How James Mangold Could Bring the Edge Back to Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones_James Mangold_Inset - Photofest - H 2020
Paramount Pictures/Photofest; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for 20th Century Studios
Steven Spielberg is handing over the reins for the fifth film in the franchise.

It appears James Mangold will helm the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones film — a bit of a shock as franchise custodian Steven Spielberg had long been attached to direct. But this change could be exactly what the beloved action-adventure series needs to wash the bitter taste of the last installment out of audiences' mouths. 

Indiana Jones is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic characters in the history of cinema; the original three films are beloved by generations of fans who grew up on them and then shared them with their children. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) checked every box when it came to great storytelling and eye-popping excitement. 

And then there is 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The film, which revolved around alien artifacts, was not well received by fans who felt the story and tone were way off base. It was criticized for being campy in all the wrong ways and lacking the edge with which the first three films thrived. 

Enter Mangold, the director whose films — including Cop Land, 3:10 to YumaLogan and most recently, the Oscar-nominated Ford v Ferrari — ooze grit and edge. 

Logan is the best example of taking an iconic character but evolving them to be in their proper place in time. One of the biggest complaints of Crystal Skull was the old Indy formula felt out of step. Harrison Ford's character had not evolved since last we saw him. He was given his jacket, hat and whip and placed right back into the same old setting, which just didn't work so well with a 66-year-old Ford. Logan showed us a Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Prof. X (Patrick Stewart) who were at the end of the line. They were vulnerable. They were not as powerful as they once were. They had to examine their roles in a world that had moved on without them. Indiana Jones should never go as dark as Logan, but the property should allow Indy to grow, to adapt and to question his place in the world.

There were also complaints Crystal Skull's action seemed diluted from the previous installments — too family-friendly. The character spent the first three films trying to escape from those who wanted to kill him and, in turn, he had to kill to survive. This was lacking in Crystal Skull, as deaths were usually silly and incidental. With Logan in particular, Mangold understands the kill or be killed hero motif quite well. Indiana Jones films, while full of adventure and some laughs, are at the end of the day violent, sometimes downright bloodthirsty.

Mangold could be the right choice to bring the character of Indiana Jones to where he should be for what may be one final adventure.

Disney is set to release the film July 9, 2021.