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Indiana Jones and the absurdity of Hollywood de-aging

 


This Thanksgiving weekend, in homes across the country, there’s a guarantee: somewhere, someone will watch one of the Indiana Jones movies, and it’ll probably be the first or third in the series. .

Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are nothing less than perfect seasonal comfort food: witty, exciting, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable action scenes. These films are those rare images that, no matter how many times you watch them, continue to be fabulously entertaining. The others in the Temple of Doom franchise and…

This Thanksgiving weekend, in homes across the country, there’s a guarantee: somewhere, someone will be watching one of IndianaJones movies, and it will probably be the first or third in the series.

The Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are little less than perfect seasonal comfort food: witty, exciting, filled with indelible characters and unforgettable action scenes. These films are those rare images that, no matter how many times you watch them, continue to be fabulously entertaining. The others of the franchise cursed temple and Crystal Skull Kingdom are less effective, and the latter has become synonymous with mediocrity. Still, all of them are, at their minimum, quite an entertaining way to spend a few hours, and, at their best, considerably more than that.

So it should be good news that a fifth IndianaJones film still untitled beyond Indiana Jones 5 will be released next June, featuring the return of Harrison Ford, now 80, in his most iconic role (sorry, star wars and About Henry fans). Former director Steven Spielberg has handed the reins over to James Mangold, who knows a bit about acting, as viewers of Logan and the superb 3:10 at Yuma can testify. The cast includes an array of interesting actors, from Flea bags Phoebe Waller-Bridge in her first major Hollywood role as Jones’ goddaughter and sparring partner (and, thank goodness, no love interest) for the ever-reliable likes of Mads Mikkelsen as a Nazi-turned-scientist from The NASA. Its setting, around the 1969 space race, is intriguing, and the ever-welcome presence of John Williams, composing what he said was his final score, is a pleasant statement of continuity.

So why is it so hard to rejoice? The answer, I’m afraid, lies in the dreaded word “de-aging.” There’s been an unfortunate trend in Hollywood in recent years, started by Marvel (naturally) and picked up by everyone from Martin Scorsese to The Irishmanto Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in Bill and Ted face the musicto try to rejuvenate the actors via CGI. It’s an extremely expensive process, designed to replace embarrassing amateur make-up attempts. If it once seemed ludicrous to imagine Harrison Ford, well past retirement age, fighting villains forty or fifty years his junior, salvation is at hand. Put a few green spots on his face (which will be erased by computer later), make judicious use of a stunt double, and you’ve removed the possibility of actor obsolescence.

It’s a superficially appealing notion if you’re a studio that exists largely to make money. Yet for those of us who cherish the idea that movies can say interesting and touching things about aging, de-aging represents a refusal to come to terms with biological reality. It’s not just the face of an aging actor; it is his body, his voice and his whole manner. The Irishman was rightly criticized for scenes in which an elderly Robert de Niro is shown committing acts of violence with movements and physique recognizable from an older man. While no one expects gritty realism from Indiana Jones 5, it’s still a miserable escape to take refuge in the glossy digital representation of Ford as it was decades ago.

It remains unclear which part of the film will feature the technology. Mangold has indicated that it will be used in the prologue, but given that the film would revolve around time travel, it would be a brave man or woman who wouldn’t bet against a scene featuring Indiana Jones. older meeting his younger self, no doubt with wacky banter aplenty. Those of us with long enough memories remember that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade did the same quite brilliantly, with Sean Connery in full professorial mode as Indiana’s dad.

So while we can hope that the latest film is, at the very least, gripping, escapist entertainment, Waller-Bridge battling the bad guys and joking sardonically must be worth admitting, it’s hard not to feel that this particular adventure might be more of a nemesis to Dr. Jones than any number of evil Nazis or time-traveling character actors.

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