Fans of Indiana Jones were shocked to read the news that Steven Spielberg bowed out of directing the fifth Indy movie. Instead, Logan’s James Mangold is helming the film. That means for the first time, both of Henry Jones Jr.’s creators won’t be at the helm. As of now, the only remaining member of the original Raiders of the Lost Ark creative team is Harrison Ford himself. We wish nothing but the best for Harrison in his sure-to-be final outing as the adventuring archaeologist. However, after this movie hits theaters, I think it’s high time for a new approach to Indiana Jones. Well, a new/old approach I should say. Because I believe it’s time for Indiana Jones to return to television, specifically with a series on Disney+.
Happily, Variety reports that may be in development. Sources told the outlet Disney “is actively looking to develop an Indiana Jones TV show for Disney+.” And although the fate of the show remains unclear at this time, recently Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy echoed the sentiment. She noted to Entertainment Weekly‘s Dagobah Dispatch that after Harrison Ford’s final Indiana Jones outing in Dial of Destiny, “if we were to do anything [related to Indiana Jones], it might be in series television down the road.” Here’s why it’s an excellent idea.
Why Now Is the Time for a Disney+ Indy
From a studio standpoint, I could see why Disney and Lucasfilm be skittish about casting another actor to replace Harrison Ford. He’s one of the most iconic movie stars in Hollywood history, and Indiana Jones is arguably his most iconic role. Many people resisted seeing Solo in theaters, simply because having another actor as the big screen version of Han Solo seemed like sacrilege. I could see where the suits would be terrified of that same reaction happening again.
But what if a recast, younger Indy wasn’t for theatrical release? Because there’s already been another Indiana Jones before, in the 1992 TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. That show wasn’t exactly a high adventure series, and was more about Indy’s journey meeting various famous historical figures in the early 20th century. But having seen a younger Indy on the small screen before, it at least set the precedent. People might be more accepting of a different Dr. Jones if the medium is an all together different one. If it works, it breathes new life into the franchise. If it doesn’t, then the whole thing doesn’t tarnish the movie series. It’s a scenario in which you can’t really lose.
One Season, One MacGuffin
Imagine a big budget Indiana Jones steaming series, with the same care and big name creative involved as The Mandalorian recently had. It could feature a young Indy, only recently having become a professor. So perhaps late 1920s/early ‘30s. Everything before Raiders, but long after his teenage adventures in the ‘90s TV series. Each season, which would presumably be the standard 8-10 episodes, would feature one specific quest, for one specific Macguffin.
Season one of the series could be Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny, or Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Atlantis, and so on ans of forth. There is a metric ton of novels and comics which could serve as inspiration for these. And like the old serials which inspired Lucas and Spielberg, each episode could also end on a spectacular cliffhanger.
These potential seasons don’t have to tie explicitly into any of the pre-existing movies, but it would be fun to address certain things if they wanted to. How exactly did Indy’s relationship with Marion Ravenwood and her father go sour? How did Indy meet (and later adopt) Short Round? In Temple of Doom, the character of Wu Han says he “followed Indy on many adventures”. We get hints about those backstories in the movies, but a show could flesh out the details. Even if the show never addresses those things, we know there are still dozens of untold adventures that Indy had over the years. We haven’t even scratched the surface.
Why It’s Time for Harrison to Hang Up the Whip
While I wish for nothing but good things for the latest Indiana Jones adventure on the big screen, truth be told, the entire project as-is sounds destined to disappoint. When this film reaches theaters in 2021, Harrison Ford will be 78 years old. Not that I’m against the idea of an “Old Man Jones” as it were. I thought Ford was brilliant as an elderly Han Solo in The Force Awakens. But the part of Han Solo mainly has him flying spaceships and shooting blasters. Indiana Jones calls for fist fights, swinging on vines, and jumping on moving vehicles. That’s a wee bit harder to do when you’re pushing 80.
There’s also the time frame issue. The movies have so far moved along in real time. Last Crusade took place in 1938, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull took place in 1957, exactly 19 years since the previous film. Which means that whatever the fifth film is, it will take place in or about the early ‘70s. Now, I love ‘70s period films to death, especially as a child of that time. But the era of high adventure pulp novels and Republic serials was roughly the ‘20s through the ‘40s. This is just Indy’s milieu. I’m not sure he fits in as a concept in the time of hippies and The Brady Bunch.
No one can ever take away Harrison Ford’s status as “the original Indy.” But just as James Bond eventually moved on from Sean Connery, it’s time for Indiana Jones to move beyond Ford. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg envisioned Indy as “the American 007” after all. This would be the most Bond-like thing to do for the character.
All of this would keep the franchise viable long term. Believe me, Disney and Lucasfilm don’t want to make the property seem like one of Indy’s old relics – they want it to stay current. And by having it in a different medium with a new actor, it would be far less likely to ruffle the feathers of those who claim there can only ever be on big screen version of Indiana Jones. A younger Indiana Jones on Disney+ is the best “you can have your cake and eat it too” option for everyone.
Originally published on February 27, 2020.