Will Spielberg Ruin ‘Indiana Jones’ Again?

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Just as Hollywood and movie fans were busy thinking about the great films amid the Oscars, Deadline reported a rumor that Steven Spielberg is interested in staying in control of the Indiana Jones franchise he created just as it’s being rebooted over at Disney with Parks and Recreation and Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt taking over the lead role formerly played by Harrison Ford.

The question now is whether having the esteemed director in charge of his own creation will be a good thing for the beloved franchise, or if it will cause another disaster the likes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That fourth installment in 2008, directed by Spielberg, was a disappointment to critics and fans, who disapproved of the convoluted plot as well as a nearly 70-year-old Harrison Ford performing an action role with stunts that just weren’t believable for a man of his age. Could Spielberg fail Indie fans again even with Pratt in the lead role?

The publication said that the production is in its very early stages, but that Spielberg wants Pratt for the role, which Ford is now officially too old to play and that he wants to helm the film himself, pending a script that he approves. Spielberg seems to have taken a liking to Pratt, as the legendary director also chose the actor to star in the upcoming reboot of Jurassic Park, this summer’s highly anticipated Jurassic World, which Spielberg is not directing.

Created by the inimitable team of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the Indiana Jones franchise originally consisted of three films made in the 1980s that are now considered to be classics in the Hollywood blockbuster genre, all starring Harrison Ford as the anthropological archaeologist who goes on wild adventures in search of rare artifacts. The third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was made in 1989.

The franchise underwent a reboot in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which co-starred Shia LaBeouf and Cate Blanchett. That movie got lukewarm reviews that said it suffered from a convoluted, over-the-top plot that lost the magic of the previous three films. It only has a 78% rating among reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to the 95% of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the 84% of Temple of Doom, and the 88% of The Last Crusade. Still, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a huge box office success, raking in $786 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

People might’ve packed into the theaters to see Indy back in action, but critics weren’t impressed with the film. “There’s plenty of frantic energy here, lots of noise and money too, but what’s absent is any sense of rediscovery, the kind that’s necessary whenever a filmmaker dusts off an old formula or a genre standard … The Crystal Skull comes alive only in isolated segments,” said The New York Times. Other reviews were pretty similar, accusing the movie most of all of being boring due to playing it safe.

Overall, the NYT and others accused Spielberg himself of coasting and making a boring movie rather than truly engaging with the material. “As expected, the high leaps and long jumps look impressive, even if it’s something of a bummer when one of the best directors working today (Mr. Spielberg) doesn’t seem to be working as hard as the stunt crew. Initially, I thought he was bored with the material (he wouldn’t be alone), but now I think he’s just grown out of this kind of sticky kids’ stuff,” the review continues.

It seems that unless Spielberg really reengages with the franchise and the character, he runs the risk of making the same mistakes in another Indiana Jones reboot. Pratt has earned praise for his very fun turns in Parks and Guardians of the Galaxy, so putting him in the lead role will certainly draw people into theaters as well as add a spark of new life to Indy. But if Spielberg decides he’s willing to coast his way through another guaranteed money-maker, then he stands to disappoint critics and fans with another lackluster Indiana Jones film.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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