As reports emerge from Pinewood Studios that filming on the fifth Indiana Jones film is set to start next week, fans of cinema’s greatest professor of archaeology could be forgiven for greeting the news with some trepidation. We’ve been burnt before. Back in 2008, my housemate and I celebrated finishing our final university exams by giddily heading to the Camden Odeon to witness the return of Dr Jones to the big screens after a 19-year absence. Our expectations were high. We binged the original trilogy in fevered anticipation. If we’d owned fedoras we’d have tossed them in the air in excitement. But after an unhappy two hours and four minutes trapped in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with just a nuke-proof fridge, a listless Shia LaBeouf, and some alien intruders for company we found ourselves praying that someone would have the kindness to put Indy – and us – out of our collective misery.
Is it possible then, 13 years on, to muster any excitement for a near-octogenarian Jones being wheeled out of retirement by Disney for one last crack of the whip? Harrison Ford is now 78 years old. By the time the film is released – currently scheduled for July 2022 – he will have turned 80. By contrast, Sean Connery was a fresh-faced 59 when he played Indy’s dad Professor Henry Jones in 1989’sIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and even at that relatively youthful age he was already suffering from memory loss. (Alright, alright, he wrote it down so he wouldn’t have to remember it.)
The exact details of Ford’s final archaeological adventure are still being kept tightly under wraps, so one just has to hope we won’t end up watching Indiana Jones shuffling along on his quest to get double vaccinated. The most closely guarded secret concerns the nature of the character Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge will play, although speculation is rife that she could be excellently placed to take over the franchise once Ford hangs up his hat and whip. She has a lot going for her in that regard: peerless comic timing, a slightly bookish air that could make her a plausible archaeologist and, most crucially of all, not being Shia LaBeouf.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While Disney executives are apparently keen to make the most of their 2012 Lucasfilm investment by expanding the Indiana Jones universe just as they’ve done with Star Wars, all that future-planning shouldn’t get in the way of Harrison Ford finding a fitting way to say goodbye to one of his greatest creations. There’s cause for hope in this area too: series director Steven Spielberg has handed the reins for this fifth adventure to James Mangold, who wrote and directed 2017’sLogan. Mangold was Oscar nominated for that script, which concluded the X-Men: Wolverine trilogy by following an aged Wolverine in the twilight of his years – proof that he can be trusted to deliver a suitably poignant ending for a character that audiences really love.
Mangold will have the best possible collaborator on this mission in Harrison Ford. Given his age, it seems unlikely we’ll ever see Ford headlining an action blockbuster like this again so it’s worth remembering the mammoth impact he’s had on the genre. More muscular Eighties counterparts like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis might try to dispute it, but it’s pretty easy to make the case that Ford is the greatest action hero American cinema has ever produced. He’s been Han Solo, Rick Deckard, and Jack Ryan, but it was on Indiana Jones’s globe-trotting, Nazi-defeating, grail-finding adventures that he always seemed happiest. Having successfully found closure in revisiting both Deckard and Han Solo in recent years, Ford’s goodbye to Indy will ensure this fifth and final outing will pack an emotional wallop as heart-tugging as John Williams’s strings. I’ll be hiding a box of Kleenex under my fedora.