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While Disney has clearly been focusing most of its efforts on Star Wars since acquiring Lucasfilm, there was another major brand that came along with the company as well: Indiana Jones. There were rumors of a fifth film in the Indy franchise for years before a new movie was finally confirmed back in... 2016. Needless to say, it’s been a long road.
The original release date for Indiana Jones 5 was July of this year, but the movie has seen delay after delay since then. Now we’re expecting Indy 5 to hit in the summer of 2021, but based on the most recent news, the film project still hasn’t figured out what in the hell it’s actually about. Let me go over what precisely has me worried.
The Scriptwriters Merry-Go-Round
The issue with the delay seems to be entirely about the script. Originally, the screenplay was in the hands of David Koepp, the writer of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it left him at some point and was moved into the hands of Solo: A Star Wars Story's Jonathan Kasdan and then Tangled’s Dan Fogelman. Now, it seems David Koepp has the script back again.
David Koepp says that “this time” he thinks the idea the script is working with is solid, but it’s been more than three years at this point, so that seems less than certain.
Now, screenwriting is frequently a collaborative process. Writers like Kasdan and Fogelman may have helped spark something that Koepp hadn’t done on his own, but that he can now pick up and run with. Opinions of Crystal Skull notwithstanding, Koepp is a talented and able writer, but after everything this movie has been through, it’s difficult to have any confidence that this time it’s all going to work out.
The Clock is Ticking On The Next Release Date
The current release date for Indiana Jones 5 is July 9, 2021. That may seem like a long way off, but it’s really not. One assumes a movie like this is going to have significant post-production work that needs to be done. Many digital effects will likely need to be created for whatever mystical MacGuffin is at the core of the movie, as well as lots of green screen work to create sets for any filming not done on location.
That would require as much as a year of post-production work to be done, meaning filming for a movie coming out in the summer of 2021 will need to be done shooting by the summer of 2020.
However, before filming can begin, there’s a lot of pre-production work that needs to be done, lining up the complete cast at a start. At this point, only Harrison Ford is officially on board. You need to hire a crew and schedule the filming in all the right locations. There’s a lot of work, months worth, that needs to be done before filming can happen.
And the vast majority of that can’t be started until there’s a script. You can’t hire a cast until you know all the roles you need. You can’t scout locations until you know what sorts of backdrops you'll need. When you work backwards you realize that for the movie to actually come out on the current schedule, things need to get moving soon.
Steven Spielberg was expecting to shoot the new Indiana Jones 5 in April of this year, back when the release date was July of 2020, so if we hold to the same schedule now, a final draft of the script and all pre-production need to be done by next April. That’s not a lot of time, especially since Steven Spielberg isn't waiting around. He has other projects he's busy with.
Harrison Ford Isn’t Getting Any Younger
While the Indiana Jones franchise is currently made up of four movies, only two of them are universally seen as being actually good. The most recent, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is already over 10 years old.
Harrison Ford is currently 77 and next summer, when this movie might potentially be filming, he turns 78. He was 73 when the new film was first confirmed.
Harrison Ford will never be too old to play Indiana Jones. That’s not the issue. The issue is that a movie made when Ford was 73 and one made when he’s nearly 80 are going to be different movies. The longer things take, the more they may need to change, which will, once again, slow down the entire process.
Harrison Ford clearly loves Indiana Jones, and the man has shown no lack of willingness to return to the role, but that's not going to be the case forever. Ford is making fewer movies these days, almost certainly because he doesn't have to, and doesn't want to. The guy's earned his break, and eventually even the lure of Indiana Jones might not be enough to bring him back.
A Silver Lining?
On the one hand, I feel like the fact that this movie can’t find a plot to save its life could be a good thing. Clearly nobody is settling for just any idea. At the same time, it should probably still be easier for a concept to be found that it has apparently been. If nobody can settle on a story, not making the movie needs to be seen as a perfectly viable option.
Nobody will be happier to see another great Indiana Jones movie than me. I don’t care if Harrison Ford's 90 when he films the movie, if there’s something worthwhile to say with the character, let’s say it.
However, we also don’t need to make another Indiana Jones movie. Sure, it would be nice to end on a note other than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it’s not like we don’t have the other Indiana Jones movies to watch basically anytime we want.
The fact that Indiana Jones 5 has seen multiple delays since it was originally supposed to be released is a clear indicator that the driving force behind the announcement in the first place was the fact that Disney wanted to make a new Indiana Jones, rather than the fact that anybody had an idea for a new Indiana Jones.
That’s not surprising or, indeed, any real problem. Such is the case with pretty much every franchise movie these days, but it seems like, if this were any other project it would have been shelved by now and everybody would have moved on to work on something else.
If Indiana Jones 5 has truly found an angle for a story that works, then I look forward to the news that the script is ready and the film has entered pre-production. If, however, this is yet another false start, then maybe we should just say goodbye to Indiana Jones. Let me know your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.