Next year, Harrison Ford will celebrate his 79th birthday with the release of a fifth Indiana Jones film. With a new director in dad-movie auteur James Mangold and a buzzy cast that includes Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Mads Mikkelsen, hopes are high. But they’re not high enough to make us forget that when we last saw Indy 13 years ago (really!), he was cavorting with aliens and pompadour-sporting monkeys.
Even if the new film — rumored to be set in the ’60s — returns the series to form… then what? Indy’s been grumbling about being exhausted since Raiders in ’81. But for Ford, the years have finally caught up with the mileage.
There’s no way Disney will let the beloved franchise gather dust in its mysterious vault alongside the original print of Song of the South. But after 2.5 bonafide classics, there’s no Indy without Ford. Fans balk at recasting rumors with the kind of vitriol only Alden Ehrenreich can truly understand. The Continuing Adventures of Mutt Williams seems as appealing as staring into the Ark of the Covenant. And nobody’s clamoring for a spinoff about Sallah or young Marcus Brody (A Cheers knockoff at Abner Ravenwood’s bar, however…)
Thing is, there’s a perfect, age-appropriate way to keep Ford in his fedora and bring a younger actor to handle all the whip-work and pratfalls, and it’s sitting right there in the vault. It’s time to reboot The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
The series, which ran on now-Disney-owned ABC from 1992-1993, took a very Forrest Gump approach to Indy’s life. Flitting between his tween years and later his late teens and early 20s—where he was played by Sean Patrick Flanery — the slightly educational show followed Indy around the globe, first with his dad and later as a Belgian legionnaire and international spy. Along the way, he interacted with such historical figures as varied as Carl Jung, Louis Armstrong, Al Capone, Ho Chi Minh, and Matta Hari.
In canon, young Jones rode with Pancho Villa and fought in World War I, and it’s hard to imagine that whatever Mangold has planned for Indy’s adventures in the ’60s would be more compelling than watching him hunt for relics alongside the famed Mexican revolutionary or throughout war-torn Europe.
Grumpier still, each episode was bookended by a nonagenarian Jones regaling anyone within earshot about his early adventures. As played by an eye-patched George Hall, Old Indy came off as uncharacteristically whimsical. But a modern version could bring in the perfect elderly sage to handle Indy’s trademark gruff wisdom and world-weary swagger: Harrison Ford. (To be fair, the original show actually did this with one episode, too. The saxophone-centric “Mystery of The Blues,” was book-ended by Ford as old-ish Indy.”
A modern update would lend itself fantastically to a series of films or a long Disney+ series. Through the framing device, Ford could gracefully age into Indy’s hard-earned retirement instead of sending him off to slug it out with the Russians again. And if Ford really wanted to remain in the action, it could also involve Old Indy finishing a quest he began in his youth. In fact, Young Indiana Jones was directly inspired by the beloved opening of The Last Crusade, in which River Phoenix inherited Indy’s whip and fedora while chasing the Cross of Coronado… a quest that ended some 30 years later with adult Indy. (Rumor has it that a long-threatened Die Hard sequel will adopt a similar framing device… Indy did it first, and Ford does apathetic aging action hero way better than Bruce Willis).
Resurrecting this long-forgotten series offers a path forward by mining the past. It would allow Ford a believable way to cash a paycheck without putting his stunt double through the wringer. This is a character who canonically survived a love triangle with Ernest Hemingway and the trenches of WWI. That sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than Ford quipping about hippies while his stunt double fights Mikkelson in Haight Ashbury, or whatever the series has in store for us after the last film’s alien climax.
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is not streaming on Disney+ or Paramount+. You have to hunt around YouTube if you want to find it.
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