The nice thing about long-running fictional characters is that, if we want them to, they can remain ageless forever. James Bond, for instance, will stay a strapping buck into perpetuity as the actors portraying him get replaced once they’ve grown out of the role. Indiana Jones, for whatever reason, cannot enjoy a similar stature.
He will only ever be Harrison Ford, apparently unthinkable as anyone else, judging by his repeated returns to the franchise despite a greying appearance out of joint with his exploits of derring-do. This franchise shows its wear and tear like few others, and the recent announcement of a fifth installment cued up jokes about geriatric action heroes. (Geriaction!)
But an exclusive on Variety yesterday afternoon suggested that Steven Spielberg may not be such an immutable part of the formula. The item reveals that Spielberg will cede his role as director to another talent after having handled the first four films, and that James Mangold has entered negotiations as a possible successor.
The fan reaction was swift and harsh, the overall sentiment being that nobody can conjure up the nostalgic magic of the wartime adventure serials that inspired the Indiana Jones character quite like Spielberg. That’s probably true; evoking the sensation of the “good ol’ days” is pretty much his trademark, and even in more mixed outings, he’s succeeded in that whisking-away.
But perhaps cutting him loose won’t be the worst thing. Admittedly, Spielberg’s finite number of remaining years – the guy’s 73 years old – would probably be better spent on an original project. The legacy of Indy may take a ding, but for the film world at large, it would be a net gain.
Besides, what’s to be expected from an Indiana Jones coming up on 80? With 10 years separating the fourth and proposed fifth releases, the smell of cash-grab wafts stronger than ever. Maybe it would be a well-suited project for Mangold, director of the recent Le Mans ’66, a film rather dialed-in to the feeling of being an older man on a mission to get some of the old mojo back.
Regardless of whether Indy needs Spielberg to survive, the real conclusion to be drawn here is that it’s time to lay Indiana Jones to a final rest. Replacing Harrison Ford as Han Solo didn’t work, and replacing him here won’t either. Such a decision goes against every studio trend currently in vogue, but sometimes, it’s best to just let things be.
Published 27 Feb 2020
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