In 2022, Indiana Jones will get its fifth installment in the film franchise. As of now the film is untitled and has no plot details released. Harrison Ford will of course reprise his role as leading man and title character, but with all of the criticism surrounding the previous film, will the studio and writers have learned their lesson in order to produce a better film, or will the fifth movie become the new worst?
Fans of the series can all agree that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the weakest story in the franchise for several reasons including a confusing and unnecessary plot, weak villains compared to previous films, and goofy action sequences that belong in a cartoon. Other criticisms include how the film seemed to have action sequences and CGI that looked dated for its time as a 2008 movie. The cinematography was a little strange, and the lighting seemed too bright. The studio or writers seemed to rely on jokes about Indiana Jones' old age a little too much, which upset many fans as they felt it was disrespectful to the character. All the joking 'got old' after a while.
The first film in the franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark, came out in 1981 and audiences instantly fell in love with the archeologist character who always seemed to be in over his head. The story was developed by George Lucas—creator of Star Wars—and Philip Kaufman—who directed Invasion of the Body Snatchers. With Steven Speilberg as director, it was able to get enough word-of-mouth buzz to make it the highest-grossing film of 1981.
The next two installments in the franchise weren't met with as much praise, but they are still considered to be great films, albeit with a little more violence and darker subject matter. The fourth film, however, despite its financial success, is the lowest rated and most criticized film of the bunch. The hype and excitement for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is perhaps what led to the weight of how much of a let down the movie was, thanks to unmet expectations. But what made the original trilogy so much better, and how can the fifth film redeem the franchise?
There is something about meeting a character for the first time that makes it like no other experience. This is especially so if the movie itself is something the viewer likes. As much as it's hard to admit, the first film is better simply because it's the first time the audience is introduced to the characters and the world they live in. It's exciting because it's hard to know what to expect. It's very difficult for a film sequel to compare to the original, unless the characters reinvent themselves. Character reveals and opening sequences, especially in Raiders of the Lost Arc, are very powerful and can give the viewer a sensation of the thrill of starting a new endeavor.
Consider Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The reason this movie is a successful sequel is that the title character, the Terminator, has been reinvented. It feels almost like the audience is being introduced to a new character all over again. If Indiana Jones 5 wants to redeem the franchise, it needs to have the established characters reinvent themselves in some way. This doesn't mean viewers want Indiana Jones to become a villain (even though some fans already seem to think Jones actually is the villain) or the opposite of everything they've known about him. But, the new film will need to give viewers that sense of discovery they got while watching the first films.
Another great thing about the original films is their use of practical stunts and action sequences. The filmmaker, Speilberg, did not hold back on blood or the imagery of death. There were no CGI groundhogs, and cinematography felt classic and tangible. And viewers really believed that Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones character was seconds away from real danger. Many of the best filmmakers working today know that relying too much on CGI can take away from the experience of the movie. Practical effects are much more believable and can be enhanced with CGI to make them look more aesthetically pleasing.
In order for the fifth film to not replace Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as the worst film in the franchise, it needs to do a few things. The characters need to feel new again by reinventing themselves. The plot needs to have a clear direction and not rely on franchise tropes, and the cinematography needs to be more in line with the original trilogy. As far as story goes, it might be interesting to explore supernatural elements like the fourth film tried to do in a way that was less convoluted. As with any project, the best way for the fifth installment to be better than the fourth is if those working on the project complete it with passion and let the story come naturally.
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