Will Indy regain his soul in ‘Indiana Jones 5’?

Will Indy regain his soul in ‘Indiana Jones 5’? March 15, 2016


Looks like it’s time to dust off the fedora, grab the whip and maybe shine up that walker. Because Indy’s coming back, and he’s gonna be old.

Walt Disney Pictures sent out the following release today:

Indiana Jones will return to the big screen on July 19, 2019, for a fifth epic adventure in the blockbuster series. Steven Spielberg, who directed all four previous films, will helm the as-yet-untitled project with star Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role. Franchise veterans Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce.

“Indiana Jones is one of the greatest heroes in cinematic history, and we can’t wait to bring him back to the screen in 2019,” said Alan Horn, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s rare to have such a perfect combination of director, producers, actor and role, and we couldn’t be more excited to embark on this adventure with Harrison and Steven.”

Famed archaeologist and explorer Indiana Jones was introduced in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark – one of AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time – and later thrilled audiences in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The four films have brought in nearly $2 billion at the global box office.

July 19, 2019. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was released in 1981; I was 2 years old. This fifth film will be released a week before my 40th birthday. And if I’m feeling old, how must Harrison Ford be feeling? He’ll be 77 years by the time Indy’s dodging snakes again.

Of course, none of this is surprising. Ford’s return as Han Solo was a large part of the excitement surrounding “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which is now the highest-grossing movie of all time in the United States. And while it was the new characters who made the biggest impression on me, I have to admit that it was great fun to watch Ford wear the vest again. More than that, the actor seemed energize by the fanfare surrounding the film. His television interviews were livelier than they’d been in years and he even took part in some stunts surrounding the event. Ford seems to realize how important his legacy is, and for the first time I feel like he grew fond of his iconic status instead of treating it like a shackle.

And I love the character of Indiana Jones. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is my all-time favorite movie, and one of the best examples of what blockbuster film-making can accomplish. Ford might be moving a bit slower, but “The Force Awakens” proved he can still summon that spark. And Spielberg continues to be one of our greatest directors, still alternating between Oscar contenders like “Bridge of Spies” and blockbusters like “The BFG” and “Ready Player One.” So I know the elements are there for a good movie…it’s just that I remember “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and I think that maybe it’s time to Indy. I’ve even gone back on my thought that someone else could take on the role; if you read the making-of material for “Raiders,” Ford was instrumental in drawing out Indy’s personality. The character was originally seen as a fearless James Bond playboy. Ford brought vulnerability and humor to the character.

Listen, there’s hope. Ford was game to come back as Han Solo after years of distancing himself. And he’s always been particularly protective and fond of Indy. So I don’t doubt he’ll show up, so long as he stays healthy. As other critics have pointed out, Spielberg takes negative reviews personally. I suspect one of the reasons he’s so keen to do this last adventure is that he doesn’t want “Crystal Skull” to be the series’ legacy. And notice that there’s no mention of George Lucas in the press release. It doesn’t mean he’s not involved, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Disney politely distance itself from him as with Star Wars. Also absent from any notices: Shia LeBeouf.

I hope this is good, and I believe it can be. Spielberg’s still got it, and maybe the goodwill for “Star Wars,” “Mad Max,” etc. will mean the adventure’s undertaken with a little less CGI this time. But I think more than that, there’s one thing that could make this film work.

Indy needs to get his soul back.

There’s something much longer to write about this one day, but one of the reasons the first three movies work so well is that Indiana Jones has always mixed pulp adventure with comedy and a little bit of spiritual searching. Not enough to qualify as religious or preachy, but just enough to give the character shading and some inner conflict. In “Raiders,” he goes from not believing in “magic” and “supernatural hocus pocus” to coming face-to-face with the wrath of God. “Temple of Doom” flashes back to show how he went from caring only about “fortune and glory” to caring about the plight of a village’s children and returning the relics to their rightful place. “Last Crusade,” of course, has the fathers and sons text, but I there’s also a theme of faith, humility and selflessness running through Indy’s quest for the grail (I also once had a camp counselor who believed the film was evangelical). But “Crystal Skull” found Indy with nothing to press up against. He got a son and it didn’t soften or change him. Even Marion’s return was devoid of too many sparks. And I’d argue that Cate Blanchett’s quest to use the crystal skulls to expand her knowledge is a subplot that should have been mirrored in Indy; one last chance to learn answers, see something new. Instead, Indy seemed passive in his own story, a raider with a lost arc.

So I hope Spielberg pays attention to the spiritual subtext that’s always flown through the best Indiana Jones movies. And I hope that in three years I’m sitting in the theater ready to see a good Indy movie. I hope he can prove he’s more than just a dusty relic.

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