Clearly, Disney rules the world. As if Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney's own original output weren't enough, Disney owns the Indiana Jones franchise as well. After the disappointing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, fans are very concerned over the franchise's future.
Right now, Harrison Ford is 71, which means by the time Disney is ready to make the next Indy installment, they will have some big decisions to make about both the casting and direction of the reinvigorated franchise. Because we care about its future, here are some suggestions on what path Disney might want to follow with Indiana Jones.
Just Continue in The Same Direction
It wasn't Ford's age that hurt Crystal Skull, it was the gutless, pandering, meandering script. Disney can make up for this structural disaster by crafting Harrison Ford a film worthy of the new Indiana Jones. The story of an aged adventurer is a fertile story engine, and it is ground Ford is already set to cover when he straps on his blaster and becomes Han Solo once again in another Lucasfilm production, Star Wars: Episode VII. A Cold War Indy, trying to save the world from nuclear holocaust in the days following the Kennedy assassination, or Indy looking for Excalibur in England during the height of the Mod movement could be cooler than words can describe. Just go The Expendables route and add some young action stars to the aging lead. Notice how the most intense action sequences were handled by Jason Statham and Jet Li in the first Expendables? Wait a minute, Jet Li! Indiana Jones! Jet Ii as an adult Short Round! There you go. Film it, Disney! As all Indy fans know, it's not the age, it's the mileage, and Ford still has plenty of gas in the tank to play an even older Indy, assuming he's given the right script.
The Next Generation
Using Indiana's legacy as a jumping off point, could Disney create a modern generation of Joneses? The modern world is filled with perils and unsolved mysteries, and this complex modern era would benefit from the Jones family fighting for truth and seeking out the answers to ancient mysteries. Disney loves their young characters -- how about Indy's granddaughter going on adventures inspired by Granddad, perhaps continuing the family feud with a new generation of Belloqs; or how about a grandson seeking out the modern whereabouts of the Lost Ark to solidify his grandpa's legacy? The hat and the whip can be treated like artifacts, passed down to a new family of adventurers. Please Disney, just refrain from calling this conceived film "Keeping up with the Joneses."
Reboot the Sucker
While following a mature Harrison Ford in new adventures would be a delight, if well scripted, there would be a certain shame in having Indy leave the confines of World War II. Rebooting Indy would allow filmmakers to keep the professor and adventurer punching Nazis for a new generation. In addition, a total reboot would allow filmmakers to revisit Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom with an eye on what made those awesome films work in the first place, or they could just focus on new adventures, kind of like an Indy Begins sort of vibe. A new, fresh start for Indy could incorporate characters like Henry Jones, Marcus Brody and Shorty early in the narrative, and allow Indy room to breathe knowing that all his adventures will have an interconnected story with an eye toward new horizons.
Want to solve the aging Indy issue? The answer to that quandary could come in the form of an animated Indy adventure. Ford could still do the voice of any era of Indy adventures with no physical or financial constraints. Disney certainly has the animation resources to make this work whether it is traditional 2D animation or modern 3D fare. Hey, just give this bad boy to Pixar and watch fans' heads explode in orgasmic glee. Animation would also allow Indy to go anywhere and do anything and not be confined by the restraints of age. I'll say it again, Indy + Pixar = WOW!
As stated above, Indy works best in the setting of World War II, recasting an actor the same age as Harrison Ford's age when he made Raiders would allow filmmakers to bounce off the previous three films. It would be a hard road for any actor to attempt to step into Ford's not rebooted shoes (just ask Brandon Routh or George Lazenby), but the rewards can be great. An actor will have to have the right script and the new film will have to hold the originals in almost a religious reverence, but films continuing storylines started in Raiders, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade will allow for some interesting story threads. What happened to Indy, Willie and Shorty after they left India? What were the ramifications of Henry Jones drinking from the Grail? Did Marion and Willie ever meet, and how much fur flew if they did? There can be some awesome story directions that play off the established films, but Disney's casting directors will have to work overtime to pull this one off.
Harrison Ford Book Ends
How does Disney keep fans from rioting in the streets if the studio recasts Indy? By keeping him as part of the project in a Young Indiana Jones-style bookend. Ford could be part of the story in truncated role which would keep his legacy alive and allow fans to transition to a new Indy. Disney can even go beyond a simple bookend and do parallel adventures of an older and younger Indy perhaps fighting a multi-generational war with Lao Che? This story device would allow Disney to explore any era of Indy's life, from the classic WWII adventures, to adventures in college, to Indy fighting alongside Pancho Villa as mentioned in Crystal Skull, having Ford there as the ever present narrator would allow fans to have their Indy while allowing Disney to painlessly transition into a new era. Again, some casting director would be under the gun, but with the right young actor, this could work.
OK, this might be stretching things a bit, but the original concept of Indiana Jones was a tribute to the movie serials of old. Disney certainly has some major film events in the next few years, why not create a ten-chapter Indy serial to put in front of the myriad Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and Disney films that are on the way? Whether utilizing the talents of Harrison Ford or a new actor, creating ten serialized 15-minute Indiana Jones shorts would be a fitting tribute to the roots of the character. And please, can Brad Bird direct?