It is official. Harrison Ford will crack the whip one more time for Steven Spielberg. The Walt Disney Company has announced that the next chapter of Indiana Jones will flicker to life in theaters during the summer of 2019.
The top question remains where the team of Ford and Spielberg can take the story of the professor-archeologist-explorer who would rather stir up mayhem than grade midterm papers. Even diehard fans have to admit that the Indiana Jones movies have been the poster child of a formulaic film.
Since Indy first raided the Lost Ark (1981) every movie has been over some impossible quest for some lost relic. In 1984, he went looking for a mysterious stone in the Temple of Doom. In 1989, our explorer quested for the Holy Grail. In 2008, Indiana Jones was found collecting ancient crystal skulls in Latin America.
What principally distinguished each of these mostly indistinguishable films was the addition of a character Indy cares about. In the first film it was an old flame (Karen Allen). In the second movie it was a new flame (Kate Capshaw). The third flick introduced a dad (Sean Connery). The fourth added a son (Shia LaBeouf).
Please, please tell us Spielberg can do better this time than just extending the Jones clan. Do we really need to see Indy chasing a piece of the true cross with his second cousin?
Since the inspiration for Indiana came from the heroes of the Saturday matinee serials and the full-length Hollywood films that followed, Spielberg might look back to find some new ideas on how to add some new life to his tired (albeit money-making) cliffhangers.
Here are five films that might offer some inspiration.
5. Gunga Din (1939)
This action-adventure movie with box office stars Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, and Douglas Fairbanks pitted three soldiers in search of a lost treasure pairing off against the murderous Thuggee cult. Yes, Spielberg has already ripped off this plot (see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). But he could mine this black-and-white classic again. It would be cool to team Indiana with some equally cool partners—maybe Richard Evelyn Byrd and Thor Heyerdahl.
4. King Solomon’s Mines (1950)
Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger) is a hunter and guide who leads Deborah Kerr into darkest Africa in search of a lost legendary mine. There was an earlier filmed version of this story in 1937. There were also a number of poor-quality, unwatchable remakes. Granger was not only the best Quatermain, he was surely the iconic model for Indiana Jones. What Spielberg could take from this movie is the serious tone of the film. Spielberg could try not playing Indiana for laughs.
3. Stand by Me (1986)
This story about a group of friends who go in search of a missing boy is a real journey film where characters grow and we actually care about them and their quest. In addition to being a moving movie, the film is a who’s who of childhood actors, including Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, who went on to have real careers. Spielberg could mimic this film by having more depth in his story than in a page of a script.
2. The Princess Bride (1987)
There are few things more satisfying than watching Cary Elwes search for the love of his life (Robin Wright) in this fantasy-adventure-comedy classic. While Indiana Jones has quasi-love-hate interests in each film, the amour is just a sideshow till the next shootout. For a change, Spielberg could put real passion in an Indy film.
1. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (2003)
Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) also makes an appearance in this film, which tries to turn a bunch of classic literary characters into a band of superheroes. What Spielberg can learn from this film is what not to do. It was a bad idea, poorly executed. This movie is still worth watching to see Peta Wilson (star of TV series La Femme Nikita) play a kickass vampire—but that is about it. Seriously, Mr. Spielberg, don’t try this at home.
While Spielberg figures this out, there is always the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular in Disneyworld. Otherwise, we all have to wait till 2019 to see where Indy’s adventure takes us next.