The news was not unexpected, but it was still disappointing. Earlier this week, we learned that acclaimed director Steven Spielberg will not direct the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones film. Now the only person left from the original Indy films is the star himself, Harrison Ford, who is still committed to donning the fedora and leather jacket one last time.
Even though the announced new director for the project, James Mangold, is a great director in his own right, this development cannot adequately inspire much excitement over Indiana Jones 5. James Mangold has a superb filmography, he directed the best Fox X-Men film, Logan, among other terrific films. By itself Mangold’s attachment (keep in mind he is only in talks to take over Indiana Jones 5) should be great news. But this is trying to follow up on Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest film directors of all time. Following up on the auteur is a near-impossible task. Just ask Joe Johnston when he directed Jurassic Park III.
However, Mangold will likely turn in a fine film, but it just won’t feel the same. This will likely inject some new blood into the franchise, but at this point, why not just recast the role and start over with the character?
With Harrison Ford out of the way, the new slate of Indiana Jones films could smoothly go back to the 1930s time period or even the 1940s and tell new stories. The films do not nor should they remake Raiders of the Lost Ark or the other Indiana Jones films. That would be blasphemous and invite unfair comparisons. There are plenty of mystical or sci-fi macguffins that the swashbuckling archaeologist could chase after. Doing a straight recast will be a good jumping on point for those who haven’t seen the previous films and fans, as well. Otherwise, why bother with the film?
Getting back to the original team behind Indy, George Lucas was already not going to be involved with the fifth film. So, right there Indiana Jones 5 felt incomplete without the original trio, though some may have celebrated that idea given the negative reaction to Lucas’ story ideas for the last film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Frankly, this was a shame since he co-created the character.
Harrison Ford has been itching to wield his character’s iconic bullwhip one last time. He is in his mid-70s now, and although he looks healthier and fitter than his contemporaries, his age would strain credulity that he can carry out intensive action scenes. In the fifth film, no one could see Indy outrunning a giant boulder without suspending disbelief. It could be worse than the nuked fridge scene from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or jumping out of a plane in a life raft during Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Frankly, given Ford’s age, an Indiana Jones 5 would have to be made very soon.
There lies the problem. The fifth film has constantly been delayed due to scheduling and getting the right script. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull went through the same problem. It is odd that it is difficult to find a good script for the film since so many drafts from various writers have been rejected. Honestly, why not just get Lawrence Kasdan to pen the script? He wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the best films in the franchise, and he understands Indiana Jones; plus, he is a gifted writer. Supposedly, there was a great script done by Frank Darabont for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that was rejected by George Lucas, but loved by Steven Spielberg; the filmmakers should take another look at it and see if they can retool the script or ask Darabont to write a new one.
Another issue is Spielberg himself. He is a truly gifted filmmaker, but a very busy one. There are tons of announced films that he was supposed to direct that never got made. Recent ones include Interstellar (taken over by Christopher Nolan and turned into something else), Robopocalypse and a When Worlds Collide remake. He probably did not like any of the recent scripts or realized he was no longer interested in the project. This is regretful, but understandable. A man with his clout and credentials can do whatever he wants and if at this point in his life Spielberg would rather direct Oscar-bait films, so be it. But we all hoped for one last hurrah with Harrison Ford before the bullwhip was passed on to a new generation.
Whether or not Indiana Jones 5 gets made is the big dilemma. For all we know, Disney could be the reason for the delays, which would surely raise an uproar among fans if this were true. But Disney/Lucasfilm may not be as interested since Steven Spielberg is no longer directing Indiana Jones 5. Consider that the film has been pushed back continuously and was supposed to start filming this year to be released next year. There isn’t a script ready. Ford is getting older and may lose interest himself. Then there is the shakeup in Disney in that CEO Bob Iger stepped down and his replacement Bob Chapek may not be keen on the fifth film or may want to start all over.
Honestly, we have to accept the fact that like it or not, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may be the very last Indiana Jones film, at least with the original team involved. At this point, it would not come as a surprise if the fifth film is shelved altogether.
Steven Spielberg no longer directing Indiana Jones 5 is a sad development and a portent for the film’s fate. But at least we have the previous four Indy films to treasure.