Should Disney reboot the Indiana Jones series?

Feature Mark Harrison 17 Dec 2013 - 06:41

Disney's bought the rights to make more Indiana Jones films. Is it time for a reboot?

Raiders Of The Lost Ark is my favourite film of all time. It's just as vital and entertaining as it was when it was made, over thirty years ago. While neither The Temple Of Doom or The Last Crusade are up to the standard of the original, they're both almost as good, in different ways, almost serving as a Superman III style split of the darkness and lightness of Raiders, into two separate entities.

I love Indiana Jones so much, I can't even completely hate Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. To many, that may seem contradictory, but to me, it's a bit like a late-era Roger Moore Bond film, or Die Hard 4.0 - not an bad film, just a bad Indiana Jones film. Even having said all that, it's interesting to play devil's advocate in reaction to recent developments.

On Friday, it was announced that Disney had fully acquired the rights to make future Indiana Jones films, as part of the LucasFilm deal. It's interesting that in all of the talk about Star Wars: Episode VII in the last twelve months, few have asked if there'd be more Indy on the cards. Did we all think that they'd just leave it alone?

Over the weekend, Disney's chairman Alan Horn told the press that a new Indy film would be at least two to three years away, and added "there will surely be new Indiana Jones movies in the future, be they sequels or reboots, and when they do come to fruition, Lucasfilm will be producing".

The three leading creative talents behind the series - director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas and leading man Harrison Ford - have all been talking about another Indiana Jones sequel to some extent or another since the fourth one came out in 2008. If anything, Ford seems much more eager to reprise this role than he is about the possibility of revisiting Han Solo in JJ Abrams' new film.

Realistically speaking, there are probably executives at Disney who would like to reboot the series, but there won't be many film fans out there who are interested in the prospect of anyone else playing Indiana Jones while Harrison Ford is still willing and able.

To go back to the Die Hard comparison, a straight-out fifth film would not necessarily be commensurate with the disaster that was A Good Day To Die Hard. Ford clearly cares too much about the character to ever phone it in like Bruce Willis.

Even if he were further hemmed in by Shia LaBeouf, CGI monkeys and the sheer expanse of time that has gone by since his heyday as a leading man, it's fair to say that most would still prefer another sequel, to a reboot with a younger actor.

On the other hand, revisiting the Roger Moore comparison, Steven Spielberg initially conceived of Indy after the Broccolis spurned his desire to direct a Bond film. Even if you're the kind of cineaste who believes that Hollywood films have gradually become more creatively bankrupt since the advent of the Lucas/Spielberg-led blockbuster movement, at least there was some innovation there.

One of the problems with originality in current blockbuster cinema is nostalgia, because Hollywood is unfettered by any kind of deferral of satisfaction. Just as Spielberg couldn't make a Bond film, George Lucas' difficulty in acquiring the rights to Flash Gordon gave us Star Wars. Nowadays, directors can clamber aboard reboots or belated sequels to films they were watching when they were kids, because they've become properties that studios are eager to monetise again.

However, the Bond films rebooted every few years, in recasting the lead role. Where Indiana Jones has differed from 007, however, is in the same actor playing the role over three decades. It would be much harder to change actors while keeping the same façade of continuity at this point. We all know it; Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones.

As I said though, the prospect of playing devil's advocate is too tempting. If you have to reboot it, and you rule out magically de-aging Ford in some top secret machine at Disneyland, who do you cast as the man in the hat in an Indiana Jones movie for the 2010s?

Even having already acknowledged that Ford's performance is indelible, it's tough to try and recast without looking for someone like him. To think like an executive, and turn around and say “We have the rights to do what we want, let's reboot this”, perhaps the most obvious casting choice would be Hugh Jackman.

In his mid-40s, he's only a little older than Harrison Ford was when he took the role, but he looks the part, and he'd also be coming into the role from another iconic turn in a geek property (Han Solo and Wolverine, respectively.)

We know that Indy would probably be younger in a reboot than he was in Raiders, because it ain't the years, honey, it's the mileage. I've seen some suggest Chris Pine of Star Trek fame, but you probably wouldn't cast William Shatner as Indy either.

Pine's co-star Karl Urban would probably be a better fit for the role. Again, older, but given how the internet response to any attempt at recasting will be roughly a million times more vitriolic than the recent Bat-fleck farrago, a fan favourite like Urban would probably have the most cushion-y landing on fanboy ears.

It's fair to assume that they wouldn't try to outright remake Raiders, because in terms of filmmaking, that's probably the difference between heresy and face-melting sacrilege. A reboot would inevitably tread over some of the same beats from the original trilogy, but there's a plethora of McGuffins from unmade sequel scripts, which could easily lend to new adventures set in the 1930s and 1940s - Excalibur, the Round Table, Atlantis, and the Garden of Eden, to name but a few.

Ultimately, Spielberg and Ford probably have to pass on doing a fifth film, or actually make it, and properly round off their run, before we see any movement on a reboot. This means we'll probably see Shia LaBeouf in another Indiana Jones movie before we see a new Indy, and which is the less palatable prospect?

In a pre-Crystal Skull universe, a reboot would be unthinkable. Now that the fourth film exists, we might need a reboot just to be safe in knowing that LaBeouf isn't going to take over the franchise as Henry Jones III. We'll leave that nasty little possibility in the “face-melting sacrilege” pile.

Despite taking its inspiration from James Bond, we have to conclude that casting Jackman or Urban or Andrew Lincoln or Ryan Gosling (etc. etc.) in the lead role of the Indiana Jones franchise would not be the same as Roger Moore replacing Sean Connery. It's not an unthinkable prospect, but Disney can't ignore first refusal on the part of Spielberg, Lucas and Ford.

What do you think? Would you rather see a reboot of Indy, or another sequel? If you had to make Indiana Jones today, who would you cast in the lead role?

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