I don’t know your life. Maybe you couldn’t tamp down your disappointment for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull like I could while fixating on the Indiana Jonesness of the whole thing. But while the film’s odd amalgamation of killer ants, Shia LaBeouf vine-swinging, nuked kitchen appliances, super effective old man punches, interdimensional beings, and Cate Blanchett über-bangs made it hard to favor it above all others, you have to admit: Hey, they sure went for it and did some wild stuff in that movie.
Now, yes, this is the franchise that melted the faces off of treasure-seeking Nazis when they popped the top on the Ark of the Covenant and posited that a Grail Knight could live alone guarding Jesus’ cup of choice in a cave for hundreds of years while maintaining a perfectly sculpted goatee. But when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg created Indiana Jones, they made sure that those things all had roots in biblical lore. Whether you are a believer or not, you have to admit that feels more tangible than 9-foot-tall crystal-skulled beings from “the space in-between spaces,” no? So, with this uptick in unbelievability (which, I’ll remind you, Lucas fought Spielberg for) firmly in place, the question pivots to a new one following Tuesday’s confirmation that there will, indeed, be a fifth Indiana Jones movie: Where do they (Spielberg, star Harrison Ford, and Disney; but not Lucas, who wasn’t mentioned in the press release) go next?
In truth, the answer is a resounding, “Hell if I know,” but I’ll tell you what they should do: Whatever the f*ck they want. Because, thanks to Crystal Skull (and George Lucas), they totally can.
As we consider the color and the shape of what that means, it’s worth examining the reality of what Spielberg has at his disposal and what he has hanging over his head.
1. A more than slightly used Harrison Ford, who will be 75 when it comes time to roll on what seems like the last leg of a tour that has seen him return to the Millennium Falcon as Han Solo, and which will see him play Rick Deckard once more in the Blade Runner sequel.
2. Shia LaBeouf in whatever state/creative mode he is in at the time of filming. Unless, of course, they re-cast the role of Mutt Williams or bury the character in a mudslide in Rarotonga. So sad.
3. Both Disney’s assumed need to launch a spin-off of some kind off of this film as to seed the fields with Indiana Jones movie crops that will yield money fruit for years to come, and Spielberg’s remarks that no one other than Ford will play Indiana Jones.
4. An army of fans who love Indiana Jones so much that they will ceaselessly mock the idea of this project on the Internet before the first “action!” is uttered, and rip the finished product to ribbons if they don’t get exactly what they want. Which happens to be a prime-age Indiana Jones adventure and to be 15 again.
Yikes, right? Maybe Spielberg should have made a second War Horse movie instead, but here we are. So, the solution is simple, give everyone everything they want and nothing that they expect.
Crystal Skull was based in 1957 and released in 2008. The 19-year jump between that film and The Last Crusade was represented on-screen, so it’s possible that this 11-year jump will also be a factor. But what does 1968 have to offer to Indiana Jones? Nothing. He was already a man out of time in the ’50s, trading greasers for hippies won’t help. Plus, no Nazis. What did Crystal Skull lack? Nazis. The solution is simple: Indiana Jones needs to go back in time to fight Nazis once more and, while we’re at it, let’s have him also kill Hitler… to death.
The hows of time travel aren’t important. The existence of interdimensional beings in the canon is the gift that keeps on giving in that regard. Five minutes of exposition right at the start and you’re done:
Sallah Jr: Dr. Jones, we’ve finally deciphered the last message from Akator. The device sucked Mutt into it and he disintegrated. [Dramatic pause. Sad trombone.] But it works, Dr. Jones! We can travel to the space between spaces and go anywhere in history!
Indiana Jones: Good, let’s go kill the sh*t out of Adolf Hitler and rescue Short Round and the Chalice of the Sacred MacGuffin first.
[Indy looks at his desk which is covered with picture frames.]
It’s what Dad, Marion, Mutt, Original Sallah, Marcus, Willie, and Ox would have wanted.
[Punches glass case holding whip and fedora before slowly nodding at the camera.]
The whole killing Hitler thing is a little trickier because, you know, he was a real person. But Quentin Tarantino did it in Inglourious Basterds, so why can’t Indiana Jones? I’ve already lovingly lifted from (or paid homage to) Doctor Who and Thank You for Smoking, so why not that film, as well? History says that Hitler killed himself in his bunker, but what if Indiana Jones fought through his guards and put an end to the führer himself? Too unrealistic? What if he had help?
Here’s where Disney’s interests really get served. If Indiana Jones goes back in time to 1945, younger Indiana Jones will be there, as well (Looper!). And they just gotta team up to take down a foe as grand as Hitler, which means Spielberg needs to go back on his word and cast a new, middle-aged Indiana Jones who can come back for more adventures and have prequel adventures, and I can feel Disney Chairman Robert Iger’s manhood stirring because, yes, this can and should happen. But how will not-so-young-Indiana-Jones-who-is-maybe-Jon-Hamm and original recipe Indiana Jones share an epic high five after killing Hitler together? I’ve seen Time Cop, I know this might be a problem if they want to stay on the right side of established time travel cinematic theory, but I’m sure Spielberg will figure it out. Even if that means that Jean-Claude Van Damme appears as TEC agent Max Walker on a mission to apprehend OG Indiana Jones for a time crime against Hitler, tossing him to his apparent death off of a catwalk during an epic battle during the third act. (Oh, you know what film that references.)
Or maybe Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones survives and travels through time, putting things right that once went wrong (Quantum Leap!) while also keeping the flame alive for future cameo appearances to assist Chris Pratt or Idris Elba Indiana Jones. Or maybe this is all insane. I don’t know. I’m not a movie writer person, I just know that when you throw a megaton nuclear bomb at an old man in a refrigerator and then have him discover a race of magnetic alien-like beings, it’s hard to go back to face melting normality. So, I guess what I’m saying is, don’t tell me George Lucas’ fingerprints won’t be on this film in some way — for better or worse.