Indiana Jones, Part 4: Can they? Should they?

They like it! They really like it! reports that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have both finally agreed upon a new script for a fourth Indiana Jones film… one written by Jeff Nathanson.

And that leaves fans with one super-sized question….


Nathanson wrote the sentimental, uneven, largely forgettable film The Terminal. Oh, yeah… he also wrote Speed 2: Cruise Control and Rush Hour 2. The one genuine feather in his cap is Catch Me If You Can, which was delightful and spirited, but still a far cry from Raiders of the Lost Ark. This script had better be a giant leap forward.

“Should I…? Or shouldn’t I?”

Personally, I think the idea stinks. The Indy trilogy is a hit and miss affair as it is… It started spectacularly strong with Raiders, slumped into unpleasantly dark and indulgently violent territory with Temple of Doom, and then sprang back up with Last Crusade, a Looney Toons version that was fun but far less compelling than Raiders.

And with George Lucas’s idea of an “acceptable script” these days, the fact that he’s approved one at last… especially one by the guy who wrote Speed 2… well, let’s just say we shouldn’t get our hopes up.

Furthermore, if the script is about Indy as an old man, then I can only assume the film will deal with his approach to the final frontier… the great mystery of death. And with Lucas’s strange mishmash of ideas about the afterlife, mixed with Spielberg’s sentimentality, it’ll be a pleasant surprise if the film ends up meaning anything at all.

Notice I haven’t brought up Harrison Ford’s track record as an actor in recent years. (Trying to suppress any memories of Hollywood Homicide.)

But hey, if making Match Point in London has given Woody Allen the kind of inspiration he’s been lacking for decades (and according to reports from Cannes, this is exactly the case), perhaps placing our fedora-wearing hero in a new context will be the thing that can steer these three great talents back to their strengths. I’m sure we have years to wait and to wonder. In the meantime, I hope Lucas will be more interested in collaboration… and in script revisions… this time around than he was with the Star Wars prequels.

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  • Anonymous

    While I agree with all of you in certain ways, I sort of think your all crazy. First of all I agree that Raiders is the best film,but the other two films are always going to be classic, the trilogy works very well, and as far as Harrison Ford the man is one of the greatest actors out there. To say he’s not is saying that you know nothing about acting.

  • Adam Walter

    I suppose there’s no sign of this sort of thing letting up anytime soon. IFC Blog reports that in his new film, “Von Trier acknowledges that it’s ‘quite clear’ that the film can be seen as alluding to President Bush’s efforts to impose democracy in Iraq.” And I was particularly sad to see Sayles dirty himself with propaganda last year–I haven’t bothered to see Silver City, but heard him ranting about it.

    About Cronenberg’s perversion… What Hurt says makes sense, though Crash is one of the few films that I absolutely regret having seen. He and Lynch are both fascinated with perversion, but most of the time (and I only say “most of the time”) their work doesn’t indulge in perversion to a gratuitous degree. I remember Cronenberg’s interview in David Breskin’s book Inner Views, where Cronenberg talks about being fascinated by the idea of certain perversions, but he also says something about how the cold, hard reality of human nature and the human condition prevent him from ever wanting to actually experience these things.

    For the most part, both Cronenberg and Lynch avoid the greater depths of cinematic perversity–that is, such depths as I’ve had the misfortune to experience in brief encounters with Harmony Korine and Francois Ozon. (Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer, though made one of the more repulsive films I’ve seen: Boxing Helena.) I also worry that Von Trier is tending this way, with his hyper-cynicism and the way he seems to delight in sadistic treatment of his characters, but I haven’t seen his last couple films (I lost interest in him quickly after he got away from the aesthetic he employed in the Europe Trilogy and the Kingdom stuff). From what I’ve seen, he’s becoming a fairly heartless, frigid artist.

    The big question for me, with regard to Lynch and Cronenberg, is whether they could tell their stories without the extreme content they typically use. Could mere suggestion accomplish the same effect? Maybe not entirely, but they could certainly check themselves every once in a while, reining in their darkling curiosity. At the very least, though, I have to give them credit for not using things like nudity for cheap laughs and the shock-factor, as the Coen brothers have done on occasion in the past few years–starting with that brief motel scene in Fargo.

    Gosh, sorry to go on so.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Yes, I’ve read a few.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    I just saw A History of Violence. And while I cannot comment on the film until its release date, I have to say I have no clue where this Dubya stuff is coming from. Is that angle actually being pursued in the commentaries coming out of the Toronto film festival!?

  • Skipster

    Besides the “old Indy” in the “Young Indiana Chronicles” there was a surprise appearance by Harrison Ford as a 1965 version of his famous fedora crowned character.

    Ford’s Indy appeared with a Grizzly Adams beard, and was driving an old pickup truck in the height of the episode’s pre-log. He wasn’t wearing an eyepatch, so apparently the loss of his vision/eye had not occurred, yet.

    Unfortunately, it was a “ratings appearance” that added nothing of significance to the Indiana Jones mythos. It was almost as if Lucas begged Ford to reprise his role “just one more time” when the series was failing. Just a gimmick to boost the ratings.

    You kind of wonder if thats what the new one would be like, but who knows?

  • Paula

    Raiders was a good story. But in my opinion, the only thing holding Last Crusade up was Sean Connery playing Indy’s father. There was finally someone with some class in an Indiana Jones movie. Temple of Doom was a stinker.

  • Chris Durnell

    Raiders is really the only good film. Does anyone like Temple of Doom? And while Crusade gave a rush in the theatre, it does not hold up well with repeated viewing. To speak of it as a “trilogy” is preposterous. Only Raiders counts.

    I long ago gave up on Harrison Ford acting. Outside of Han Solo, he gives rather lifeless performances. That’s true even of classic movies like Blade Runner (my favorite) and Witness. I think it’s obscured by peopel subconsciously thinking, “Cool, it’s Han Solo again” while watching his movies. The turning point for me was Regarding Henry when I actually thought, this guy can’t act.

  • Glenn

    I’m filled with trepidation over the whole thing too. I have to admit to much more plebian movie tastes, and I loved the original movies, though I would agree with your assessment of each of them. So part of me would love to see a new one. Then again, I have this sinking suspicion that it would be awful, not least because of the reasons that Peter cited.

    And you’d think money wouldn’t really be a factor, I mean how much more do Lucas or Spielberg really need. Then again, that never really stops anyone either.

    Though I don’t think the new Star Wars flicks are as bad as everyone else, maybe Lucas just has the desire to continually tinker with his stories, the Indy series being no exception perhaps.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Hmmm, could Indy really die, though? I never watched the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, but I thought a considerably older version of him introduced the episodes there. Maybe this new movie will show how he got his eyepatch.

    Here’s a weird thing to consider: If, in the fourth film, Indiana Jones is roughly the same age as Harrison Ford is now, then the fourth film will take place in the early 1960s, or almost exactly around the same time American Graffiti, George Lucas’s first collaboration with Ford and their first big hit, took place; it would not take place anywhere near the Nazi era or the 1930s or the era of Saturday matinee cliffhangers that inspired the Indiana Jones series in the first place.

    It’s almost enough to make me ask, “What’s the point?” But I guess those who have watched the Young Indy series are already used to the idea of adventures taking place outside that narrow timespan.