For all the stars out there, Pratt seems to be as good a choice as any to put on the hat and take up the whip. He has the handsome, charming and self-effacing qualities Indy needs. Plus he has two blockbuster franchises that got off the ground in 2014. Both Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie headlined Pratt, made more money than he can ever spend, and were actually embraced by fans for their wit as well as spectacle. He can handle the action sequences and commands comic acting chops, as honed in Parks and Recreation.
Plus, Pratt is jumping feet first into the extended Jurassic Park universe, playing someone riding motorcycles with raptors in the upcoming Jurassic World.
But in each of those films, even Jurassic, he is not stepping into someone else’s shoes. Cary Grant never played a Lego figure named Emmet. Clint Eastwood was not the original movie Peter Quill/Starlord. And Pratt is not going to play Dr. Grant. He had a clean slate with each of those characters and did not contend with the unwieldy baggage of assuming an iconic role.
As you may recall, however, an iconic movie star did play Indiana Jones. And unless you count The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which nobody on the planet Earth does, the only Indy anyone thinks of is Harrison Ford.
I think that is a pretty safe bet to make.
No matter how talented Pratt is (and he is) and no matter how well he could play the role, it’s an impossible task. The question “Was he better than Harrison Ford?” is a brutal one that will chase him across the movie like that boulder in that raided temple oh so many years ago.
Sure there are franchises that survived a casting change of a main character. James Bond, for example, saw the lead switch faces over the years, but people were open to Roger Moore playing Bond only after realizing that the alternative was an in over his head George Lazenby.
Batman keeps changing leads, too, but that is a comic book adaptation with a long history of actors wearing the cowl. Plus, after seeing Bat Nipples and the Schumacher treatment, people were ready for a change.
Also, although it may sound counter-intuitive, people don’t want to see a new Indiana Jones movie. They want to see a movie that makes them feel as excited as the first time they saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. That was not a reboot. It was a rip off. The difference is crucial.
Lucas loved Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials, so he ripped them off and made Star Wars. Lucas and Spielberg liked action shorts like Zorro and Spy Smasher, so they took the best qualities of them and created Indiana Jones.
Indiana Jones is a property, however, and Disney and LucasFilm need to squeeze every dime out of every franchise they can get their mousey paws on. Asking them to back away from the fedora is hopeless. Instead, perhaps we might ask that they look at their other big franchises and see a way of keeping the product fresh, fun, profitable, and Chris Pratt friendly.
The Guardians of the Galaxy was based on a comic book that approximately 17 people had ever heard of. Making a big budget movie of that was less of a sure thing and more of a dare. But it was connected to the extended Marvel universe with links and hints that the Avengers were only a few talking raccoons away.
If you want to find out how the two movies are connected, go ahead. If you just want to see spaceships flying around to a K-Tell record soundtrack, then you will also have a pleasant couple of hours.
Is there a way Pratt could play an Indiana Jones like adventurer, have it connected to Indiana Jones and not have to deal with the doubtlessly rough Harrison Ford comparison?
A solution can be found in the opening minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Remember when Indy and the dude that Alfred Molina* was playing entered the temple in South America at the beginning of Raiders? Indy said:
This is where Forrestal cashed in.
Molina asks Indy if Forrestal was a friend of Indy’s. He replies
A competitor. He was good. He was very very good.
But think for a second what you have there.
There is another archaeologist who basically was doing what Indiana Jones is doing until he bit it. Presumably he made the map Indy was looking at when he turned around and whipped the gun out of the other dude’s hand.
Indy admired Forrestal and considered him to be a worthy competitor and rival.
That’s all we know about him. We don’t really know what he looked like or how old he was. We do not know what other adventures he dared. We don’t even know his first name! For all we know, his name is Oklahoma Forrestal.**
THAT is who Chris Pratt should be playing. The Forrestal films can take place a few years before Raiders. That gives Forrestal a chance to have adventures and escape danger between 1930 and 1935.
It is a clean slate. There is no canon to upset. There would be no recasting of Marion or Belloq. As with Guardians of the Galaxy, the heroes can go wherever the stories take them and the audience can simply enjoy the ride.
Of course we know that eventually he will get killed on a spike. Perhaps the knowledge that he will survive in the movies until he doesn’t “Stay out of the light” in Peru would diffuse some of the tension of his adventures.
But then again, does anyone expect Indiana Jones to DIE in one of his movies? Or James Bond? Or Spider-Man? Or Captain Jack Sparrow? Of course not! There is too much money to be made. Perhaps these hypothetical films could slyly hint at his demise. Perhaps in each movie, you see him in his office, finding another Peruvian clue, when he is drawn into a different adventure. His death will come another day.
The Forrestal films could refer to Jones without dragging Harrison Ford (who looks as ragged as the decaying Forrestal skeleton) back into the franchise. Hell, one adventure could start with him asking “Is Jones involved? Oh he is in China looking for the remains of Nurhachi? That should keep him occupied for a while.” Boom! A Temple of Doom reference linking it to the Indiana Jones franchise.
Forrestal can even meet Abner Ravenwood, Marion’s father who gets referred to in the Jones movies but who never actually appears. No need to recast the role. Hire a good actor for the part, make Abner refer to Marion off-screen and express ill will towards Indiana Jones. “Why would I help him?” Abner could ask. Indy had sex with his underaged daughter. Forrestal wouldn’t do that. Suddenly Forrestal doesn’t sound so bad.
And with a series of Forrestal adventures, the brilliant opening of Raiders will have a whole new sense of weight. That skeleton hanging on the spike would be someone we now care about and whom we’ve invested in.
According to the Indiana Jones wiki (yes that exists) Forrestal appeared in an Indy comic. It is safe to say that won’t exactly be a source of sadness from fans if a new plot strays from that obscure comic book. Those comic stories tell of Forrestal searching for El Dorado and for a Chinese temple of the sun; two plots that sound more interesting than The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
So keep the fan boys happy, get Chris Pratt a fourth franchise to carry and provide some retroactive enjoyment to Raiders instead of taking a Phantom Menace like dump on it.
Take the Forrestal idea and make your millions. If you wouldn’t mind sending just $2 million as a finder’s fee to me, that would be great. I have a PayPal account where you can send me the dough.
* ed note: Satipo
** ed note: More likely Stratford-Upon-Avon Forrestal