Last year, Disney announced that Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford are teaming to bring back one of the most popular film franchises of all time: Indiana Jones. But fans barely had time to cue up the series’ heroic theme music and crack their whips before speculation about the reboot began. And not everyone is on board with the landmark series attempting to recapture its previous glory.
There are plenty of reasons to question whether Indiana Jones 5 is really necessary. After all, the most recent installment – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – was a major disappointment for most fans. And given that the newest installment is coming on the heels of several other blockbuster franchise reboots, it’s easy to assume that Spielberg and Co. are simply trying to cash in on the nostalgia train.
But for all the hand-wringing over Indiana Jones 5 – and this before it’s even started production – it’s not a foregone conclusion that the movie will suck. In fact, it could go a long way to redeem the franchise and introduce the adventurous archeologist to a whole new generation of fans. But that’s only if the right elements are in play. Here are five things the Indiana Jones 5 team needs to do to make sure the movie is worth our time and money.
1. Focus on Indy’s awesomeness… not his age
It’s been nearly 10 years since we last saw Indiana Jones in a new adventure on the big screen. Moreover, it’s been more than 30 years since the first film in the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, hit theaters. In that time, Harrison Ford has transformed from a charming young movie star to… well, okay, a charming older movie star. But just because he’s aged well doesn’t mean he – or the titular character he plays – wouldn’t be feeling the effects of aging at least a little bit by now.
Details are sketchy about what time period Indiana Jones 5 will be set in, but most are assuming it will involve a Crystal Skull-esque time jump. Per Variety, Indiana Jones producer Frank Marshall said the next film will be a continuation of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That means that when we next see Indy, he could feasibly be able to pick up a social security check on the way to his next adventure. In order for the next installment to be at all plausible, the creative team is obviously going to need to grapple with the fact that one of cinema’s greatest action heroes is reaching his golden years.
But they also need to strike a balance. Harrison Ford has proven he’s still a force to be reckoned with – both in the 2008 Indiana Jones outing, and in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And with the success of Taken and The Expendables, moviegoers have proven that we’re totally okay with aging action heroes. Focusing too much on cheap jabs at his age – as they did in Crystal Skull – will take away from the storytelling and make the entire film feel like a drawn out, insecure joke about an element that really isn’t even a shortcoming when it all shakes out.
2. Don’t cast Hollywood’s latest ‘It’ actor
When Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull hit theaters in 2008, Shia LeBeouf was the talk of Hollywood. And everyone seemed to think he was the next big thing. His subsequent projects – and often erratic behavior – have relegated him to the “coulda been” category. And his presence in Crystal Skull is still considered one of the low points of the film for many. Shia LaBeouf, who portrayed the titular character’s son, Mutt Williams, in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, will not appear in the sequel. “Harrison plays Indiana Jones, that I can certainly say,” screenwriter David Koepp told EW. “And the Shia LaBeouf character is not in the film.”
What can Steven Spielberg learn from this as he starts to gear up for Indiana Jones 5? That latching onto Hollywood’s flavor of the week doesn’t automatically equate to boosting the franchise’s reputation with younger audiences. While bloggers and film sites speculate about who could join the cast – from Chris Pratt to Ariana Grande (seriously) – the movie’s creative team should be focusing on finding the best talent, period.
3. Keep the suspension of disbelief to a minimum
No one would ever argue that the Indiana Jones franchise has the market on realism in film. From face-melting ghosts to heart-ripping priests, it’s a series that constantly asks fans to accept some consistently unrealistic plot points. But one, in particular, was so implausible, it threatened the very reputation of the series. And that was the “nuke the fridge” sequence in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Having our hero survive a nuclear attack with barely a scratch on him wasn’t just ridiculous – it was so improbable that it’s become a part of pop culture vernacular a’la Jump-the-Shark. In order for Indiana Jones 5 to keep fans engaged, it’s going to have to do a better job of walking the fine line between exciting and unbelievable.
4. Don’t make it political
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Indiana Jones franchise is that it’s managed to fit the hero into fascinating time periods in history without providing too much commentary on the political or social climate of the time. Admittedly, the villains that he’s faced thus far – from Nazis to the KGB – have left little room for a gray area as far as their evilness is concerned. But when Indiana Jones 5 hits theaters, it could very likely take place in the 1960s – a time of great political upheaval, and one where the good guys and the bad guys are much harder to define. Sure, it may be tempting to have Indy go toe-to-toe with a group of hippies or become involved in a Bay of Pigs-esque political plot. But it would be a big risk for a franchise that’s relied largely on escapist entertainment rather than deeper political commentary.
5. Make the story worthwhile
It may seem simplistic, but it needs to be said: Movies live and die on their stories. And even the most popular franchises can suffer if they deliver a film with a flimsy plotline. Indiana Jones hasn’t been perfect in the storytelling department, but it’s managed to deliver four films with memorable (if not always likable) characters and exciting sequences.
So when it’s all said and done, Indiana Jones 5 needs a solid story in order to be compelling for 21st century audiences. We’ll want to see exotic locations, mysterious artifacts and interesting villains – not just a rehashing of the franchise’s previous best hits. Harrison Ford himself said he wouldn’t come back to the series unless Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp could give him a good story. It bodes well for fans that he’s signed back up. But we won’t know for sure whether Indiana Jones 5 lives up to it’s already extreme hype until it hits theaters in 2020.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @katiedoubleyew.
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