Dr. Mike ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
Born of a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, the franchise has run on the lifeblood of grand adventure and great nostalgia for a bygone age when such adventures seemed somehow more possible. This summer, the fifth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise will hit the big screen. The question is will Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny be the last installment?
According to series star Harrison Ford, it will definitely be the last time we see him as Indy on the big screen and perhaps the last time we’ll see the character of Indiana Jones up there as well. Ford is probably right about that first part. He is 80 after all it takes a long, long time for the movie making constellations to align just right to produce an Indiana Jones film. I hope Ford is wrong about the second.
There comes a point in every franchise where actors must move on and new actors take over their parts. We live in a world of multiple James Bonds and Batman. Some franchises even bake this into their DNA, such as the way regeneration works on Doctor Who to give us at least fourteen different actors in the main role.
As fans, we can argue and debate who was best as their character. I’m an unapologetic “Bond is Sean Connery” fan and if I’m forced to pick a Batman and a Doctor, I’ll go with Michael Keaton and David Tennant. But hey, I still love Roger Moore, Adam West, and Tom Baker too. That’s the fun of franchises.
Ford and Jones seem a bit more connected somehow. It’s hard to imagine someone else as Indiana Jones. That is why I’ve always been boggled by the thought that the creators originally wanted Tom Selleck in the part. Nothing against Tom, but I’m glad it did not work out for him.
As hard as it would be to recast Indiana Jones, I do not want this franchise to end with this film for reasons beyond just my own fandom. I think these movies play an important cultural role. This is because Indiana Jones is at his best when he is punching Nazis.
The best films in the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), feature Nazis as the primary antagonists. When Indiana Jones takes on the Third Reich, he reminds us of important American cultural values. Freedom beats out fascism. We are reinvested in some ideas that are important to us.
Other franchises are just not touching these ideas. Even Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) pulled back from this a bit, having the WWII era Red Skull be more Hydra than Nazi. I get it. Disney does not want to engage the PR difficulties that come with onscreen swastikas and toys in Nazi uniforms. But particularly in this day and age, where fascist ideas are on the rise, we need someone to beat that foe.
Ford may not be able to continue, but we will still need Indiana Jones there defeating the Nazis. We will always need that.