Well, that was predictable. Within seconds of the news of a new Indiana Jones film hitting cinemas in 2019, Twitter was abuzz with hilarious jokes and witty asides about how terrible the announcement was. None of the jokes were particularly funny, of course, (are they ever?) but there they were, clogging up newsfeeds and filling up the trending topics like an endless sea of snakes writhing on the floor of the Well of the Souls.
I have sympathy with the complainers, even if I strongly disagree with them. After all, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull left a Phantom Menace-sized scar on the franchise that the eight years that have passed since its release haven't been able to heal. Even as a fan of the film, I can't deny that it's negatively affected the way the series and the character are viewed.
But how about we put negativity aside for once? How about instead of looking at how things can go wrong with Indiana Jones 5, we instead look at all the things that can go very, very right with it. Because there are plenty of things and plenty of reasons to be excited about this fifth outing for Dr Henry Jones Jnr.
Crystal Skull wasn't that bad
Every bad film needs its Jar Jar, and the nuked fridge is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's. But look beyond the heavy duty household appliances and Crystal Skull delivers exactly what it should: an exciting retro romp perfectly in tune with the first three. The fridge is no more ridiculous than Indy surviving a drop from a crashing plane in a rubber dinghy (Temple of Doom), and the creatures "from the space between spaces" are no more outlandish than a 900-year-old knight hanging around with a load of old cups. It's an action-adventure film, people, not a historical documentary.
Beyond that, there's a rich seam of satire coursing throughout Crystal Skull. Made after Spielberg's politically inflected trilogy of The Terminal, War of the Worlds, and Munich, Indy 4 shows an America riddled with paranoia and anxiety. One of the film's most powerful shots (indeed, one of the most powerful shots of the whole series) is the one of Indy standing on the crest of a hill, looking out towards a mushroom cloud. Having survived the blast, Indy's later interrogated by the CIA, who are determined to pin accusations of espionage on him.
There's a deep criticism of post-9/11 America at work in Crystal Skull, and all the film's best moments revolve around them. Indy 5 can not only continue in that tradition, but deliver them with even greater force and success.
It's still Harrison Ford
C'mon guys, it's Harrison Ford. Yes, that Harrison Ford! He may hit 77 in the year Indy 5 is released, but regardless of age, Harrison Ford is still Harrison Ford. His wonderful turn in The Force Awakens just underlined that when given the right material (which he lamentably hasn't had for a while), Ford can still turn in career-best performances. The Han of The Force Awakens was one riddled with doubt and melancholy. His delivery of the line 'I used to be' when Rey asks if he's Han Solo is the delivery of a man who's lost everything: his wife, his child, his whole identity. He isn't Han Solo any more. He isn't anything anymore.
There's no reason to suggest Ford can't deliver similar quality in Indy 5. In fact, there's good cause to believe he can deliver more. Aside from a few standout moments here and there, the first three Indy films produced more quality Ford moments than the first three Star Wars films; it's probably why he's always seemed to prefer Indy over Han. Think of the little wink he gives Short Round when he recovers from the Black Sleep of the Kali in Temple of Doom, or the look of admiration he gives when Henry Snr "remembers his Charlemagne" in Last Crusade. Beyond those franchises, think also of the powerlessness he explored in The Fugitive, the darkness he portrayed in Frantic, the warmth he exuded in Witness.
Harrison Ford isn't just Harrison Ford; he's one of the greatest actors to ever grace the silver screen, and he deserves to be given the chance to dazzle again in Indy 5.
Ageist jokes belong in a museum
Indiana Jones and the Football on the Front Lawn. Indiana Jones and the Tin of Old Werthers Originals. Indiana Jones and the Pesky Kids.
The ageist jokes were boring when they were made before Crystal Skull, and they're even more tiresome now. Not only does Ford's age not matter in the slightest, but it actually offers the opportunity to do something genuinely new with a blockbuster. Ford obviously can't move like he once could, and it's notable that he wasn't given any strenuous stunts to perform in The Force Awakens. That allowed a greater focus on character, and the film found a genuinely new position for Han: reformed cynic, a sort of converted Obi Wan.
Is there an opportunity to do something similar with Indy 5? I'd say so. Perhaps Indy will be less whip-crackin', all-action hero here and more of a detective, using his professor's brain to hunt clues and find whatever MacGuffin Spielberg has dreamed up for him. His marriage to Marion at the end of Crystal Skull adds further potential for difference: will she be joining him on his adventure (I hope so; Karen Allen was, is, and forever shall remain awesome!)? Even if Allen isn't back, how will a married Indy, an Indy with a family, differ from the globetrotting playboy we've seen before? Will Indy 5 see a settled Dr Jones, reluctant to go back into the field?
Just because an action hero is old doesn't mean he's irrelevant. Regardless of grey hair and wrinkled skin, Indiana Jones is still Indiana Jones.
And Steven Spielberg is still Steven Spielberg
The Spielberg we saw around the release of Crystal Skull was a Spielberg who didn't seem entirely ready to launch back into the action adventure blockbuster. Following a period of experimentation during the 2000s, Spielberg had his eye on other projects, and while he certainly talked the talk and walked the walk on Crystal Skull, you sensed his friendship with Ford and Lucas drew him towards the film as much as anything else. He wanted to help his friends keep their creation alive.
Eight years later, Spielberg seems renewed, refreshed, and at the very top of his game. Lincoln ranks as an all-time Spielbergian masterpiece, while Bridge of Spies exuded effortless brilliance. This summer he'll release The BFG, which by the look of the teaser trailer will nail the blend of fear and wonder Roald Dahl perfected in his book, and then he's moving on to Ready Player One, a blockbuster that'll be as anticipated as Indy 5. Oh, and there's also religious drama The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, biopic It's What I Do, and historical epic Montezuma rumoured to be in the pipeline.
A new Spielberg film is always something to anticipate, but when he's as prolific and reliable as he is at the moment, it's hard to believe anyone would be concerned about him helming another Indy film.
So, hey, let's put down our phones, close down Twitter, and stop dreaming up that perfect pithy putdown. Let's give Indy 5 a chance and see what two masters of their craft can conjure for this beloved cinematic icon.Suggest a correction