Is Harrison Ford The Only Indiana Jones?

indy

Promotional image for the 1981 film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

This morning on the radio, I heard a clip from an interview with actor Harrison Ford where the host asked him who he’d like to see play Indiana Jones after Ford retired from the role. Ford replied no one. When he goes away, Indy goes away, too.

The fifth and last Indiana Jones film starring Ford is slated to come out in 2021, though after 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I think Indy’s getting a little long in the tooth for this sort of thing.

The DJ on the radio program I was listening to thought Ford was being arrogant in making such a statement, but I think he’s spot on. It’s not just that Ford originated the character and is terrific at it, but the first Indy movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981, and the only other Indy movie worth a damn (in my opinion) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade hit the theaters in 1989.

The 1980s were good for Indy, but they were also good for the time period in which he naturally dwelt, pre-World War Two. The whole 1930s, art deco, depression era, diesel-driven environment was a great backdrop and defined Indy as much as his adventures did.

Sure, you could cast a young, male actor as Indy and return to that setting, but I don’t think it would work any better than casting Alden Ehrenreich (nothing against him, I’m just saying) in another classic Ford role and starring him in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Movie worked. A film isn’t just defined by the time period in which it depicts but by when it was made.

Consider the classic crime noir movie The Maltese Falcon (1941) starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr (I felt compelled to list that many names because they were all outstanding in their roles). Sure, you could remake it in 2019, but it wouldn’t be the same film, especially since nearly 80 years have passed, and depicting the 1941s as they were would offend the living daylights out of young 21st century audiences (Dashiell Hammett’s novel was published in 1929, and the film is faithful to the book’s plot and dialog, so I guess that makes it even worse).

We’ve seen this effect time and again when movie studios resurrect older franchises in the never ending quest to cash in on their fame. From Star Wars to Star Trek, it never works. Oh, that’s not to say they’re not popular, but they always, always fail to capture the essential essence of the originals. In other words, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek and Star Wars movies may well have familiar names and familiar spaceships, but they completely lack any sort of “Star Trek-ness” or “Star War-ness”. It would be like the Coca Cola company retooling their secret formula for their famous soft drink. They could call it “Coke” but it wouldn’t be “Coke”.

I wouldn’t mind it if no one made a Star Trek film again and if Star Wars was retired by Disney after their next film (they won’t because they have too much of an investment sunk into it). I’ve never seen an episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” and I have no desire to watch it or the upcoming TV series “Picard,” even though Patrick Stewart is reprising the role.

I agree with Ford. Indiana Jones has seen his day and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Stop remaking old franchises and start becoming creative again, Hollywood.

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3 thoughts on “Is Harrison Ford The Only Indiana Jones?

  1. I seem to recall a short-lived TV series about the “Young Indiana Jones”, in which a young actor bearing no resemblance to Harrison Ford played the character. The character of his father also bore no resemblance to Sean Connery, who played the mature character in the “Last Crusade”. I agree with Mr. Ford that it would be a mistake to “reboot” the character in order to attempt more stories of that ilk. Times, characters, actors, filmmaking technology, and audience expectations and sensitivities have changed.

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    • I think I watched part of one of those episodes. As I recall, they toggled back and forth between a very young Indy and the teenage version. They should have stuck to the movies.

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