By Daniel Bukszpan
ast month the Walt Disney Company released its upcoming slate of movies to a salivating news media.
The list of films stretches far beyond the horizon, into the year 2021. It features such certain-to-please titles as “UNTITLED DISNEY FAIRY TALE (Live Action)” and “UNTITLED PIXAR ANIMATION (3D).”
Also found on the list, and slated for release on July 10, 2020, is “UNTITLED INDIANA JONES,” the fifth installment in the action-adventure franchise. That’s right, Harrison Ford will yet again don his trademark whip and fedora and, one presumes, be thrust into hair-raising, life-or-death situations, from which escape is impossible and doom is certain.
But escape from them he will, through unlikely feats of derring-do, and in the process, he will once again make women want him and make men want to be him.
At first blush, it makes perfect sense for the Walt Disney Company to take this well-worn franchise out for another spin. Since purchasing LucasFilm in 2012 for $4 billion, the Walt Disney Company has revived the “Star Wars” franchise with 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and 2016’s “Rogue One,” and those two movies earned $2 billion and $1 billion respectively at the worldwide box office.
Meanwhile, the “Indiana Jones” franchise, has taken in almost $2 billion at the worldwide box office. So as with “Star Wars,” it makes sense for the Walt Disney Company to grab this profitable franchise by its ankles, hold it upside down and shake out whatever few coins might still remain in its pockets. After all, Mr. Disney’s cryogenic chamber isn’t going to freeze itself, so why not see if the grizzled archaeologist, adventurer and all-around cad can still get people to the multiplex?
Why not, indeed
For anyone who saw 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” the “why not?” should be plainly evident. Harrison Ford is currently 75 years of age and laughably, ridiculously past his prime as an action movie star.
A persuasive case can be made that he should have hung it up decades ago. In the 1990s, when he was in his 50s, he began a process that appeared as though he was wisely transitioning from daredevil roles to more sedentary ones, such as those that he portrayed in such movies as “Regarding Henry” and “Sabrina.”
There was still the odd action role, such as his portrayal of the President of the United States in the execrable 1997 atrocity known as “Air Force One.” But despite all the punching, explosions and grimacing, the role still allowed him to project the gravitas befitting a man pushing 60.
Indeed, Ford had appeared to be accepting the aging process with admirable dignity, and he appeared to be at peace with the idea of passing the torch to the new guys, whoever they may be.
Then, in 2008, when Ford was 65 years old, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” happened, and all that hard-won dignity was unceremoniously flushed down the toilet.
To his credit, Ford at 65 was still in better physical shape than many people half his age, and if critical and audience receptions are any indication, he just barely got away with it. He is also to be commended for not retooling a once-successful franchise for the “Jason Bourne” set, to diminishing box office returns (see “Willis, Bruce”).
But sadly, rather than quit while he was ahead, Ford apparently confused “barely getting away with it” with “you now have carte blanche to go on pretending you’re still 35 years old until you die.”
May the Force be over
In 2015, Ford returned to his iconic Han Solo role in “The Force Awakens.” The results were grim. Watching him run (or just stagger at a mildly elevated speed) from point A to point B was a slightly less painful exercise than watching a man cross an icy street after he’s consumed half a bottle of gin.
Luckily, the screenwriter had the good sense to kill off the smirking space pirate once and for all, thereby allowing Ford to abscond with his reported salary of $10 million to $20 million and, one hoped, accept that he was in his autumn years, and retire to a life of crashing his private airplane into public golf courses and cramming his wrinkly, Viagra-inflated genitals into Calista Flockhart’s jagged pelvic region.
No such luck. With the news of the fifth “Indiana Jones” installment, it seems safe to assume that the Walt Disney Company plans to wheel out Ford’s carcass for as long as people will pay to see it, and for as long as a fedora will still adhere itself to his wilted cranium.
If Disney’s release schedule holds, Ford will be 78 years old when the fifth “Indiana Jones” movie comes out. If it makes money, which it probably will, there’s no reason to believe that the actor’s octogenarian status will be seen as an impediment to casting him in further “Indiana Jones” movies.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll even resurrect Han Solo somehow, despite being last seen getting stabbed through the heart and falling into a yawning chasm. It’s as easy as saying, “It was all a dream.”
Can the torch be passed?
Hollywood has tried for many years, at great cost, to churn out some other actor — any other actor — to pass the torch to, one who can actually act and who is a credible action star, capable of walking across a room without the aid of $10 million worth of CGI
This has proven to be a fool’s errand. The highway of movie stardom is littered with the careers of such has-beens as Shia LaBeouf and Vin Diesel, next big things that never were. Maybe this is because the key to Harrison Ford’s enduring stardom is that even as an old man, he makes it look easy, or easy-ish.
For people of a certain age, movie stars don’t come any more rakishly, smirkingly charismatic than Harrison Ford, and maybe they never will. Perhaps this is why he plays by a different set of rules than his contemporaries, all of whom have been consigned to a life of falling asleep in their bathrobes in front of The Golf Channel.