My initial reaction to the news last week that Lucas, Ford and Spielberg are finally going ahead with the production of the long awaited Indiana Jones 4 film was excitement followed by a quick sense of dread. Lucas, who initially created the character, is driving the story this time around and his recent performance and decisions so far don't exactly inspire confidence.
About four years ago it looked like the project was going to go ahead with a script penned by Frank Darabont ("The Shawhank Redemption.") Spielberg and Ford loved the script that featured an older Indy and brought back all of the leading ladies from previous films. George "Jar Jar" Lucas put the breaks on. Per an interview with Darabont-
"That was the most frustrating of all, and that was the straw that broke the back of me wanting to continue in that line of work. That was terrifically frustrating. I worked for over a year on that; I worked very close with Steven Spielberg. He was ecstatic with the result and was ready to shoot it two years ago. He was very, very happy with the script and said it was the best draft of anything since Raiders of the Lost Ark. That’s really high praise and gave me a real sense of accomplishment, especially when you love the material you’re working on as much as I love the Indiana Jones films.
And then you have George Lucas read it and say, ‘Yeah, I don’t think so, I don’t like it.’ And then he resets it to zero when Spielberg is ready to shoot it that coming year, [which] is a real kick to the nuts. You can only waste so much time and so many years of your life on experiences like that, you can only get so emotionally invested and have the rug pulled out from under you before you say enough of that."
George's idea for an alternative story doesn't exactly make me want to be the first in line for tickets.
On August 8, 2006, Lucas told Empire magazine, "'I discovered a McGuffin,' continues Lucas, still reluctant to name said McGuffin. 'I told the guys about it and they were a little dubious about it, but it’s the best one we’ve ever found… Unfortunately, it was a little too ‘connected’ for the others. They were afraid of what the critics would think. They said, 'Can’t we do it with a different McGuffin? Can’t we do this?' and I said 'No.' So we pottered around with that for a couple of years. And then Harrison really wanted to do it and Steve said, 'Okay.' I said, 'We’ll have to go back to that original McGuffin and take out the offending parts of it and we’ll still use that area of the supernatural to deal with it."
(Incidentally - I'm not sure Lucas is using "McGuffin" in the right context as the Ark, Holy Grail, etc. from the other films were integral to the actual story.)
It's the phrase "too connected for the others" that makes me cringe. This is the guy that pretty much ruined Star Wars by shrinking the universe through the interconnectivity of all the characters. Will Indy find out he's Short Round's father? Will his whip be made of midichlorians?
In the end I can't help but wonder when Lucas is finally going to make all those small films with no special effects he's spend the last twenty years talking about rather than putting it off by revisting, and ruining, film characters and films I enjoyed so much as a kid.