Indiana Jones Has No Point Without Harrison Ford
Indiana Jones does not work with Harrison Ford because, unlike Star Wars, the series is built around one person.
Indiana Jones 5 is on the horizon, scheduled to be released in June of 2023, and during Disney’s recent D23 event, a visibly emotional Harrison Ford announced that it would be his last time portraying the iconic character of Doctor Henry Jones Jr, with the 80-year-old actor memorably joking that he would “not fall down for you again!” However, former Disney CEO Bob Iger announced years ago that the fifth Indiana Jones movie (which was then in development) would not be the last in the franchise, which has not been retracted by the company since. All this makes us ask: what is the point of Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford?
The short answer is that there is none. There are few characters in cinematic history that are so associated with a single actor, despite that Indiana Jones has been played by a multitude and depicted in many other mediums. Disney can keep pushing the idea of an Indiana Jones after the departure of its titular character all it wants, but it simply will not work.
By all reports, Indiana Jones 5 is looking to pass the mantle of book-smart, two-fisted adventurer to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who almost certainly will pull off an excellent performance. Most likely, she will do a better job than the last time someone tried this, when Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams was presented as a potential new Indiana Jones type. That is no shade to LaBeouf, who can be an excellent actor between scandals, but simply put, neither one of them is Harrison Ford.
Cinema is littered with characters who have a lot of the Indiana Jones DNA, but do not hit the public’s imagination with a fraction of the impact as Harrison Ford did. Matthew McConaughey starred as Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt in Sahara to little attention; both Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander gave Lara Croft a shot; even Nicolas Cage’s Ben Gates in the National Treasure franchise has more than a little Indy in him. Of all the ersatz Indiana Jones figures out there, Brendan Fraser’s Rick O’Connell came closest with The Mummy series, but still, a dim reflection.
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy (who has been a producer with the franchise since Temple of Doom) has stated that Indiana Jones will not be recast after Harrison Ford retires from the character. Reportedly, Chris Pratt was scared off of potentially being cast as archaeologist/grave-robber by the expectations it would bring, as well as the older actor’s legendary grouchiness. So it can be safely inferred that Disney’s plan is to build out the world of Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford, much in the same way it has been building out Star Wars from its nucleus of Skywalkers.
Here’s the thing: Indiana Jones is not Star Wars. While a huge part of the appeal of George Lucas’ science fiction franchise was its sense of taking place in a huge galaxy (far far away, etc) with many different events occurring, Indiana Jones is focused on one man: Harrison Ford. If you attempt to tell the adventures of the world around him, but without him, you are just running into the same problem as all the other action-adventure franchises that attempt to harness the same energy.
This is a built-in problem (at least when it comes to Disney’s ravenous need to expand all of its IP) for the Indiana Jones franchise. The success of the series is based on the star power of Harrison Ford himself, not the character or the world, and can’t been simply transposed onto someone else. There have been plenty of Allan Quartermains and Doc Samsons out there, but Indiana Jones eclipsed all his forebears because of the humanity, intelligence, action, and odd humor that Harrison Ford brought to the role.
As much as Disney may be loathe to accept it, Indiana Jones is lightning in a bottle and Harrison Ford is the electricity. It was a singular convergence of talents that brought George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and a bunch of Scrooge McDuck comics together to create a synthesis of influences that turned out to be too memorable to replicate. As much as Disney will keep trying, without Harrison Ford, they are just going to be producing more imitations.