Indiana Jones 5: Does The Franchise Belong In A Museum?

How long can an iconic franchise go on with the central lead older than the series itself?
Den of Geek

Following a decade hiatus in the wake of 2008's divisive summer blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones 5 (title yet announced) will mark a fifth and presumably final time that Academy Award-nominated actor Harrison Ford takes up the iconic hat and whip combo on the big screen. Positioning the part-time archaeologist/part-time school teacher to a new era of adventures and globe-trotting, the 78-year-old Ford will remain the famous adventurer. It's been nearly 13 years since Harrison's last turn as the character and Ford isn't getting any younger, while the franchise is one of Hollywood's most successful and ripe for an everlasting continuation. In the years since Indy's clash with ancient aliens, Disney has acquired Indiana Jones' creator George Lucas' production company Lucasfilm, branding the "mouse house" owners of the beloved adventure franchise in collaboration with Paramount Pictures. 

A New Cast of Characters

Alongside Harrison Ford on his newest adventure will be a star-studded cast of talented actors/actresses including Primetime Emmy winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), Boyd Holbrook (Logan), Thomas Kretschmann (Avengers Age of Ultron), and Shaunette Renee Wilson (Black Panther). It's currently unclear if series staples John Rhys Davies (The Lord of the Rings) or Karen Allen (Scrooged) will be making a return to the franchise as supporting characters Sallah and Marion Ravenwood for the latest outing. As a vast contrast to other action-adventure films, the Indiana Jones movies have been known for assembling a diverse cast of characters to surround the titular adventurer.

Entertainment Weekly

Behind the Scenes Shake-Up

However, who will not be returning for another go in the Indiana Jones director's chair is longtime franchise co-creator and director Steven Spielberg (Jaws), who will merely be acting in an executive producer capacity this time around. Taking over from the legendary Spielberg is Academy Award-nominated director James Mangold, who solidified his directing pedigree on 2005's critically acclaimed Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and the equally celebrated 2017 Wolverine swan song Logan. These behind-the-scenes changes will only continue as the franchise heads into the future and established collaborators either age or move onto other appealing film projects.

Will Indiana Jones Enter the Space Race?

Though details concerning the upcoming movie's main story remain in a constant state of flux, a rumored Indiana Jones 5 logline involves the aging adventurer entering the 1960s Space Race. Jones' last on-screen adventure swamped the character's classic foes, Germany's Nazi Party, for Russia's Soviet Union and their top agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), with the story seemingly taking place during the height of the United States / Russian Cold War. If Indiana Jones 5 does indeed cover the Space Race period in American history, Indy won't just be combating Nazis on their own turf but from within the U.S. itself. Following World War II, America recruited several former Nazi scientists as confidential assets for their own usage in the infamous U.S. intelligence program known as Operation: Paperclip.

Mads' Mikkelsen is heavily rumored for the coveted role of Indy's next major villain in the upcoming summer tentpole, which would make a good deal of sense given his past villainous turns as the infamous cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter in NBC's cult-favorite series Hannibal and sadistic terrorist broker La Chiffre in 2006's James Bond reboot Casino Royale. Mikkelsen's former Nazi turned scientist for NASA would offer a significant change of pace when lined up against past Indiana Jones foes, including rival archaeologist Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman) and undercover Nazi businessman Walter Donovan (Julian Glover). 


How The Franchise Can Move Forward

Though it was never quite able to receive the same amount of attention or reception garnered from the feature films, ABC commissioned the short-lived The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles starring Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints) in the role of an inexperienced yet competent Indiana Jones in a series prior to the events of the blockbuster movies. Now, Ford did guest star in a single episode of the Emmy Award-winning series but the show banked on the young iteration of the character. It's only a matter of time before Harrison Ford completely ages out of the Indiana Jones role entirely. Each Indiana Jones feature film only manages to outdo itself with its intense stunt work and rigorous on-location production schedule. Ford even suffered a crippling back injury on the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, being 42 at the time, which the actor has retained to this day.

Throughout the years, Ford's always seemed much more enthusiastic toward returning to the role of Indiana Jones than his other Lucasfilm pop culture icon from the Star Wars film series, unprincipled smuggler Han Solo. Perhaps Ford's unwillingness for a Han Solo reprisal may speak to his admiration toward the Indy role, but the better question for the actor and studios needs to become should he return? There are no doubt plenty of up-and-coming actors chomping at the bit to prove themselves and make the Indiana Jones role their own. 

While the Indiana Jones franchise laid dormant during the early days of its Disney acquisition, audience favorite actor Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy)'s name was once thrown into the aged fedora as a possible contender for a potential Indiana Jones prequel adventure. With Jones' career extending back to years prior to Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Temple of Doom, the door is certainly open for future films to explore earlier Indy adventures partaken around the globe. However, in order to successfully depict those exploits, a younger actor will need to be brought on board to fulfill the Indiana Jones title.

Though Kingdom of the Crystal Skull concluded by teasing Jones' son Mutt Williams (Shia Labeouf) taking up the mantle, the fifth film does not seem to be following up on the development. Nevertheless, in the years since the film has released, LaBeouf has matured and amassed an impressive career as both a dramatic actor and filmmaker through movies Honey Boy (2019) and The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019). Future Indiana Jones installments may ultimately benefit the franchise in the long run by going backward in its chronology, rather than forward and being limited by Ford's ability to perform the death-defying stunts and action sequences that have come to define the series.

Current junior Writing Arts major attending Rowan University. I am an avid writer, comic book reader, and film enthusiast.

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