Harrison Ford and George Lucas attend the 56th San Francisco Film Festival (Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage)
Artillery Row

Indiana Jones is back!

A fifth film is looming, but I really, really, wish it wasn’t

Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic characters in the history of modern cinema. From his trademark fedora to his bullwhip and leather jacket, everything about the man radiated cool. As a child I remember jumping out of the way as that giant boulder came hurtling towards the screen. Played by Harrison Ford, Jones was often stubborn and uncompromising but he always managed to exude gentlemanly charm. In the first ten minutes of Raiders Of The Lost Ark — which must surely rank as one of the best opening sequences ever shot — we begin to understand what drives this daredevil adventurer from Princeton, New Jersey. 

We soon learn why our death-defying protagonist is fascinated with travelling the world. He is not just an explorer. Indiana, or to give him his full name Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr, is an archaeology professor. Ruggedly handsome, his female undergraduates frequently swoon over him during his lectures. The University acts as a well-conceived plot device — numerous characters often appear giving Indiana clues on the location of mysterious and powerful artefacts he must track down in order to save the world. 

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise. The original trilogy — which include the films The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade — remains one of my all time favourite series. Taken together they offer the audience a glimpse into the world of the action/adventure films of the 50’s that inspired George Lucas — the writer of the films. It’s rumoured that Indiana Jones’ character was inspired by Charlton Heston’s role in Secret of the Incas, whilst Indiana’s trademark fedora was taken from Humphry Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

The series made an ill-advised comeback twenty years later with a fourth incarnation in 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Although it was good to see Spielberg and Lucas teaming up again, the film was derivative and forgetful. It was loathed by fans. You know you’ve entered the culture wars when South Park dedicates an entire episode to lampooning your film.

Fans blame Kennedy for single-handedly ruining Star Wars by injecting identity politics into a once admired franchise

And that, as they say, was that. Every so often there were rumours of a new movie, but it never came to anything. Years had passed and a new film seemed unlikely. Ford was rapidly approaching retirement and Lucas seemed to be losing interest in making blockbuster movies, turning his attention to LucasArts — the video game company he founded. All of a sudden news started to emerge that a fifth film was indeed in the pipeline. 

Having thoroughly ruined the Star Wars canon, Disney and Lucasfilm were keen to find another classic series to “develop”. It didn’t take long for them to set their sights on Indiana Jones. Although the film had been stuck in developmental purgatory for the past decade, press releases and articles have confirmed that Indiana Jones 5 looks likely to happen. 

Forgive an old cynic, but I have a bad feeling about this. 

This is not a project that directly involves both Spielberg or Lucas. This alone should send alarm bells ringing. For four decades Spielberg has been the visionary genius behind some of the greatest films in history and Lucas is a fantastic writer who knows how to craft a compelling story with Indiana Jones. Both have taken a back seat — ascribed meaningless “producer” roles no doubt to distance themselves from the inevitable ire of the fans. 

It looks like Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, will be behind it. Fans blame Kennedy for single-handedly ruining Star Wars by injecting identity politics into a once admired franchise. But she’s not worried what they think, telling the New York Times: “I don’t feel that I have a responsibility to cater in some way [to those particular fans].” Often accused of having an aversion to strong, masculine white male characters, the fans believe it was Kennedy who sounded the death knell for much loved fan favourites Hans Solo and Luke Skywalker. 

Further evidence comes from the casting. Phoebe Waller-Bridge looks set to co-star alongside Ford. She’s better known as the writer (and star) of Fleabag and the writer behind Killing Eve, both saturated in feminist identity politics that received more praise than they deserved. She was also hired to improve/emasculate the new Bond movie, No Time To Die. I await the results when the film is eventually released.

Whilst the crystal skull was a terrible follow up to a great series, it was at least a way for Ford to step aside

The films have slowly progressed from the 1930’s, often set during periods of huge historical significance. World War II acted as the framing device for the original trilogy. The crystal skull was set against the backdrop of the cold war and McCarthyite paranoia as the Soviet Union became the new enemy. Considering China now owns a majority share of Disney and the country is the world’s largest film market, don’t expect any of the actors to speak out against the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims.

To counter Ford’s age and to aid continuity, it should be set in the 1960s. Which would place it at the dawn of the civil rights era, when racial and sexual politics dominated the cultural landscape. Although nothing is yet to be confirmed, the way progressive politics is crowbarred into every form of entertainment, it can’t be ruled out. With this in context, I wonder how an elderly white male will cope with beliefs and opinions that are perhaps incongruous with the times? Perhaps a diverse young actor could show him the error of his ways? This could come from Shaunette Renée Wilson — the Black Panther star has been cast alongside Ford. If so, expect to see Ford “re-educated” , outsmarted and mercilessly mocked by younger, smarter co-stars.

Whilst the crystal skull was a terrible follow up to a great series, it was at least a way for Ford to step aside and leave behind a legacy at least relatively unscathed. Bringing him back now into a hyper politicised entertainment industry overseen by a company that seems to hate traditional family values will potentially tarnish his great career. 

Enticing once great actors out of semi-retirement with the lure of a big paycheck to add to a legacy they fought long and hard to build is always a bad idea. If not financially, then at least creatively.

Ford was incredible in his day, but like all great actors, surely now is the time to take a final bow and hang up the fedora once and for all. 

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