The movie industry has become a franchise machine. There are still modestly budgeted comedies, small independent films, and extravagant awards season contenders… But their main stream of revenue comes from the juggernaut multi-film franchises that bring audiences to the theater in droves. There are some great franchises (Marvel, Bond, Mission: Impossible), but for every great franchise there are several bad ones. Some of these franchises just need a little clarity of vision and love to rehabilitate them into franchises worthy of turning up at the theater for.
Like the Indiana Jones franchise.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is one of the greatest adventure films ever made and it was followed by two incredibly strong sequels. Then twenty years passed and they made a fourth Indiana Jones film… And it was terrible. INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is everything that an Indiana Jones movie shouldn’t be. It was silly, CGI-laden, poorly written, and worst of all it was dull.
The Indiana Jones series deserves better than that. It deserves a fresh start. James Bond and Star Trek started over wonderfully, so why not Indiana Jones? How would that movie even play out?
I have a few ideas… Let’s get to it.
The movie opens on a mountain. As all Indiana Jones movies must. We pull in on the mountain and find Indiana Jones on his last mission. He’s been captured and is being dragged down the mountainside. He attempts to escape, using his trusty whip to attack his captors. He is shot and then is thrown into a cell once they reach the base of the mountain. His captor begins asking him questions. He’s impressed by him. He wants to know how he became this way. Pull in on Indiana Jones and we flashback to this same face… Forty years earlier.
We meet up with Henry Jones Jr. as a teaching assistant at Marshall College under Professor Abner Ravenwood. The year is 1927 and Jones is not yet the man of action that he is in the future. The US government is worried about Nazi’s and the occult. They found out that they are after the sword of Excalibur, a weapon of the occult. They want Abner to track it down and get it for them before it’s taken to be a tool of propaganda for the enemy.
What follows is the story of Henry and Abner’s falling out. While pursuing and researching Excalibur, Henry’s relationship with Abner’s daughter, Marion, is discovered. She is tickled by Henry’s mild-mannered personality and they have fallen in love. Abner intended to procure the sword of Excalibur for a mysterious third-party and was intending to bring Henry in on the plan. Once he finds out about Henry and Marion’s relationship he puts the kibosh on that.
Abner leaves to hunt down the sword and the government has no one to turn to. The new dean of Marshall College, Marcus Brody, goes to Henry and suggests that he is the perfect person to go after Abner and get the sword for the college… It shouldn’t be a tool for any government. It should be in a museum. Their museum if he has anything to say about it.
This sets up the major characters and starts off a slow burn that will escalate into an epic adventure that continues to get crazier and crazier with each passing sequence. While on the hunt for Abner and the sword, Henry travels across the world, is almost killed a number of times, gets left for dead, and is healed and subsequently trained by a strong female adventurer who is essentially the prototype Indiana Jones. Henry butts heads with Nazi’s, cults, bounty hunters, and the knights of an ancient order. Marion’s relationship with her father is tested and she must choose between him and Henry. The decision she makes drives her away from Henry for the next decade.
When all is said and done Henry is the man we meet in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The only thing that is missing is the moniker. At the end of the movie, Brody tells Jones that the government has found a list of antiquities that the Nazi’s are after. They want to make this pairing a permanent affair and these items will all go back to the museum at Marshall College. Jones takes on the name “Indiana Jones” as a code name to go by on missions.
With the cast I detailed in the Casting Corner piece from last week, I think this could be a hugely successful reboot of the franchise. The adventure would take the characters all over the world and would lean on practical effects over CGI. Making the story about the formation of Indiana Jones, giving him a great character arc, would be hugely exciting. Setting up Indy’s relationship with Marshall College and the US Government would be something that would come back into play in future movies.
There are probably several other ways to set up a reboot of the Indiana Jones series, but I think that this one would really light the fuse for a great return to form for the greatest adventure series there is.