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So, what will happen in the fifth Indiana Jones movie?
It depends on what purpose the movie, which will bring back Harrison Ford to star and Steven Spielberg to direct, is intended to serve for the larger Lucasfilm/Disney machine.
Is the title intended as a fond farewell to a friend or as a way of re-energizing and relaunching the brand as an ongoing property?
There’s a possibility that it could do both, in the same manner that The Force Awakens resuscitated Star Wars, and in the process transform the series from an ongoing story to a multi-movie franchise.
Here’s how it could be done.
Say Goodbye to Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
It worked pretty well in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so let’s see a beloved Harrison Ford character die onscreen in Indy 5 as well. Sure, that’ll create problems for the continuity obsessives — an older Indy appeared in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series, played by George Hall, in introductory material set at some ill-defined point in the 1990s. But there’s no better way to allow the Indy property to move beyond Harrison Ford’s involvement than to write him out of it.
Moreover, a death will serve the greater purpose no matter what Lucasfilm wants to do with the franchise afterward. If it’s to bring an end to the series entirely, then it allows for a grand, tragic finale. If it’s to continue under new stewardship, then The Force Awakens has ably demonstrated the value of a noble sacrifice by the old guard, if handled properly.
(Of course, if someone wants to get Adam Driver to play Indy’s son, who turns bad and then stabs him on a bridge, it would be fair to assume that Lucasfilm was trolling everyone.)
Say Hello to a New Indiana Jones
Sean Patrick Flanery in TV’s The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series
While he’s obviously the Indy in the hearts of all fans, Ford is far from the only actor to bring Henry Walton Jones to life onscreen — in addition to George Hall, he’s also been played by River Phoenix, Sean Patrick Flanery and Corey Carrier (in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, respectively). Those latter three have all been established via flashbacks from the main timeline, a device that allows for Lucasfilm, should it wish, to set up a series of prequel movies featuring a new, younger Indy in Indy 5.
A plot that centered around Ford’s older Indy having to solve a mystery that the younger, played-by-a-new-actor-to-be-determined Indy stumbled across decades earlier allows producers to legitimize a new Indiana in the eyes of fans via a “team-up” that could set up future movies taking place before 1935, as it does in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Think of them as A Star Wars Story except with men with good hats and bullwhips instead of Sith Lords.
Say Hello to a New Generation of Joneses
Shia LeBeouf in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Regardless of whether or not Ford’s Jones reaches the end of his time in Indy 5, it’ll be nearly impossible to continue the series past that point without introducing a new protagonist to handle the majority of the action scenes. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull recognized this and introduced Shia LeBeouf’s Mutt, Indy’s son, in response — except that he ended up a character that didn’t exactly delight longtime fans of the series.
Indy 5 could try and rehabilitate Mutt in some way. Frankly, just cutting back on his “rebellious” attitude and making him a fraction more sympathetic would do wonders, although given the response LeBeouf apparently brings out of people, simply recasting the role might help. Bringing in a new character altogether to take on the role is another option. Something that won Star Wars: The Force Awakens a great deal of goodwill was its shift away from white male hero figures with its new additions. Given the love that Indiana Jones fandom has for Karen Allen’s hard-drinkin‘, hard-fightin‘ Marion in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s difficult to believe that bringing in a new female protagonist isn’t the way to go this time around.
Lean Into the Nostalgia Appeal, but Not Too Much
Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Even by 1957 in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the series was veering into an era that feels closer to “today” than the WWII-setting of the original movies. Assuming that the next movie will take place in the 1960s (which seems relatively safe, considering the real-world aging process of the cast), the audience is likely to be extremely familiar with much of the cultural landscape of the surroundings through oldies radio stations, TV and movie reruns or simply having been around for the real things themselves. So why not embrace that?
This has the potential to go wrong, of course. No-one really wants to watch Indiana Jones and the Real Reason Behind the Horrors of Altamont, surely. But in a series known for its casual comedy as much as its tongue-in-cheek derring-do, the idea that there isn’t smart, simple humor to be mined from Easter eggs relating to culture (or, following the X-Men: First Class/Days of Future Past school of thought, the fashions) that we all know and to some degree love feels misguided at best.
Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Look, I’ll be the first to agree that it’s a seemingly arbritrary distinction, but while the biblical and otherwise magical Macguffins of the first three Indiana Jones movies were permissible, something just felt weirdly off about bringing aliens into Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Keep your sci-fi peanut butter away from our supernatural chocolate in future, thank you very much. Leave that stuff for The X-Files, OK?
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