Indiana Jones and the Last Stand

With a new movie on tap, Harrison Ford’s aging adventurer’s biggest odds-defying challenge could be escaping with his legend intact

Indiana Jones' most memorable escape from certain death in "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" – a nuclear blast-propelled ride in a refrigerator – landed much like the 2008 movie: with a thud.

Now with the announcement that septuagenarian Harrison Ford is returning for a fifth (and presumably final) go-around, Indy faces his biggest challenge yet: escaping the movie series with his legend intact.

But there's, well, a new hope that Indy will go out in a blaze of cinematic glory, thanks to the classy handling of the triumphant return – and sad departure – of Ford's Han Solo in "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens." (Sorry, no spoiler alert for a three-month-old movie seen by a bazillion or so people.)

There's no escaping, though, the reality that Ford is making a risky bet that he can retire two of moviedom's most beloved wisecracking action heroes with style.

He wouldn't have been in this position had he just quit and declared victory after "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." The 1989 film ended with Jones and his father, played by Sean Connery, riding off into the sunset, in an ode to the old-school, thrill-a-minute movie serials that inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to create the series.

Connery was 58 when "The Last Crusade" debuted. Ford will be 77 when the yet-to-be-titled fifth flick comes out in 2019. Yet age – and a broken ankle suffered on the "Force Awakens" set and a plane crash – doesn't seem to have slowed down Ford, only adding to his rugged aura.

Spielberg is set to direct the new movie, which bodes well. Lucas doesn't appear to be attached to the film, which some fans, still bitter over his story contribution to "Crystal Skull" and his three "Star Wars" prequels, may see as a good sign.

That’s not quite fair to Lucas, who sold his universe of characters – Jones included – to Disney in 2012 for more than $4 billion. But it's understandable – and a tribute of sorts to a great filmmaker whose classic creations have inspired intense feelings of owner-like attachment among moviegoers.

Nostalgia can be difficult for filmmakers to navigate, and the timeline is choppier with Indiana Jones, who started as a throwback character with his 1930s escapades in 1981’s "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and is set to return in 2019. The latest movie, presumably, will take place in the late 1960s, portending a culture clash and perhaps a Space Age plot.

Hopefully, it will be blast – and not the kind that ends with a thud. Jones, Ford and their legions of fans deserve one last great wild ride.

Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.   

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