Opinion

James Mangold Doesn’t Understand Indiana Jones

The trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny premiered on Super Sunday and millions of fans have prepared to say farewell to one of the twentieth century’s most iconic heroes.  The farewell, however, may not be a fond one.

There is no easy way to say this; but I am very apprehensive about how James Mangold is handling the character.  Mangold is of course the first director not named Spielberg to helm a movie in this franchise.  He has the pedigree to do it.  It isn’t like he’s Rian Johnson.  He’s actually a good director and a brilliant writer.  My reservations come from his interpretation of the source material.

Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are set to star in one last adventure before Ford hangs the whip and fedora up for good.

In an Interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mangold attempts to explain to us “How Time Has Changed Indiana Jones”.  This is the problem with modern film-making.  People are so quick to take off the mask.  They are so eager to expose the reality to the magic.  They don’t realize that in doing so that they are meddling with something special that they could have been a part of.

It Is Called Movie Magic For A Reason

As a lifelong Indiana Jones fan, I will be the first to tell you; I don’t want time to change Indiana Jones.  I don’t want to see “…how his soul might ache…”  I want to see a last hurrah from the guy who made archaeology cool.  Give us the guy who saved the world from the Nazis.  For one last time, we want to see the smart talking, whip cracking lady’s man who had us all belting out the theme music and pretending to be him when we were kids.

Don’t give us an old man who is in his twilight years and pondering his existence.  That isn’t who we want to see.  That isn’t who Indiana Jones is.  Mangold talks about moving Indy into a world where “…politics is more grey… Who’s a villain?”  While that is true of the real world in its current state, that does not mean that has to be what we see on the screen.

Indiana Jones is not in the real world.  He is a product of Hollywood.  Hollywood used to be a place where we escape from the real world.  The movie theater at one point in our lives, was a magical place where the grey area didn’t exist.  There was good, there was evil, and there would be a story about the struggle between the two sides with good prevailing most of the time.

Harrison Ford in the opening scene of Raiders of The Lost Ark. This has become one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history.

Over time, modern filmmakers have disregarded that style of storytelling.  What we have gotten has been pessimistic, cynical, misanthropic storytelling that is devoid of any hopefulness or feel good moments.  Zack Snyder gave that treatment to Superman when he made the uncharacteristically dark Man of Steel.  Luke Skywalker met this fate in The Last Jedi when he became a gruff misanthrope.  Even the good natured Velma Dinkley couldn’t escape this trend after Mindy Kaling was done with her and delivered to us the most grating, overbearing, horrible protagonist ever to appear on a television screen.

This is not what the fans want.  We don’t want melancholy scenes where we meet the man under the fedora.   This comprehensive list of things that fan want makes that clear. If this is the last movie, we want action.  Excitement is a must.  The audience wants fun.  I want to escape from real world issues for two hours.  We want to laugh and cheer.  It has been a long time since I’ve thought twice about taking a bathroom break during a movie.  I want to tell my bladder that I’m sorry for drinking thirty ounces of soda so fast.

Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom is one of the most fun films in the franchise.

Just give us what we came to see.  Give us an action packed experience.  Don’t give us a philosophical quandary.

The Final Takeaway

Few characters have had the hold on this generation of moviegoers that Indiana Jones has.  If this is going to be the last time that we see Harrison Ford suit up and mount his horse, then we deserve to see the movie that we are entitled to see.  I said it.  The fans are entitled to the experience that they deserve.

I know fan entitlement is a bogeyman to every filmmaker and it has become a source of ire for Hollywood.  However, if you are asking me to spend upwards of thirty dollars to see your film, I want the experience that I expect.

Having Indiana Jones go through any kind of existential crisis is unrealistic to the lore, and very much out of character.  This is a man who defies the very notion of an existential crisis.  He knows that there is a God in his Universe.  He has seen his miracles performed twice.  He knows that there is so much more to live for, and that there is a life beyond the one that he is currently living.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was the final installment of the original trilogy. Ford and Sean Connery are arguably the most talented on screen duo ever to appear in an action movie.

He is not Dante Hicks, and this is not a Kevin Smith movie.  This is Indiana Jones.  He is the product of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.  To bring existentialism into the storyline is almost as much of an insult as bringing aliens into the lore.

Have Indy go  out on one last hurrah, let the fans go home happy.  End the series on the note that it deserves to end on.  We have waited so long for an optimistic film to be released.  A film that makes us smile and realize that the world isn’t such a rotten place after all.

If any upcoming film is deserving of that designation, this is the one. So please, with all due respect to you Mr. Mangold: Don’t screw this up.

Thank you for reading.  When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frances, and my hound Marbles.

For more insightful content and thoughtful discussion, please check out our youtube channel and follow us on twitter @gnn_home. Stay Geeky Everybody!

1 Comment

  1. John Biscardi

    February 15, 2023 at 9:44 pm

    Indiana Jones’ final film was in 1989. He (and we) rode off into the sunset with our friends Marcus and Sallah. Repaired our relationship with dad and said goodbye. I see anything new as just a misremembered story being told by the elderly Henry Jones Jr. of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

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