Wednesday, on my birthday of all days, it was reported that Steven Spielberg will not be returning to direct Indiana Jones 5, which is supposedly shooting this summer. Finally.
What madness is this? “If Adventures Has A Name,” it MUST be Steven Spielberg.
Let’s travel back in time to December 2, 2015, seven years after the divisive Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, when Spielberg told Screen Daily this:
“It’s certainly not my intention to ever have another actor step into his shoes in the way there have been many actors that have played Spider-Man or Batman. There is only going to be one actor playing Indiana Jones and that’s Harrison Ford.”
Fair enough. But as just as an extreme fan as our own James Burns, @Indy_Filmmaker, who wrote his own piece about Spielberg leaving Indiana Jones 5 being a positive for the franchise, I would say…
there are many directors who have directed Spider-Man or Batman. There is only going to be one Indiana Jones director and that’s Steven Spielberg.
I buried part of the lede. James Mangold, director of 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line, The Wolverine, Logan, and Ford V. Ferrari is in talks to take the franchise over from the greatest director of all time. Not a terrible choice, but how many elements do we remove before Indiana Jones 5 is no longer an Indiana Jones film, in spirit at least?
I obviously disagree with my distinguished colleague, James, who is excited to see Mangold take the helm. We became friends on Twitter after I wrote a Breaking Geek article years ago proposing a direction for Indiana Jones 5… and he attacked me for it. We both realized quickly that our passion for Indiana Jones bound us more than it divided us. Eventually, I recruited him to LRM Online, and now he’s disagreeing with me on Indiana Jones again! I would have thought I would get some damn respect! (Just kidding, James, we good.)
We are already losing John Williams, the man behind the epic scores of the past four films in the franchise, as he retired after Stars Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Though he remains on as an executive producer, we don’t know how much of a role George Lucas is playing — though he is a franchise stronghold I am okay with letting go. With Steven Spielberg gone, what does Indiana Jones 5 lose next? The hat and the whip? Indiana Jones 5 just doesn’t seem like it will be the same without franchise captain Steven Spielberg at the helm.
Obviously, this is all opinion, as there is no statistical way to calculate the ratio of franchise spirit left after replacing Spielberg with Mangold. But, as a lifelong fan, this doesn’t feel right to me.
I could talk about Spielberg’s reputation as the master of action-adventure, but you can just throw his more recent films in my face. I could argue Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a mostly great film with a few bad choices, but you’ll deny it. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite film of all time (sorry, Mission: Impossible – Fallout), and the lack of Spielberg as director for Indiana Jones 5, not just an involved producer, feels wrong in my jellies.
We know Spielberg is out and that will unlikely change. I believe that means it’s time to stop my bitching, take a look at whether or not Mangold is a good choice, and propose two other options that may better carry-out Spielberg’s original vision for the Indiana Jones franchise.
The Man(gold) is not a terrible choice for director of Indiana Jones 5, but he’s also not who I would have picked. He’s not exactly known for bringing humor, splendor, and whimsy to his films like Steven Spielberg.
He obviously has the western chops, as Indiana Jones is a cowboy at heart and his films are adventure/westerns that borrow from the serials of old like Zorro. James Mangold has directed two action-westerns that I do appreciate, 3:10 to Yuma and Logan. Yes, Logan is most definitely a modern western. But… all his films are so dark and melancholy. I love Logan. But I DON’T want a Logan-esque take on Indiana Jones.
Yes, Indy’s age should be addressed, even further than in Crystal Skull, but I don’t want to see a broken-down Indiana Jones who is stuck in the past. I want a quirky, quippy guy, who is giving is all and is hopeful about his final adventure. Not dragged into it, hating life. There’s no evidence this is the kind of film Mangold would make, but he is certainly not known for light-hearted action. I’d rather see that in Indiana Jones 5 than real gravitas. We’re not making an Oscar Nom here, we’re making an exciting film!
Two (Or Three) Other Director Recommendations
Christopher McQuarrie, the genius behind Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Fallout, and the upcoming Mission: Impossible 7 & 8. The man also wrote a good deal of wonderful films including Edge of Tomorrow (maybe you call it “Live, Die, Repeat,” but that makes you wrong) and Top Gun: Maverick (hopefully wonderful).
I know McQuarrie, a good friend of Mangold, is busy at the moment, shooting M:I -7 and M:I-8 back-to-back, but this is my dream list! Stop stomping on my dreams!
McQuarrie knows the stunt-based action that helped make Raiders of the Lost Ark a hit (not that they had many options back then). His films also carry a wonderful balance of high stakes and light humor. This is part of the legacy of the original Indiana Jones trilogy, a legacy I feel even influenced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or at least the films that made the MCU possible. If I can’t have Spielberg, find me a slice of the multiverse where Christopher McQuarrie is available to direct Indiana Jones 5.
Or, how about a foursome of gentlemen who also know the tone and have a love for Raiders?
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely know WWII and McGuffins after their work writing all the Captain America films including First Avenger. But, guess what? They wrote Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame as well!
These two seem to be the sole writers for perhaps the hottest directors on the market, Joe and Anthony Russo. Again, it feels like the Indiana Jones films of the 80s were a precursor to the balance of humor and stakes in the MCU, and it’s hard to pick two better directors who have worked with Marvel Studios, that shares an owner in Disney. How about that?
Look, I’m not a “No Spielberg, then no Indiana Jones 5” guy, as much as I am advocating for Spielberg to return. I just wish my favorite film character was in the right hands, Steven Spielberg’s.
Anything less is a copy, not a true Indiana Jones film.
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