Indiana Jones is a beloved pop-culture character, brought to life in a series of smash-hit movies by a huge star and with a lot of pop cultural cachet – so it’s no surprise to hear the news that a long-gestating sequel is still in the works, with Harrison Ford set to don the fedora and bullwhip of Dr Jones for a new adventure.
Now, I love Indiana Jones. I’ve watched all the films multiple times, regularly catch myself humming the theme tune when I have to complete the most minor physical task (adds a certain frisson of adventure, I find) and even tried out a whip once at a cowboy skills class. Spoiler alert – it looks a lot better when Indy does it.
But today, I find myself in an odd position – because as much as I love the original Indiana Jones movies, I’m not sure I want another one.
For one thing, the original trilogy is perfect. For another, the endless rehash, reboot and re-adaptation of ageing franchises in Hollywood already feels like a draining, creativity-sucking treadmill that chokes new ideas in their infancy, and it’d be great to see some new popcorn movie projects get a fair shot (it is possible – just look at John Wick!)
But also, I’m just not sure whether Indiana Jones works as a franchise in the modern era. Already, ill-fated 2008 sequel Kingdom of the Crystal Skull proved that transplanting Indy from his 1930s heyday to the 1950s just didn’t sing in the same way, while the story – which saw an ageing Ford hand over some of his action duties to his son as played by Shia LaBoeuf – struggled to create convincing action setpieces around a star and character in his Sixties.
Having Indy, over a decade older again, still unconvincingly fist-fighting his way through (presumably) the late 1960s or ’70s? I just don’t see it working. And casting a new, younger Indy seems unlikely to be a solution either, given that a recast Han Solo movie (also based around an iconic character played by Ford) essentially killed off half of LucasFilm’s Star Wars film slate.
Of course, plenty of other 1980s favourites have found success with more modern follow-ups – other Ford projects like Star Wars or Blade Runner seem like good examples – but these films originally created an intriguing world that could easily be re-inhabited by new, younger characters.
Indiana Jones, meanwhile, is really all about its lead character. Star Wars wasn’t called ‘Luke Skywalker and The New Hope’. It’s not all about him, as much as he may be the lead, and that meant that it was easy to tell other stories years later within the same framework that didn’t always feature him.
An Indiana Jones film without Indiana Jones, though? No way. Fans were up in arms enough at the very idea of LaBeouf’s Mutt taking on his father’s mantle, let alone moving past the lead character altogether. It’s really Ford or nothing when it comes to Indiana Jones, and having an older Indy who can’t pull off the stunts, adventures and excitement that made the original films so great? I mean, what’s the point?
Sure, there may be an interesting film idea based on an older Indiana Jones out there. New Star Trek spin-off Picard has shown that decades-old fan-favourite characters can be revived for a new story as long as there’s something new and interesting to say about them.
But Picard works because it’s so different to The Next Generation, and doesn’t try to land the same beats. Given how closely the Indiana Jones films already follow the conventions of fun 1930s pulp serials, could the character even survive outside that framework? And would it really be an Indiana Jones film without those familiar tropes?
Well, we’re sure to find out. These days it’s impossible to imagine Hollywood letting valuable IP like Indiana Jones sit on the shelf for long, and the brand recognition alone will mean this new movie will be a relative success whenever it gets made. Maybe it’ll even be good fun – who knows.
I just can’t help but wish, personally, that this one piece of treasure would stay buried. Or, to quote the man himself: “It belongs in a museum!!!”.