Ditched Indiana Jones Ideas That Might Appear in Indy 5

Lots of ideas for the Indiana Jones films to date haven't yet made it to the screen - so could Indiana Jones 5 use them?

As the July 2019 release date inches closer, we still have no idea what will feature in Indiana Jones 5, that was confirmed earlier this year. If the earlier sequels are anything to go by though, there’s a good chance we’ll see some discarded concepts from previously ditched drafts. 

You might think this kind of cobbling together of earlier ideas is what led to the rather messy Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. However, as of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, we were seeing scenes that Lucas and Spielberg hadn’t been able to fit into Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The stopover in Shanghai was originally considered during the Raiders story conferences, as was the climactic mine cart ride. The speedboat scene, tank fight and quest for eternal life in Indiana Jones And The The Last Crusade can be found in the unused Indiana Jones And The Monkey King script, while the fridge as a means of escaping a nuclear detonation can be found in the Indiana Jones And The Saucer Men From Mars screenplay that’s lurking online. Once they get their hands on a property, Disney certainly has form for discarding that which has previously been earmarked for a franchise (see George Lucas’ original ideas for Star Wars: Episode VII).  But that’s not to say they’ll ignore any ideas that have been lurking in the back of Spielberg’s mind since he first read them in one of the many Indiana Jones drafts. What follows is a list of some of the most intriguing ideas that have been suggested, their original location and my thoughts on whether they’d work in 2019. 

An evil character with a robotic arm

Original appearance: Raiders story conference, Ron Cobb concept art, Chris Columbus’ The Monkey King draft. At one point in Raiders‘ genesis, the character of Toht had a robotic arm with machine gun and flamethrower attachments. Initially considered a bit too science fiction, the idea appeared again when Chris Columbus wrote a screenplay for the third film, titled Indiana Jones And The Monkey KingWould it work? It’s entirely possible the new Indiana Jones movie will take place in the 1960s. If the 50s-set film included sci-fi ideas from films of the era, the idea of a Bond-like henchman in a 60s-set film is indeed possible. However, this idea was eventually used in 2009. The character of Helmut von Mephisto had a mechanical arm in the expanded universe novel, Indiana Jones And The Mystery Of Mount Sinai. While such material is probably no longer canon (if indeed it ever was), I can imagine Disney not wanting to go there in a hurry.

Motorcycle chase over the Great Wall of China

Original appearance: George Lucas’ initial treatment for the second film.

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At one point, Lucas himself suggested the idea of a motorcycle chase along the Great Wall of China. It didn’t appear in any scripts easily sourced online, but it’s certainly a striking image. You can find details about this in John Baxter’s 1999 book Mythmaker: The Life And Work Of George LucasWould it work?  This would be a great idea, except for the fact that Angelina Jolie already did it in the second Tomb Raider movie. That being said, Hollywood’s current affection for Chinese box office returns means that we may well have the fifth film heading to that part of the world. 

A lost valley of the dinosaurs

Original appearance: George Lucas’ treatment for the second film. There were a lot of ideas thrown about for the first Indiana Jones sequel (which eventually became a prequel). One of them (also mentioned in Baxter’s book) involved Indy stumbling upon a valley of dinosaurs, as suggested by Lucas.  Would it work? Probably not. The idea was riffing on Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and you’d expect that Spielberg is finished with directing dinosaurs (especially since he already used that title) not to mention the ongoing Jurassic Park sequels he produces. Consider also that Ford turned down the Dr Alan Grant role in Jurassic Park on the basis that he didn’t want to play both an archaeologist and a palaeontologist.  Then again, back in the day we thought that aliens were unlikely in an Indy film…

A biplane fight

Original appearance: Frank Darabont’s Indiana Jones And The City Of The Gods script. If you haven’t already checked out Darabont’s submission for Indy IV, I strongly suggest you seek it out. I really, really enjoyed this script, even though I was one of those people who didn’t mind Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull too much. Darabont’s script featured a scene in which Indy and Marion, piloting a biplane above the Nazca Lines, engage in a dogfight with an enemy plane. This scene dialled the action up significantly, with Indy at various points leaping from plane to plane, and even hanging off the wing strut whilst the enemy tried to drive his propeller towards our hero’s flailing feet. Would it work? Depends. Ford’s age means that the more extreme stunts are less likely, so any running/jumping/acrobatics are probably off the table. That’s not to say he can’t be flying a plane, however, with an offsider doing the more energetic work.

