This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Who knew that was coming? You might have been wondering Disney would do with Lucasfilm’s other big franchise since it acquired the rights from Paramount in 2013, but yesterday saw the unexpected announcement that July 19th, 2019 will see Steven Spielberg direct Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones for the fifth time, a full 11 years after the late, lamented fourth instalment, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
The announcement has come relatively quickly on the heels of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in which Ford was top-billed as Han Solo. The overwhelming success and, more importantly, good reception for that film will probably have been a big factor in making this a ‘legacy-quel’ rather than a straight reboot, as many had anticipated instead.
Coming over a decade after Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones 5 is arguably in the same spot that Star Wars: The Force Awakens enjoyed, in having to follow something that didn’t go down well with something a bit better. More than that, Spielberg is directing, rather than taking a producing role and appointing a successor to the director’s seat, as he did with last summer’s Jurassic World, which tells us that there’s something more interesting going on here.
In short, we have a good feeling about this. But we have some questions too and speculation is already running rampant about what Disney, Ford and Spielberg have in store. Will Indy and Short Round be searching for the Garden of Eden? Or Excalibur? Will our hero run up against the Beatles in India or get wrapped in a break-in at the Watergate Hotel? As of right now, it feels like anything is possible, but from a practical standpoint, what kind of film is a fifth Indiana Jones adventure likely to be?
We had some thoughts on whether or not Disney should reboot the franchise, when we concluded that they would either have to make this film or reboot the series. This is our look at what we know so far and our answers to some of the possible scenarios in the fifth big-screen outing for Henry Jones Jr.
What do we know so far?
“I always knew someday you’d come walking back through my door. I never doubted that.”
From the press release that’s been issued alone, we’ve got the star, the director, and the release date – and that’s all that’s confirmed. But it’s naturally not the first time since 2008 that there has been speculation about another sequel – everyone from Crystal Skull cinematographer Janusz Kamiński to Disney CEO Bob Iger has been telling us that it’s going to happen – so we know a few things about where the filmmakers and producers stand.
First and foremost, there’s no mention of George Lucas in the press release, which would suggest that he’s not involved in this fifth crack of the whip. He was said to be “in think mode” about the story at the time of the last film’s release, but Lucas has since announced he won’t make any more blockbusters, focusing on other, non-franchise pictures.
“Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” he said in a 2012 interview with The New York Times, specifically referring to the heavy criticism that his Star Wars prequel trilogy came in for with fans.
Still, in the same piece, he said that he was leaving himself some wiggle room if a fifth Indy film transpired. Later that year, he sold Lucasfilm to Disney for a cool $4.05 billion, leaving control of the company to long-term collaborator Kathleen Kennedy. It remains to be seen if he’ll be tempted out of retirement to work on this one in any capacity, but looking at his hands-off approach to Star Wars, we suspect that he might take the same approach to his other big franchise from here on out.
As for the series’ other two arbiters, Ford and Spielberg have both been saying they wanted to make this movie since the last one came out and we all clearly jumped the gun on the reboot speculation. Chris Pratt was heavily linked to the role, but his plate will be full for the foreseeable future with Marvel and Jurassic World sequels – even if many see him as the heir apparent to the whip and the fedora, Disney will probably have to look elsewhere in the meantime. Meanwhile, both Spielberg and producer Frank Marshall have re-asserted that there is no Indy without the actor who made him iconic.
“We’re not doing the Bond thing where we’re going to call somebody else Indiana Jones,” producer Frank Marshall told Total Film in October last year, referring back to the character who originally inspired Indy. 007 has been constantly rejuvenated over the last 50 years, something that Crystal Skull ruled out to a certain extent by having Ford reprise the role 20 years after Last Crusade. On that note, we also know that John Rhys Davies is up for playing Sallah again, and while we can’t draw a line between that recent interview and this announcement, maybe he was the missing piece of the puzzle all along.
