Why Can't Harrison Ford Act His Age? (Opinion)

Signing on to "The Expendables 3," teasing another "Indiana Jones" -- Has every Gen Xer's favorite action hero forgotten that he's 71 years old?
Zade Rosenthal/Courtesy of Universal Studios and DreamWorks Distribution Co.
Harrison Ford

Judging by comments and announcements from the past couple of days, there is no firmer a believer in the adage "you're only as young as you feel" in Hollywood than Harrison Ford.

Not only has he signed up to replace Bruce Willis in the upcoming Expendables 3, but he's also started talking about how "appropriate" it would be for him to return to the role of action hero Indiana Jones for a fifth movie. Both of these, of course, are on top of his rumored appearance in 2015's Star Wars: Episode VII.

Let's not beat around the bush here: These are all actions that would seem misguided for a man two decades younger than Ford, if not even younger. The actor celebrated his 71st birthday this year, placing him six years past his suggested retirement age and at the point where most actors are either accepting smaller roles that involve passing on sage advice in a small cameo or retiring altogether. 

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Instead of going for the traditional choices, however, we have Ford saying that he can "still do" Indiana Jones because of the character's courage, wit and intelligence -- as long as he "doesn't necessarily have to kick as much ass" this time around, even though he'll undoubtedly be kicking some ass in the third Expendables movie, given the historical evidence of the first two. It's unclear just what's behind these recent decisions and proclamations, but almost no reasoning could explain away what appear to be extremely misguided attempts to reclaim a long-gone youth.

Perhaps it's nostalgia that's driving him to try and reclaim an action hero role. That's certainly possible; Ford's original Jones movies -- By which I mean the first three, of course -- and appearances in the Star Wars movies were iconic, and things that became formative cinematic experiences for today's executives and moviemakers. The idea of having more of that is amazingly appealing, both for Ford -- imagine that level of adulation! -- and his fans. The problem with this is that it wouldn't be more of what we loved. It would, at best, be a reminder of how great that was, and much older Ford is these days (and, by extension, the rest of us are).

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This isn't just conjecture. We've already seen Ford return to Indiana Jones in 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull -- at the retroactively sprightly age of 66 -- and the results were disappointing, to be polite. Not all of that should be placed at Ford's feet (Certainly, the messy story and dragging pace weren't his fault), but there was something uncomfortable about seeing Jones pushed to the side in the film's action set pieces, as Shia LeBeouf stepped in to carry out the stunts that Ford wasn't deemed capable of for reasons of age, insurance or both. Even moreso, the scenes where Ford was in the midst of the action and it all seemed a little slower, less dangerous than before. For entirely logical, practical reasons, Jones seemed diminished as a character, and the series diminished as a result. This is what Ford wants to return to?

There was a time -- in those halcyon pre-Expendables, pre-RED days -- where action movie heroes were just far more aware of their own mortality. Remember when Danny Glover would remind us, over and over again, that he was too old for this [expletive deleted for the faint at heart]? "Can't beat the clock, Riggs," he'd say in his comforting husk of a voice. Someone, clearly, needs to sit Harrison Ford down for a Danny Glover-tervention before it's too late.