Indy being swallowed by a giant snake

Original appearance: Frank Darabont’s City Of The Gods script. There are a few beats that are present in each one of the Indy films, and his fear of snakes is probably the most obvious. In wanting to take Indy’s phobia to the next level, Darabont actually had the man swallowed whole by a giant snake, only to escape by cutting his way out with a machete. Would it work? As absurd as it sounds, all you need for this is a pitch-perfect performance from Ford. I can actually imagine the look on Indy’s face as he emerges.  Is it a shark jump? Most definitely. But in a franchise that has already nuked the fridge, is this really too much?

Chase through a museum

Original appearance: Frank Darabont’s City Of The Gods script. An early scene in City Of The Gods sees Indy being chased through a museum after closing time by an assassin.  This offered ample opportunity for some artefacts from his earlier adventures to pop up, and eventually sees Indy and his pursuer ascending a clock tower and running across rooftops. Would it work? Very much so. The idea of an ageing Indy being a relic of a bygone age is surely something the fifth film will toy with, and this setting offers some great opportunities for spooky, noir-ish shadows and a tense hide-and-seek scenario. There’s also ample opportunity for a throwback joke to Marcus Brody getting lost in his own museum.

Indy being attacked by giant gorillas

Original appearance: The Monkey King; a prologue to an early Last Crusade draft. Chris Columbus’ script for Indiana Jones And The Monkey King was… um, kind of extreme. Not only did it have Indy riding a rhino into battle against a tank (it makes sense when you read it, I promise), but it also featured an army of giant gorillas. Said gorillas actually end up battling Nazis – a striking image if ever there was one. An early draft of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade also featured our hero fighting gorillas in an attempt to secure Montezuma’s mask. Would it work? It didn’t work out so well for 1995’s Congo (although regular readers may well be aware of our fondness for Congo), but if someone gave Andy Serkis a call, I’m sure this could turn out great. However, with the ongoing Planet Of The Apes series and the upcoming Kong Island, Spielberg may want to steer clear of this. 

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The search for Abner Ravenwood

Original appearance: Part of the original idea George Lucas had for a Raiders sequel. Back when the second film was going to be a sequel, rather than a prequel, there was the possibility that Indy would be searching for Marion’s father, Abner Ravenwood.

Considering that he supposedly died in an avalanche and no body was ever recovered, it’s kind of surprising the movies thus far haven’t dealt with this. The Complete Making Of Indiana Jones quotes Raiders‘ scribe, Lawrence Kasdan, as claiming he deliberately left this possibility open. In the early days following Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull‘s announcement, there were rumors circling that John Hurt’s character may have been Abner, only for him to be revealed as a new character. Two issues of The Further Adventures Of Indiana Jones comics, published by Marvel in the ’80s, actually dabbled with the idea that Abner was still alive back also. Would it work? At first blush, this seems impossible, considering how old Indy and Marion would be in the fifth film. Then again, if Abner’s disappearance had something magical about it, then it becomes more likely.  The best ideas would have to be those that take Indiana Jones somewhere different. The search for Abner would feel too much like a mix of Last Crusade and Crystal Skull, so that is perhaps best avoided. The chase through a museum after dark gets my vote for the best idea here, particularly if it begins by focussing on suspense before leaping into action. The biplane fight can work, depending on how they handle it (read: avoiding the mistakes made in Crystal Skull‘s jungle chase) whilst the absurdity of Indy facing his worst nightmare in the form of a giant snake certainly has comedic potential.

What do you think? Would any of these ideas work? Let us know in the comments below.