Expect more delays for the fifth (and presumably final?) installment in the Indiana Jones franchise, as a big shakeup has just happened behind the scenes that is almost certain to result in much more tumult and turmoil. Steven Spielberg, who has directed all of the past four Indiana Jones movies, has stepped back from the project and passed the responsibility on to James Mangold. Spielberg will continue to serve as a “hands-on producer”, but his decision to exit the director’s chair was inspired by his desire to have a fresh, new perspective on the long-running franchise.
Mangold himself is an inspired choice to take over – leaving aside the fact that he’s earned multiple Oscar nominations, he has had previous experience on a project very similar to Indiana Jones 5: in 2017’s Logan, Mangold successfully closed out the storied characters arc of fan-favorite X-Men heroes Wolverine and Professor X in a final chapter that managed to be appropriately nostalgic while still working as a stand-alone film. In Logan, Mangold also tried to set up the foundations for future stories in the X-Universe – a universe which ceased to be after the Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Considering that the Indiana Jones franchise is safely in Disney’s hands already and thus unlikely to go anywhere for a while, Mangold might have an opportunity to actually plant the seeds for new Jones stories, whether focused on Jones’ canonical son Mutt, or another character better suited to wear the trademark fedora and carry on the family tradition of globe-trotting and illegal looting.
Spielberg’s decision to leave marks the latest in a long string of setbacks and unfortunate events that have plagued this film’s development. Indiana Jones 5‘s release date has been pushed back twice already (and now, with a new director coming onboard with his own unique vision, could be in for a third delay), and the film has breezed through writers. Besides Harrison Ford, no one has yet joined the cast – though a number of Ford’s original cast-mates have expressed interest in returning for a last hurrah.
Until we learn more, let’s take comfort in the fact that Ford himself recently promised an epic, action-packed finale to the rogue archaeologist’s adventures. Fingers crossed that we ever get to see it.
All the way back in 2008, it seemed like Harrison Ford was finally going to pass on the mantle (or, rather, fedora) of Indiana Jones to Shia LaBeouf, who played Indy’s long-lost son, “Mutt” Williams, in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Eleven years later, the fifth and presumably final installment in the franchise has yet to be released, and continues to get pushed further and further back, while Ford himself continues to get older and older, and…well, nobody even knows what Shia LaBeouf is up to these days, but most sources agree that he’s not planning on returning for the fifth film (which is fine, because he was one of the worst things about Crystal Skull), leaving the door open for a newer, fresher actor (or actress?) to enter the franchise at this late stage, and possibly even continue after Ford has exited. Then again, Ford himself is understandably upset with the idea that anyone could replace him: “When I’m gone, he’s gone”, the actor proclaimed in a recent interview, before telling Chris Pratt that, as long as he has any say in the matter, the franchise will die with him.
The possibility of the franchise ever having a satisfying “death”, however, is seemingly almost unlikely at this point, though. Indiana Jones 5 was originally set to release…a week ago. Obviously, that didn’t pan out, and the film is currently suspected to be aiming for a 2021 release date. News has just broken today that Harrison Ford will start filming in London, in April of 2020, giving the movie just enough time to become a summer blockbuster the year after. But the film’s success largely depends on how good a movie it is, and right now we simply don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes: Steven Spielberg will direct, but he’s been vague about whether or not George Lucas will be helping him in bringing almost forty years of tomb-raiding and whip-cracking to an end. Meanwhile, writers on the project have come and gone, with Jon Kasdan’s original script (which apparently brought the story back to its roots of Nazi-defying adventures in a late thirties environment) being scrapped in favor of a new, completely mysterious one by Dan Fogelman.
Personally, I’d love to see Indy go back to fighting Nazis, as much as I loved Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of a Soviet psychic in Crystal Skull (though she never actually got to show off said psychic powers, so that was a bit of a letdown). But the franchise definitely needs to change its tune – the aliens and atom bombs from the last installment felt very out of place in a series that’s supposed to be rather old-fashioned (though, we could probably do without some of the original films’ old-fashioned racism and sexism). But with Harrison Ford nearing eighty, it perhaps makes sense to have him in a slightly more modernistic setting – probably the late sixties or early seventies: in which case, we could still have him fight Nazis, but they would have to be rogue former scientists or generals living in hiding. There could be a pretty interesting story there, actually, if it was done well.
Since I just recently binge-watched all four movies and still loved them (Last Crusade is the best of the franchise; prove me wrong), I’m very excited to see what Spielberg and Ford have to offer for Indy’s final adventure. And if the fedora absolutely has to be passed on, I hope it’s to someone worthy of that honor (i.e, not Shia LaBeouf).
