No sooner do I point out that prequels are worse than sequels than Hollywood collectively shouts: “Hold my beer!” (Okay, it’s probably wine, but you get the point.)
There are a lot of bad things to say about Indiana Jones and the Quest for Metamucil, but rather than confining myself to cheap old-age gags, I’m going to dig a little deeper to discuss why the mere notion of Dr. Jones still walking around with a bullwhip at his advanced age is nonsensical.
Destroying the Premise
The whole point of the Indiana Jones franchise was to re-create the light-hearted adventure films of the 1930s, just as the original Star Wars films were a nod to the Flash Gordon serials of the same era. These movies were given a new lease with the advent of television and creators George Lucas and Steven Spielberg grew up watching reruns of these classics. In fact, vintage shows like The Lone Ranger and Our Gang remained ubiquitous into the cable era when they were finally consigned to specialty channels.
Unlike Star Wars, the Jones movies had no story arc, and you can watch the originals in any order you choose without really missing out on anything. There are some vague references to prior events, but mostly these consist of call-backs, like Indy reaching for his iconic sidearm (with varying results).
The thing about the 1930s was that they were a unique time when the European empires were enjoying their last few years and ‘gentleman adventurers’ made their way across the globe performing scientific exploration and feats of derring-do. The cataclysm of World War II ended the possibility of such antics, with new borders and Iron Curtains emerging to divide the entire world into mutually hostile spheres of influence.
Academia had also changed. College was very much a small-scale operation in the 1930s, and professors were given enormous amounts of latitude. With the passage of the G.I. Bill, higher education was radically transformed into a far less individualized institution. Student populations soared, and a school with 4,000 students in 1939 might have 40,000 by the 1960s. Put simply, the faculty of that time was too busy coping with the surge of enrollments to romp around jungles.
This was one reason why Kingdom of Crystal Skull was so bad – the time for such adventures had passed. (The other reason it sucked was that the ending was stupid.)
Act Your Age
The big action stars of the 1930s were men like Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and of course Gary Cooper. Cooper’s roles loomed large in the Spielberg/Lucas collective brain – Han Solo’s outfit from Star Wars is based on Cooper’s in High Noon. When building the persona for Indiana Jones, the team took their inspiration from Cooper’s appearance of Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was based on an Earnest Hemingway novel about the Spanish Civil War. Jordan was a demolition expert rather than archaeologist, but he has all the same equipment – hat, jacket, satchel and revolver. (He was also fighting for the bad guys in Spain, and you can read my book on the topic to find out why.)
These men defined masculinity for a generation. Flynn was charming, Gable macho and Cooper the strong, silent type. Whether fighting on pirate ships, rescuing princesses or frankly not giving a damn, they remain some of the most iconic figures ever to grace the silver screen.
All three of these men were dead by 1961. By then, the genre of films they made were just as moribund.
That is why having a 78-year-old Harrison Ford be anything other than a cameo part make zero sense. Based on the Star War sequels, I’m assuming his character will get killed and (again based on that precedent), it will be a singularly stupid death, devoid of any emotional impact other than pissing off the dwindling fan base.
Welcome to Wokeville?
Ah, the 80s, when we got beaten to death with terrible sequels. Anyone up for Death Wish 5? How about Jaws 4? Maybe they can make another Friday the 13th movie! I know the first dozen left so many unanswered questions.
There’s a certain amusement value in schlocky horror films or low-budget knock-offs, but I get the sense that this film won’t just be a formulaic retread. Based on the presence of the Jedi Angel of Death Kathleeen Kennedy on the production team, I’m expecting lots of woke elements in this film. The odds that the ageing Dr. Jones will offer spoiled New Left 1960s punks a stirring defense of American greatness are slim and none.
Dare I suggest he’ll be living with another man?
In any event, the viciousness with which the director responded to queries suggests this isn’t going to be a love letter to the era of the Hayes Code.
Based on the publicity stills, I think the main draw for this will be morbid curiosity. How badly can these people screw up an iconic film character?
I’m going to bet very badly.