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Better INDIANA JONES 5 Plots (SPOILERS)
Syncing DIAL OF DESTINY with THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES? Or a reunion with Short Round, fight with Chinese or Vietnamese Communists?
By now, I imagine everybody who wants to see Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has done so. Between the trailer showing Indiana as a lonely old man falling asleep in front of the TV, negative reviews that, among other things,
SPOILERS BELOW POSTER
describe how his son Mutt was killed in Vietnam and his wife Marion has filed for divorce, the implication he’s lost his position as Marshall College dean, the rather forced return of Nazis as the villains (and the implied criticism of Operation Paperclip by people who likely aren’t aware the Soviets actually employed more captured German scientists than the U.S. did), and significantly longer runtime than the earlier films, I decided to skip it.
Other than the length, everything I described comes off like the creators hated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which I liked better than The Last Crusade) and wanted to appease Crystal Skull’s critics (believe me there were lots) by undoing as much of it as possible and reverting to the “classic” formula of an adventurer without strong family ties fighting Nazis. Starting with killing a character a lot of people didn’t like and whose actor is…difficult.
(The crudeness and pettiness reminds me about how they wrote Megan Fox’s character Mikaela Banes out of the Transformers franchise after she ran her mouth about Michael Bay, even though to be fair Mutt’s disappearance is important to the story. If Shia LaBeouf’s bad-mouthing Crystal Skull while it was in theaters, legal troubles, etc. are too much, just re-cast Mutt or leave him out in a less vindictive way. Maybe he’s running a motorcycle shop in another state?)
Frankly, this movie doesn’t need to exist. CS covered the “aging hero” theme and sets up a pretty obvious end for Jones’ story. He’s reunited with and ultimately marries Marion (the only film love interest worth a damn), he connects with the son he didn’t know he had, and becomes one of Marshall College’s deans. Just let everybody assume he lived out his life telling his grandchildren and great-grandchildren about his adventures like in the 1990s The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles show.
(Speaking of which, in YIJC, he’s a very old man living with an adult daughter named Sophie, not his son Mutt. A daughter who looks like Karen Allen. Marion would be around 48 in Crystal Skull, so it is theoretically possible she and Indiana might have an incoming surprise. Here’s a surprisingly poignant fan-fic that gets into the family dynamic, especially with the shadow of Marion’s dead first husband Colin Williams and Indiana’s guilt for abandoning her hanging over them. Alternatively, Sophie could be adopted and the resemblance is coincidental. Although the frame story with Old Indiana was eliminated from recent YIJC media releases, it was there when the show first ran and can always be made canon again.)
That said, if they really want to give Indiana one last battle with the Nazis rather than have more period-appropriate villains (more on that later), I’ll take that if it means ditching the misery porn. To be more respectful of Crystal Skull’s happy ending (see this tweet about why that’s important), I’d leave Mutt alive, Indiana and Marion happy together (Karen Allen said her role was originally supposed to be larger and the film centered on Indiana and Marion), and Indiana still a dean.
Then the dastardly Jürgen Voller applies for an astronomy or astrophysics job at Marshall. Indiana recognizes him from the canonical film prologue’s World War II confrontation and objects, but is overruled by other administrators hoping to capitalize on his NASA connections. Voller denies his Nazi past (perhaps showing government clearances that later turn out to be forgeries), but he secretly plans to steal some relic or treasure stored on the campus to fund neo-Nazis in Germany or something more supernatural and sinister.
(Yes, there are people out there who believe Hitler was an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Perhaps a tie-in with Temple of Doom — “at least it’s not Kali this time.”)
Indiana proceeds to spend the film basically stalking Voller trying to catch him doing something criminal. Pretty much everybody else thinks he’s crazy, which might lead to him losing his position as dean. Given how many people liked Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena Shaw, you could have her in this version as another professor or a graduate student, or if you want a kid-sidekick analogue to Short Round, include pre-teen Sophie who still believes in her dad. Indiana, Marion, Helena, and/or Sophie ultimately catch Voller trying to rob the college museum or resurrect Hitler or something, with Indiana losing his eye in the resulting fight. That sets up Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which depicts him wearing an eyepatch as an old man.
(Since this story largely stays in one place, perhaps the red dot can move dramatically around a map of Marshall College. That might actually be funny, as well as a poignant commentary on how Indiana’s horizons have narrowed as he’s aged.)
Alternatively, given how Indiana was already complaining about his age in Crystal Skull (in which he’d be 58), we could always do a Batman Beyond and have someone else take up the mantle. The ending of Crystal Skull teased that possibility with that whole bit with Mutt and Indiana’s hat. The elderly Indiana would be a mentor like the older Bruce Wayne was for Terry McGinnis. Between his age and responsibilities, he’s not going to be adventuring like he did as a younger man. Furthermore, if Sophie is in the picture, Marion is going to absolutely lose it if he shirks his parental responsibilities for their daughter the way he did for their son. The teenage infatuation for her father’s hunky graduate student she carried for decades (yeah….about that) can only go so far.
The first idea I had was that an adult Short Round and Mutt (with a 12-year time skip they could sensibly recast him) could go off on some mission on behalf of Indiana. For drama, Short Round could envy Mutt being Indiana’s son, while Mutt could in turn envy that Short Round had time with Indiana as a child that he didn’t. There’d be “sibling” rivalry in the vein of Dick Grayson (the first Robin) and Bruce’s son Damian Wayne in the animated Son of Batman. As far as their mission is concerned, saving valuable Chinese artifacts from Mao’s Red Guard, perhaps? And that brings me to my next idea…
If an elderly Indiana being “the guy in the chair” doesn’t work and the old man himself needs the central role, the Vietnam War and Mao’s Cultural Revolution could be put to use other than keeping a controversial character and actor out of the franchise forever. Perhaps the Immigration Act of 1924 barred Indiana from bringing Short Round to America after Temple of Doom, Indiana didn’t try to find a way around it, and now he learns his former protégé is imprisoned in Vietnam or Laos (perhaps he was part of the Nationalist Chinese remnant that fled into the Golden Triangle) and slated for execution. Or he stayed in China and is now getting persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. If he were born in 1920 or 1921, he’d be in his 40s, perhaps like Indiana he became a teacher, and his students are now regularly beating him up?
(Open: Some teen Red Guards are attacking an adult Ke Huy Quan. Cut to the shadow of a man with the iconic hat and whip. The theme music starts playing and then some Mao-worshiping punks have a REALLY bad day.)
Indiana’s post-CS age and responsibilities augur against him doing something this radical, but abandoning Short Round is another mistake from his “fortune and glory” youth he’d feel the need to fix. Ke Huy Quan said he’d be up for playing the character again, so it’d have been doable. If “breaking Short Round out of a Communist prison” is too over-the-top for a man in his 70s, perhaps Indiana and Marion visit Hong Kong and find Short Round smuggling Chinese artifacts? Indiana is initially outraged (“IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!”) until he learns that Short Round is actually protecting them from the Cultural Revolution massacres in the nearby Guangdong Province.
(Of course, this plot would be rather difficult, given how China likes to leverage access to its enormous moviegoing population to censor American films. One consequence is that Richard Gere was functionally blacklisted for his strongly pro-Tibet views. Fortunately, Hollywood may be less inclined to bend the knee these days. It’s too late for this, but there could be a spinoff — perhaps something set during the Korean War.)
Any fan fiction writers want to run with these? Let me know and I’ll share it around.
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