Latino Review sparked the discussion today with their latest scoop, claiming production on Indiana Jones 5 has a set date, and if Harrison Ford can't put down the bong long enough to
amble grumble on over to Disney and sign up before that date, Disney will move forward with plans to cast someone else.
Which makes perfect sense. As Latino Review pointed out in their article, Indiana Jones was always conceived as an American James Bond; a fact made clear upon reading the transcripts of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Lawrence Kasdan breaking the story. Indy was kind of a gross asshole at first, before the edges got sanded off and a crooked-faced man made of almost total charisma lucked into the part.
Part of the Bond series' appeal (before the Craig reboot put a premium on continuity) was the willingness to recast the lead, providing interesting twists on a familiar recipe. Didn't like staring at the massive caterpillars slouching across Connery's brow? Just wait, a grinning leather couch driving a fuckin' Lotus should be coming sometime soon. Thought that couch was a little too corny? That's cool, a future supermarket manager with a thirst for murder will be doing his best Sonny Crockett any time now.
And it's not as if the world isn't used to the idea of Indiana Jones played by someone else. Harrison Ford hasn't even clocked the most hours playing the man. That honor goes to one of the Boondock Saints, thanks to his time on ABC's The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, a failed experiment in semi-educational children's programming.
There will be hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth in response to this scoop, sure; but this was utterly expected. It's the least surprising bit of film news I've heard all year. Of course they're going to recast Indiana Jones. Disney didn't spend hundreds of millions to square things with Paramount Pictures just to keep re-releasing the original movies on home video. And they're not going to keep pouring Harrison Ford into that shirt and jacket either. It's financially irresponsible and creatively limiting.
(heh, I tried to make it sound like film executives honestly give a shit whether filmmakers enjoy creative freedom or not while producing blister-packaged entries in franchised media properties)
But if there's a beam of light breaking through the cloudy disappointment of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Whatever the Fuck That Shit Was, it's that the film made it easier to swallow the idea Harrison Ford should be moving right along like a Muppets musical number. Granted, they chose the wrong potential successor (insert LaBeef joke here), but people still like going to Indiana Jones movies, and maybe not for the guy playing Indiana Jones. I think it's more those orange-and-yellow letters, the name that means adventure, John Williams' galloping theme racing past, the promise of crazy stunts by a grinning pile of bruises in a fedora, whipping asses (and getting his ass whipped) on the way towards a hard-fought scramble of a victory.
Hopefully, the idea is to simply tell a bunch of stand-alone adventures with Indy throughout the 30s and 40s. Characters move in and out, but there's no movie-spanning arc to follow. You don't have to keep up with previous movies to understand what's going on. One year, the guy under the fedora might have a different face, but otherwise, it's just new episodes of an ongoing adventure story.
A story possibly starring Bradley Cooper, who Latino Review states is the early front-runner. Or Chris Pratt. Or Channing Tatum, Ryan Gosling, Liam Hemsworth, or any number of young-ish movie stars who might be able to channel the charisma needed to successfully portray an iconic character.
I'm not going to play the fan-casting game (although I read an article recently where Drew McWeeny of HitFix suggested Jake Johnson, and I found myself really liking the idea. Timothy Olyphant would be fun, too) I just hope the producers choice is based not on how well an actor holds the whip, but how well he can sell the glasses and the bow-tie, too. Jones is a professor. He's an action hero, but he's not an action star. Part of why Indy is so endearing and ingratiating is because Harrison Ford takes a lot of punishment for his efforts. Whoever plays Dr. Jones shouldn't project an air of invincibility, because that's absolutely wrong. He gets confused, he gets flustered, he gets frustrated; he can bluster and fight his way out of a situation, but we need to believe he can think his way out, too.
The Bond-era of Indiana Jones will be starting soon. I welcome it gladly. So long as they don't pick a total stiff.