Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Franchise (Analysis)
Disney has announced it will control any future "Indiana Jones" movies -- but does the world really want any future "Indiana Jones" movies?
The other shoe has finally dropped. Disney and Paramount have come to an agreement over the other big franchise most people connect with Lucasfilm: Indiana Jones. More important than the actual deal, however, is what's implied by the terms -- that we'll be seeing another Indiana Jones movie before too long.
After all, surely that's the only reading to take away from the notion that Disney will control "all future films" in the franchise, with Paramount retaining the rights to the four existing movies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). For that deal to be in any way productive to Disney, there has to be future films to have control over.
Far more than the prospect of Star Wars continuing without George Lucas, the idea of more Indiana Jones is something for fans to feel conflicted about. At their best, the Indiana Jones movies offer a particular kind of fun that is unique in modern cinema -- something at once uncomplicated but not unsophisticated, funny and exciting at the same time. Thrills, spills and even chills are there, as posters would have promised, in days of yore. The idea of more movies that could offer that is something that it's difficult not to feel excited about.
But then, there's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As much as the Star Wars prequels are held up as a sign of "ruined childhoods," it was Crystal Skull that really reinforced the idea that you can't go home again. It was, for the most part, everyone from the first three movies back doing what they do, but it felt… off, somehow. The magic was gone, for any number of reasons -- the story was too convoluted, too ridiculous; Harrison Ford being 66 instead of 47 (or 39, as he was for Raiders) and therefore being less convincing -- less comfortable -- in the action scenes; the idea of Indy as a father in the first place, never mind to a rebellious teen, which therefore turns him into an authority figure after a career of being just the opposite.
Whereas the idea of a Star Wars offers a chance to redeem the franchise after the lackluster prequels -- the prequels having already set the idea of legacy characters and, more importantly, new characters and situations in place, allowing for a turnover and sense of renewal -- imagining a new Indiana Jones movie at this point is basically imagining more of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, with the disappointments that brought in tow, because you can't de-age Ford. You can't just reset the clock and make a movie like the first three again, anymore, at least not with Indiana Jones as we know him now.
There's the reboot option, of course. I'd be surprised if that's not been considered by this point, if only for the prospect of allowing stories to be told with a young(ish) Indy and some Nazi bad guys again. Bring Nathan Fillion in as a new Indiana, with Stephen Fry as a replacement for Denholm Elliott's Marcus Brody, and start the whole thing over again. But even that seems "wrong," somehow -- a move too cynical for original movies' spirit, in some strange, inexplicable way. It spoils the purity of intent, if that's the correct term for a series of movies that were close to pastiche to begin with.
That there'll be some kind of new Indiana Jones movie before too long feels almost definite after today's news, despite the lack of anything close to an announcement of same. Hopefully, before such a project does get announced, Lucasfilm and Disney can work out how to make it happen in such a way that it seems like an exciting, good idea instead of another attempt to revive a fan-favorite franchise that, like so many of the artifacts that Indy has uncovered throughout the years, would be best left undisturbed.