'Indiana Jones': How Disney's Lucasfilm deal affects the franchise
Amid the flurry of Twitterpation over the deal for Disney to buy Lucasfilm and the subsequent plans for a new trio of Star Wars feature films, the fate of another beloved brainchild of George Lucas was lost a bit in the shuffle: Indiana Jones. Adjusted for inflation, the four Indy movies have brought in nearly $1.9 billion at the domestic box office (or $939 million in unadjusted gross). In 2008, after a 19-year absence from the multiplex, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull proved the globetrotting archeologist still had plenty of box office snap left in his whip, pulling in $786.6 million worldwide.
All of which is to say, if Disney is clearly so eager to get the Star Wars engines revving once more, wouldn’t the studio also want to keep Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. swinging into theaters? After all, Disney already has two immensely popular Indiana Jones attractions at its theme parks: The Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. A new Indiana Jones movie should be a no brainer, right?
Well, it’s complicated. During a shareholders conference call on Tuesday, Disney chief Bob Iger said there were “some encumbrances” to monetizing Indiana Jones. It appears that is a bit of an understatement. EW has confirmed that Paramount Pictures, heretofore the franchise’s sole Hollywood home, retains the rights to distribute any future Indiana Jones movies, as well as all the rights (from distribution to DVD/Blu-ray) for the previous four Indy films. That alone wouldn’t prevent a fifth Indiana Jones from happening — Paramount holds similar distribution rights for several Marvel Studios franchises, and that train is happily chugging along. (When reached by EW, a Disney spokesperson said the studio could not comment further on the Lucasfilm deal until it clears the regulatory process.) But anyone hoping to hear John Williams’ stirring Indy theme once more should keep a few other factors in mind.
Steven Spielberg is tired of directing action. The Indiana Jones director had no comment on the Disney/Lucasfilm deal when reached by EW, but in his recent interview for 60 Minutes to promote Lincoln, the filmmaker made clear that the thrill of helming a killer action sequence has faded for him. “I knew I could do the action in my sleep,” he said. “At this point in my career, in my life, the action doesn’t hold any — it doesn’t attract me any more.” Given that the Indiana Jones films are at their heart action-adventure tales, that’s not exactly a stirring endorsement. But Spielberg isn’t abandoning the action genre, either — he’s next set to direct Robopocalypse, which is at the very least arguably the most action-y title of Spielberg’s career.
Producer Frank Marshall thinks Crystal Skull was “the last hurrah.” While making the press rounds for his film The Bourne Legacy, producer Frank Marshall — whose second major credit as a feature film producer was for Raiders of the Lost Ark — told Collider that he thought Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was “the last hurrah” for the franchise. He added that the principal Indy creative brain trust — Spielberg, Lucas, Harrison Ford, and himself — still “talk about” a fifth Indy film. “But there’s no idea [for a story]; there’s no MacGuffin.” Marshall’s wife, by the way, is Kathleen Kennedy, the new president of Lucasfilm. Make of that what you will.
Harrison Ford is 70. Granted, he could still beat the crap out of men half his age (or younger). He certainly was in fighting shape when he made Crystal Skull five years ago, and he’s very much a gainfully employed movie star, with three major films aiming for release next year. But at a certain point, one’s suspension of disbelief can only dangle so far before it collapses.
Shia LaBeouf is “done” with big-budget movies. In 2008, concerns about Ford’s advancing age were made moot after Crystal Skull appeared to set up LaBeouf as the heir apparent to the Indy franchise. (Four-year-old SPOILER alert: He turns out to be Indy’s son, Henry “Mutt” Jones III.) Earlier this year, however, LaBeouf announced that he was “done” making studio-driven movies, saying that “there’s no room for being a visionary in the studio system — it literally cannot exist.” Match that sentiment with LaBeouf’s apology two years ago for the not-exactly-well-received Crystal Skull — “[Spielberg’s] done so much great work that there’s no need for him to feel vulnerable about one film. But when you drop the ball you drop the ball” — and it would seem the actor’s future in the franchise isn’t exactly bright.
Of course, all of these hurdles could be surmounted if a killer script ignites the imagination of the keepers of the Indiana Jones legacy. But with Spielberg occupied elsewhere and Lucasfilm focused on expanding the Star Wars universe, Indy’s fedora may be hanging on the rack for a long time to come.