Everyone is keenly aware that circumstances have changed for our dear Dr. Jones as we head into the fifth (and ostensibly final) Indiana Jones film. For starters, director Steven Spielberg opted for the first time in the franchise’s history to relinquish the director’s reins, leaving the still untitled Indiana Jones 5 in the hands of director James Mangold. Additionally, Harrison Ford’s beloved fedora-wearing alter-ego is no longer the youthful underdog from the original trilogy of films in the 1980s. When last we saw Ford as Indiana, the actor was already 66. And that was in 2008.
He’ll be just a few weeks shy of 81 when Indiana Jones 5 rolls into theaters next year. Yet, to hear Ford and Mangold tell it, that’s the advantage that makes a fifth and final Indy adventure worth following.
“I just thought it would be nice to see one where Indiana Jones was at the end of his journey,” Ford recently told Empire magazine while promoting the film. “If a script came along that I felt gave me a way to extend the character.”
His new director agreed, later adding, “It became really important to me to figure out how to make this a movie about a hero at sunset… The issues I brought up about Indy’s age were not things I thought were being addressed in the material being developed at the time. There were ‘old’ jokes, but the material itself wasn’t about it. To me, whatever you greatest liability, you should fly straight towards that. If you try to pretend it’s not there, you end up getting slings and arrows the whole way.”
Mangold’s instinct is perhaps not surprising for fans of the director’s work. While he does not go back quite as far as Spielberg and Ford, Mangold made a name for himself by doing thoughtful and thorough genre-deconstruction work with films like the cynical cop thriller Cop Land (1997). And while the filmmaker is not adverse from leaning into the mythic, as seen in his reverential biopic of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005), or in his old school Western throwback to parables about morality in a lawless land, 3:10 to Yuma (2007), he seems most in his element by burrowing down to what makes the iconography tick.
In this vein, perhaps the biggest warm up for Indy was co-writing and directing Logan, a hard R-rated character study of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine persona that, indeed, provided a poignant sunset for the character in 2017.
Closing the book on Logan was difficult, but at least the checkered onscreen legacy of the X-Men gave him room to play. That space is arguably nothing though when compared to the generally adored Indiana Jones iconography that goes all the way back to Steven Spielberg’s seminal Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). But Mangold is more than a director-for-hire and clearly thinks he has something to say about helping Ford steer Indy toward a fitting conclusion.
The new film also has a lot of attention for a cast that includes Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Antonio Banderas, Boyd Holbrook, and Shaunette Renée Wilson. John Rhys-Davies’ fan favorite, Sallah, is also expected to make a return. But will Indy find peace in the film’s late 1960s setting? We’ll find out when Indiana Jones 5 opens on June 30, 2023.