Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Future of Indiana Jones

There has been a question mark ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm over a year ago -- What does this mean for Indiana Jones?  Up to this point, all we'd heard Disney talk about was the Star Wars franchise, and that was because there were still some hangups holding Dr. Jones back.  Finally, Disney has struck a deal with Paramount Pictures, the makers and distributors of the first four Indiana Jones films, and Disney now has the rights to the Indiana Jones franchise, with the ability to make future films.

The deal works as such, Paramount will retain the rights to the first four Indiana Jones films, basically anything Indy before the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, and Disney will own anything that's done with the character from now on.  A fair deal if you ask me and one that if you believe the rumors, had to occur.  The word has been for a while now that Harrison Ford would not sign the deal to return as Han Solo in these new Star Wars films unless he had a guarantee of a new Indy movie in the future.  Whether or not that is true, this pretty much answers the final lingering question that Lucasfilm fans have had since the Disney acquisition.  Of course, I think the proper question here is if this is a good thing?

Personally, I don't think it can hurt the character of Indiana Jones anymore than many fans feel his last outing, 2008's Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, did.  I know I'm in the minority, but I never disliked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  While there were a good many eye-rolling moments that were a little too cheesy even for me, as a whole it was a thrilling film with enough good ideas to outweigh the bad.  I personally feel that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg handled the transition from the supernatural to science fiction naturally and authentically in regards to the Fifties time period, I just wish they hadn't married Indy off.  I had nothing wrong with him having a son, just don't marry one of the most notorious players in Hollywood history off.  With that aside, regardless as to whether or not you liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there is going to be a fifth Indiana Jones movie starring an almost seventy-year-old Harrison Ford.

Lucas & Spielberg on the set of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
While there is no word on story, cast, crew, or release date, this fifth film in the series will happen.  Disney would not have made as big of a deal about all this if it wasn't.  In all truthfulness though, I think that this fifth film gives everyone that was involved with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull one last chance to get it right before they all officially hang up the character for good.  Think of it as Ford's last hurrah as his most arguably popular character.  Of course, I don't want this fifth film to happen without the participation of Lucas and Spielberg.  Say what you want about the guys, but it was that dynamic duo that gave us the original three Indy films, and therefore I don't think a Harrison Ford Indiana Jones movie would be the same without Lucas playing an active role in the story development and without Spielberg directing.  Back in 2011, Lucas did allude to the fact that he was close to cracking the story for a fifth film, he just needed the MacGuffin, or the item that Indy is hunting for in this new film.  Perhaps that will still be the basis for this film?  The thing is, even if Lucas's story is, or isn't used, and Spielberg doesn't return, this movie will occur, and here's what I personally want to see.

I think Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's greatest mistake, was that it married Indy off.  They gave Indy a happy ending, and they could conceivably end his story there.  Any future story taking place in the Indiana Jones chronology would then have to acknowledge Marion and Mutt, two of the more controversial inclusions of the fourth film amongst fans.  Here's what I think they should do.  Just wipe the slate clean.  Do what you did with The Temple of Doom, go back into the past.

Ford does not look all that much different than he did six years ago when they filmed Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, do a story that took place maybe a year or two before that film.  Indy is always going on adventures, and Lucas and Spielberg let us know early on that these adventures aren't always going to take place in chronological fashion, given that The Temple of Doom was technically a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, taking place a full year before that film.  This same approach would allow Lucas and Spielberg to get back to what made the first three films so enjoyable, the fact that each film was a standalone adventure not tied into a larger continuity.

If you rewatch the original three Indiana Jones films, in each film he had a different love interest, a different sidekick, and a different villain.  These things rarely came back or returned, I know there are exceptions like Sallah and Marcus Brody, but irregardless, the love interests always were different, so having Marion Ravenwood return in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull went against the foundation that was set up with the first Indiana Jones sequel.  In this fifth film, have it take place a year or two earlier.

Harrison Ford in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
You can still have the Russians replace the Nazis as the bad guys, because that was one of the most awesome aspects of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but this time let's not have any past loves or sidekicks come back for old time's sake.  Give Indy a new love interest, or better yet, give him a young sidekick who is a girl, who is doing all of the romancing with young boys and Indy is more of a mentor.  She could even be one of his students, maybe a grad student who is like his protege or something, setting up potential spin-offs I might add, if Disney wanted to go that route.  Of course, most importantly, I'd just want to see a return to the filmmaking practices of the original three Indy films.  More location shooting, very minimal special effects' work, and the little that there is, is done practically in camera, with more stunts and real photography than anything else.  However, this fifth Indiana Jones movie may only be the tip of the iceberg for Dr. Jones's future.

As was pointed out by Drew McWeeny on Hitfix, Disney would not have gone through all of this trouble to get the rights to the Indiana Jones character unless they had plans for multiple films featuring him.  Conceivably, Harrison Ford can only hold out to do one more film as Indy, therefore what does that mean for all of those other films?  Drew said it might mean reboot, and I hate to say that he is probably right.  Of course, is recasting the actor rebooting the series?  If they remade Raiders with a new actor, then I think that would be a reboot, but James Bond has been recast multiple times and we don't call the transition from Connery to Moore a Bond reboot, so why should a transition from Ford to someone else be seen as any different?

Honestly, I've always thought that the character of Indiana Jones had the potential to be like a James Bond, with a new film every few years and the hat being passed off to a new actor every decade or so to keep the character alive.  Originally that was the intent of Lucas and Spielberg, but rather than keeping the films going, they let them stall out.  If the recasting way was to work, it should have been done in the early Nineties after The Last Crusade, as it is, we've gotten to a point where Harrison Ford has become so revered as the character, anyone else playing an Indiana Jones in his prime would be so ridiculed it wouldn't even be funny.  Still, if Disney is looking to make more Indiana Jones films post-Harrison Ford, then they need to do the only thing I think they can do, return to the idea of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

River Phoenix as Young Indy in The Last Crusade

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was one of the best TV shows of all-time, showing different adventures from Indy's formative years, traveling the world and going on adventures with his father.  Doing a Young Indiana Jones movie, I think, is the best way to go following Harrison Ford's retirement from the character.  There have already been three different actors that have portrayed a younger Indiana Jones, none of which are as iconically revered as Ford, therefore recasting the part wouldn't be seen as badly.  Not to mention that this reopens the Indy playbook.

Indy would be young again, younger than ever actually.  He could still be a little wet behind the ears, a little brash, a little bit of a player, and could be a daring man of action, once more.  Of course, I would not want this to be a set of origin films either, showing us how certain things later in his life came to be.  Let these films be standalone adventures, and here's where I think these movies should start.  I think the TV show pretty well chronicled Indy's childhood and teenage years, so why not show us an early-twenties Indy in college going on an adventure with his professor for his first outing, or perhaps even his first solo adventure without his dad or a professor.  Not only could casting a young, charismatic actor in the part help draw in a new, younger audience to these movies, it could also allow Disney the chance to grow this Indy up onscreen.  Think about it, if this actor is well cast and sticks with it, or even if they recast Indy every few films or so, it would accustom the audience to seeing a different face as Indy, so by the time whatever actor is still portraying Indy is in his thirties, we could actually see a return to Nazis and World War II-era adventures, giving fans what they really want.

At this juncture, all of this is just me hypothesizing and lobbying for what I want to see.  Personally, I'd love to get my Independent film I'm working on made, so that I can become enough of a Hollywood player to where I could potentially pitch my idea for how to do Indy post-Ford.  Maybe even cast the new actor, write the film, and direct it.  Hey, an Indy fan can dream, can't he?

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