In summary, we know that we’re picking up some time after the previous film, with an older and wiser hero taking on another adventure and, likely, setting up the next era of the franchise. Sounds familiar…
Following Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
“We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”
There’s little doubt that Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is the weakest Indiana Jones film to date, by a country mile, but also, it’s arguably far from the completely terrible movie that online chatter and, yes, the writers of that episode of South Park have painted it. Either way, few people involved have been especially defensive about it, so we wonder how they’ll learn from it as much as how they’ll set about making a sequel to it.
That film’s long and labored development process reportedly came down to the three main movers’ dissatisfaction with the script, which introduced aliens into the series’ mythology. After many drafts, it also wound up setting up Indy’s son Mutt Williams (aka Henry Jones III) with Raiders Of The Lost Ark‘s Marion Ravenwood to take up the mantle of the hero in future instalments. While the original three films are pretty much standalone – Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom is a prequel and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade only makes passing references to the previous films – the Marion connection made this a direct sequel.
That passage of time is necessary because of Ford’s age, but it’s not to the film’s detriment. As Spielberg said to Entertainment Weekly at the time, “when a guy gets to be that age and he still packs the same punch, and he still runs just as fast and climbs just as high, he’s gonna be breathing a little heavier at the end of the set piece. And I felt, ‘let’s have some fun with that. Let’s not hide that.'”
If the fifth instalment follows suit in observing the real-time gap between sequels, then it will take place in the 1960s, specifically 1968. The Cuban missile crisis had happened and the Vietnam war was still raging on, but crucially, it would be the era in which the early Bond movies took place. While the Cold War intrigue provided a fitting update to the series’ antagonists, (Spielberg quite reasonably felt unable to satirize or caricature the Nazis again after making Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan) we would suspect that the next one may not be so much of a period piece as a genre throwback.
We know there’ll be a McGuffin as usual and as the series moves away from its 1930s roots into more recent memory, we think we’ll learn more from what that artifact may be than when the film will be set. If we’re wrong and you didn’t like the space stuff in the last one, start worrying about how close the math would put this film to the moon landing.
But wherever Indy’s adventures take him, we’ll have to see if his family has as big a role next time around. He marries Marion at the end of Crystal Skull and we’re fairly certain we’ll see Karen Allen reprise her role in some capacity. But then he also connects with his secret son Mutt, and we’re 99% certain that Shia LaBeouf won’t be back.
There are any number of reasons why not, from the universally bad reaction to his character and performance, to his subsequent comments about Ford and Spielberg letting down fans and the franchise, (which prompted Ford to call him “a fucking idiot”) but mostly it’s because he’s followed Lucas’ example and retired from acting in blockbuster movies, embarking upon altogether more interesting pursuits in elevator-based performance art and cultivating his own internet memes.
They’ll have to at least mention him, even if they have to go so far as killing him off or recasting him. The endings of the last two films in a row are explicitly about Indy becoming less of a Bond-like figure and learning that he’s not necessarily better off adventuring on his own – he literally lets go of the Holy Grail to take his father’s hand, and then marries the love of his life in the next one.
But overall, outside of Ford, we don’t think that returning cast members and previous plot developments necessarily mean that continuity is going to be an issue – they have to at least mention Mutt, but they don’t have to address the aliens, the vine-swinging or the refrigerator in the midst of a new adventure. With all of the disproportionate bad will towards the previous instalment, it might be best to make a film that stands alone, rather than playing as a direct sequel.
The Ford Awakens: What About Star Wars?
“There has been an awakening.”
Save for a brief mention of a clone army, Star Wars: The Force Awakens contains no references to the prequel trilogy at all. With Han Solo at the forefront of a story about the next generation, it didn’t disregard what had gone before, but didn’t actively retcon it either. As different as they are in subject matter, there’s no more obvious blueprint for the return of Ford’s other franchise. They should start with bringing back Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders Of The Lost Ark) to write the script too, but there’s plenty to learn from it.
We mentioned that Indy 5 has the same job as The Force Awakens in moving swiftly onwards from the last effort, but actually, the similarities don’t stop there. Crystal Skull was equally if not even more maligned than the Star Wars prequels for its heavy use of CGI rather than the jaw-dropping practical effects and stunt work for which the previous films were so well known. Following JJ Abrams’ success in bringing a tactile atmosphere back to his entry in the saga, there will definitely be an emphasis on real locations and practical effects in the new film. The underrated The Adventures Of Tintin should be as close as we ever want Spielberg to get to a CGI Indiana Jones movie.
