of the franchise, it’s easy to place the blame on Harrison Ford, but the Indiana Jones movies have always been a four man show (Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and John Williams) and there is plenty of blame to go around. Spielberg is in his serious, dour movie phase and provides no visible spark to a movie that sorely needs it. Due to his business commitments and continued trampling all over his Star Wars film legacy, it reportedly took Lucas a number of years to crack the idea for the story. Yes, what you saw on screen was the product of years of “thought” and various versions of the script, including one written by the aforementioned Frank Darabont. John Williams is his typical bombastic self, but it definitely isn’t his best score by any stretch of the imagination. I think many fans at this point have taken the stance of “it’s been a great run. We can forgive Crystal Skull (or pretend it never happened, as I’ve done), but it’s time to move on.”
Pros: What’s done is done. The Indiana Jones saga rides off into the sunset, with its legacy largely intact.
Cons: What a shittacular way to go out.
Final thoughts: This would get my vote. The Indiana Jones movies were always designed to be Lucas and Spielberg’s answer to the James Bond movies, but it’s not quite that simple. James Bond will always have new threats to battle. While he does battle bad guys, that’s never been Jones’ main driving force. He’s always been about searching for new archeological finds, trying to get there before the bad guys do. While there are always great archeological finds left to be found, the best ones have already been seen (Ark, Sankara Stones, the Grail, and shudder Crystal Skulls). There’s always Atlantis, but finding more MacGuffins capable of melting people’s faces off are few and far between.
The movie 1941 was a big, bloated mess for Spielberg, going both over budget and well beyond its shooting schedule. Coming off a string of movies that changed the blockbuster game (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Spielberg reportedly told himself that he wanted his next movie to be leaner and faster. That next movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark. If Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford came out and acknowledged that the fourth Indiana Jones movie was largely a disappointment and that they were coming back to prove themselves, I think you’d have fans interested in seeing what they could do. The jury is still out on whether the Spielberg that relied on practical effects and good old-fashioned stunt work still exists somewhere under the beard, but what fan wouldn’t want to see another Indiana Jones movie that hearkened back to what made the original trilogy of movies so great?
Pros: I’ll always place my money on directors and actors who feel like they made a stinker and want to come back and prove themselves. The talent is still there. All they need is that one final quest for “fortune and glory.” This precedent already exists within this franchise. Coming off the heart crushingly dark and disappointing (though I’d say underrated) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Spielberg and Lucas wanted Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to be a lot more fun and truer to the original spirit of the serialized stories that originally inspired them to make those movies in the first place.
Cons: They’re all old. Spielberg’s moved on and is making more thought-provoking, darker fare and there’s a good possibility that he just doesn’t have that kind of movie in him anymore. It’s even worse with Ford, because he’s the one who is actually seen on screen. It just isn’t any fun seeing Ford play an old Indiana Jones on screen. He’s never been the most agile of action stars, but it is as if he’s stuck in molasses for much of the fourth movie. Although it kind of seems like it was made just yesterday, Crystal Skull was made in 2008. If the fifth Indiana Jones started filming today, Ford would be 72 years old, six years older than he was for Crystal Skull.
Final thoughts: If they can get back to the basics of quality storytelling and bone-crushing action, I’d be down for another quest. Harrison Ford’s age is a MAJOR factor, though. Whatever they end up deciding, can we all agree that it might be best to leave Karen Allen out of this one?
The powers that be at Disney decide to reboot/restart the entire franchise with a new actor, writer, director, etc.
Pros: Getting new, younger people to crack the whip could be a lot of fun and a way of pumping new energy into the franchise. Some may cry “sacrilege,” but if Sean Connery is replaceable as Bond, Ford is replaceable as Indiana Jones.
Cons: Here are your size 15 shoes, good luck filling them. You’re following a legendary filmmaker who probably has a spot on the all-time great director Mount Rushmore, a legendary producer/story man whose stories redefined popular entertainment, and an actor who would probably have a spot on the tough guy Mount Rushmore. Good luck with that. Despite the rumor being false, Bradley Cooper would be a solid, inspired choice. He’s the kind of guy they should go after if they decide to recast and reboot. He has that rogue’s grin and charm that would translate well into the part.
Final thoughts: As I said above, Indiana Jones is so radically different than James Bond. James Bond is out to stop WWIII, Indiana Jones is out to search for lost treasures. When you get right down to it, there just aren’t that many great MacGuffins out there that have the gravitas necessary for a duel between good and evil. Nazis aren’t out there looking for China vases and hunter/gatherer shovels. You need a MacGuffin worthy of someone getting their hearts ripped out of their chests. If you have more stories to tell that have interesting MacGuffins (as in plural), I think you have no choice but to recast and reboot. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles proved that there are other things for Indiana Jones to do, but there’s a reason why a television show based on one of the most popular characters of all-time never really caught on. Palling around with Teddy Roosevelt will only get you so far.
Letting Shia LaBeouf take over in Mutt Williams and the Search for Jimmy Hoffa. I’ll let Shia vocalize what (I’m guessing) the fan reaction would be: