While many of my generation subscribed to the fandom religion of Star Wars, my great love went for Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first movie that I can remember seeing in theaters. Being three years old, I wasn’t paying too much attention to what would become my favorite movie series. All I can remember was the classic Boulder Chase scene and my mother desperately trying to cover my eyes while Nazi faces melted off (I was probably playing with my shoes at the time and had no idea what was going on).
Temple of Doom was one of the first VHS movies that I owned. And while I’m not much of a fan of it now, I watched it hundreds of times while I was younger. Last Crusade was brilliant, though cheesier than the first, and greatest, installment. And while the world loathed Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I was merely disappointed (I’m 50/50 on whether I dislike Indy 2 or 4 the most. It will require back to back viewings to decide). But Crystal Skull gave us a nice closure to Jones’ life as our whip-swinging hero. He’s old, he’s married, and he has an adult son that’s probably going to disappoint him.
Being a fan, many expected me to be thrilled when Spielberg announced that Indiana Jones 5 was green-lit with Ford in the lead. But I’m not. Frankly, I’m worried that there will be yet another bad Indy flick that stomps on the beauty of the character. Ford is simply too old for the role. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Crystal Skull went out of its way to hammer home that Indiana Jones is now old and the last thing I want to see is another two hours of Old Indy struggling to hold on to his former glory. It’s depressing.
So in order to keep Indiana Jones 5 from being just another sad case of Hollywood making a nostalgia cash-grab at an ageing franchise with aging actors, I have a few ideas that could make it the Indy movie that the character deserves.
1: Focus On His Son (No, The Other Son)
While Mutt grew up fencing at primary schools only to embrace his life as a Wild Ones wannabe, Short Round grew up as an orphan on the streets of Hong Kong until he failed his Pick Pocket roll on Dr. Jones. The last we see him is in 1935. So what happened to him? The last we knew he was going back to America with Indy.
What I want:
Short Round has become a kick-ass archaeologist. Think about it. He’s been adventuring his entire life. Now in his early 40’s, he comes back to dad with a problem and they have to go on one last adventure. This lets us have both Ford’s Indy and a younger version of the character that we can actually believe can swing around on a whip. Hell, bring back Mutt for a moment where he says, “Hey, Pop,” just so Short Round (I mean, Doctor Round, just because you KNOW he’s a doctor now) can throat-punch Shia LaBeouf and say, “You call him Doctor Jones.” Trust me, Hollywood, fans would lose their minds if this happened.
2: Re-cast Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones is the American James Bond. And when faced with an aging actor, the Bond franchise learned early on that they can just recast him. Yes, there’s a risk. Yes, there’s going to be fans that say that only Harrison Ford can play the character. But the simple truth is that Indiana Jones is a popular franchise owned by Disney. Disney is going to make more of them, so re-casting Indiana Jones is inevitable. It’s going to happen. So instead of digging our heels in like a child that doesn’t want to go to their first day of school, let’s embrace it.
What I want:
While Pratt and Cooper do look the part and could probably do an amazing job, they’re just not right for it. Both are handsome, rugged, and have good comedic timing. However, they also suffer from the fatal flaw that they are already established Hollywood stars. Their names alone draw crowds. If Pratt plays him, it’ll be Pratt. It won’t be Indy that just happens to be played by Pratt. We need an actor that isn’t already a super-star. We need a blank slate, an actor that comes in and makes us believe that he IS Indiana Jones.
Ford was nearly passed for the role because he was already too big of a star in Spielberg and Lucas’ eyes. When Tom Selleck wasn’t able to get out of his Magnum PI gig, they ended up going with Ford. I suspect that it was at that time that Lucas hatched the most genius casting plan of all time…
3: We Keep to the Plan
While it might be difficult to remember now, George Lucas was an insane genius when it came to storytelling. Some believe that his last great moment of genius was with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989. After that, he spent the 90’s screwing up Star Wars with Special Editions, until finally ending the millennium with the screaming dog turd that was The Phantom Menace.
However, just before his mind went out, George Lucas set in motion the greatest actor handover of all time. So in 1992, he began grooming Ford’s replacement by casting a young, unknown actor as Indiana Jones.
Sean Patrick Flanery played Indiana Jones for 22 episodes of the Adventures of the Young Indiana Jones. At 45 minutes an episode, that seals Flanery’s title as the man who has spent more hours playing the character than for anyone else alive. Now Flanery is old enough to embrace his destiny and step into the movie role that he’s spent over 20 years preparing for.
What I want:
Open the movie with Harrison’s old Indy. Give him an eye patch and some audience that asks him about some adventure in his past. Harrison sighs and begins to recount the time he once chased a magical MacGuffin. Have the scene fade as his voice continues and and we now see a familiar figure in a fedora on a grand adventure. Then the character turns to the camera and we see Sean Patrick Flanery.
Since we’re recasting with a younger Indy from the POV of Old Indy, it allows us to recast all of the roles (after all Indy’s memory might show them different than they were). This brings us back Sallah, Short Round, Marcus Brody, Belloq (Mother of God we need more Belloq), even Indy’s dad. In fact, this single move of Ford passing the torch in a movie transition allows us to smoothly reboot a franchise without actually rebooting it.
While you might say, “Seth, I highly doubt this was Lucas’ original plan back in 1992,” I say, “You can’t prove otherwise.” Sure you could call Lucas up and ask him, but remember, he’s already gone on record saying that Greedo always shot first when we have scripts showing that he didn’t. George Lucas is no longer a credible source in saying what his plan was. All we know is that Flanery is the right age, the right look, isn’t a huge super-star, and already knows how to swing a whip. Let’s just go with it.
As Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones would say, “Trust me.”