The film also stands as testament to Ford’s evergreen charisma. It’s his best performance as Han Solo, in part because it’s his first time leading the movie, but also due to a switched-on quality that we haven’t really seen from him since… well, the better parts of Crystal Skull. Even a much publicised on-set accident and a broken leg couldn’t dampen the vitality he has in that film, and as a re-proving ground for his leading man credentials, it left me eager to see him as Indy again – a character he has always openly preferred to his scruffy-looking nerf herder. The Force awakened right along with Ford and he seemed raring to go in every scene- that’s a good sign for this.
Of course, we don’t want it to follow The Force Awakens‘ example entirely. Even if it’s not an immediate sequel, we don’t need it to reiterate the story structure of previous instalments either and it would be nice to get a new new adventure. With no aliens. We can’t imagine them echoing Han Solo’s demise either – if fans lost their shit about Mutt almost picking up the fedora at the end of Crystal Skull, could you imagine the collective conniption we’d have at him running his dad through with a big sword?
All of this is to say that Disney are obviously hoping this does similar business as their last big nostalgia revival, but The Force Awakens also happened to kick off what will be an annual cycle of Star Wars sequels and spin-offs for the studio, including a Han-centric prequel in 2018. If Ford and Spielberg are in for this one, then how and where will the studio’s designs for this franchise develop?
Where Will Indiana Jones Go Next?
“I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go!”
At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, we wonder if the legacy-quel approach necessarily precludes a reboot thereafter. We can guess that Ford will probably still be fit enough to be doing this in his 90s, but what we don’t know is whether or not he and Spielberg will use their final (we presume) fling with the franchise to set up any future that Disney will certainly want for it.
An interesting scenario that was floated by Birth Movies Death around the time that Disney acquired the rights, was a movie with a Godfather Part II-style structure, jumping between parallel adventures in the story-present and in the 1930s, with a younger actor playing Indy, like an expanded take on the opening flashback from Last Crusade or a big screen version of the episode structure from the TV spin-off The Young Indiana Jones Adventures.
But that proposal is even more similar to what we’ve since learned about the premise of Len Wiseman’s Die Hard: Year One. The John McClane origin story is currently without a release date, but it’s likely to beat Indiana Jones 5 to the big screen at the rate it’s going – the two-tier structure is popular with Indy fans online, but we don’t know if plans would change if a similar sequel pipped them to the post.
Personally, I’m curious about that idea too, but if I had to guess, I don’t think it will happen, for one simple reason – everyone involved keeps telling us that there is no Indy other than Harrison Ford and they’re the ones making the movie. Perhaps if this were a producer-led franchise, like the Bond movies, we’d have had the George Lazenby and the Roger Moore and about 12 more instalments by now. But the series is, and will continue to be (at least once more) driven by Spielberg the director rather than Spielberg the producer.
With Disney in charge, that may well change after this one – after all, there’s that Han Solo spin-off in the pipeline and Spielberg may well join the producers’ ranks of the inevitable Indy reboot. But somehow we struggle to imagine him directing Chris Pratt or Hugh Jackman or Ryan Reynolds as 1930s Indy in the middle of an adventure with the older hero.
Spielberg and Ford have earned first refusal and now that Disney are doing something with the franchise they built, they’re taking it on again. We likely won’t hear much more about this until Spielberg is doing press rounds for The BFG this summer, but we’re just excited that they’re back. They would probably stand to make just as much money as producers or creative consultants on a reboot, so they must feel like they have at least one more in them- in particular, after Spielberg only produced Jurassic World and passed the director’s seat onto Colin Trevorrow.
Just as Last Crusade was intended as something of a correction to the much darker Temple Of Doom, so this fifth film could serve as a return to form after the last one. Even in its worst moments, Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is still an Indiana Jones movie, and as fans of the series, it’s still hard not to get excited at the prospect of a new Indy adventure…