Happy Bastille Day to all my French readers and viewers! I myself am not French nor of French descent (as far as I know, anyway), nor have I ever been to France, and I can’t even speak French.
Why, then, am I dedicating an entire blog post to the French holiday?
Simply because I have recently discovered a gem of a movie, a precious treasure that I have savored, and that must be shared with all of you. This film is The Hundred-Foot Journey, a beautiful film set in the wonderland of picturesque villages, open-air markets and sprawling vineyards and orchards that is rural France. And, parts of it also take place on Bastille Day, so that was all the connection I needed: I had to talk about this film eventually, so this seemed like the most natural place to do so. Allow me to explain why this film is necessary viewing – or, at least, why I feel that it is.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is not a new film: it was released in 2014, had a small but comfortable box-office run, and received mixed reviews. We’ll discuss its problems, but first let’s talk about what makes the film so good, so juicy, so delectable. Let’s discuss why I’m using all these references to taste: the film is a love-letter to the culinary cultures of France and India; two very different cuisines wrapped up together in this bite-sized treat. It follows an Indian family emigrating to France, led by their stubborn patriarch, Papa Kadam (Om Puri), who is trying to set up a restaurant where his extraordinarily talented son Hassan (Manish Dayal) can start a career for himself. But when the family ends up, accidentally, in the small village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, they discover that their presence is unwelcome in the closely-knit community: a rival restaurateur by the name of Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) quickly makes it her business to make the village as hostile to the family as possible, in an attempt to save her own high-end dining establishment from competition. From there, the plot unfolds. There’s romance, drama, and a dash of light-hearted comedy, but it’s all just seasoning on the beautiful three-course meal that is this movie, or should I say – cinematic cookbook.
Technically, the third course is a little more sour than the first two, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s expand on the metaphor for a moment, and revel in the delights of French and Indian cuisine. I recommend that, if you take my suggestion and watch this film ASAP, you should have a delicious meal of your own prepared. It will make you very hungry, I can assure you of that: a film that can make a sea-urchin look like a mouthwatering morsel has done its job well. So well, in fact, that Hassan Kadam is apparently the third-greatest chef in movie history. From his family’s box of heirloom spices to the beautiful cookbooks lent to Hassan by his on-and-off love interest Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the film is filled with constant reminders of more great meals to come, even when we’re not actually watching those meals being made – which is often. And each meal is different, depending on who’s making it and who’s eating it: we watch Papa and Hassan’s eyes fill with wonder as they are greeted by their first French dinner at Marguerite’s apartment, where the table is laden with some of the most beautiful cheeses you’ve ever seen; we witness the tension in Madame Mallory’s kitchen as she prepares a special meal for the President of France himself; we rejoice in Hassan’s naive first attempt to master the five basic sauces (which, if my sources are correct, are Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Sauce Tomat). The entire movie is centered around these quiet, intimate moments when the characters eat, with gusto and an almost holy reverence for what they are tasting. It’s the food that makes this movie so enjoyable – the idea that food is so important, so necessary, to people of all walks of life; to culture and community as well. It can bring people to tears as they recall the ghosts of flavors long forgotten, or it can spark passionate romance and thoughtful meditation. Wine, another staple of French cuisine, has a small part in igniting that romance, though it is largely absent from the hundred-foot journey that the Kadams travel.
The journey is both physical and spiritual: a journey from one country to another, from one restaurant to another, from one lifestyle to another. Papa Kadam and Madame Mallory’s rival restaurants stand across the road from each other – a road exactly one-hundred feet in width (a fact that is sometimes hard to believe, considering how small the road looks at times). But the two bitter opponents have journeys of self-discovery to travel as well: obviously, I won’t spoil anything that happens in the movie, but there’s a good deal of change and inner turmoil. The rural village is not very accepting of the Indian newcomers, for one thing, and neither party savors the idea of uniting their distinctly separate culinary styles of art.
From a technical standpoint, the film has its fair share of good and bad, like any film. I mentioned that the first two acts of the film (or courses of the meal, if we’d like to extend the metaphor) are the best: the third act isn’t necessarily bad, but it feels very different from the first two – more mainstream, more distanced, more remote. Things are happening on the screen, but we, the audience, no longer feel quite as intimate with the cast (who are all outstanding). I personally think the last thirty minutes shouldn’t have tried to take the film on a completely different course than the one it had been following, up to that point, almost perfectly. Thankfully, the final scene rescues the ending and gives us one scrumptious aftertaste to hold onto, but there is definitely some difficulty getting to that point.
But the first two acts – lovely, sentimental, and enchanting, the very best appetizer and main course that you could ask for. The film also has an ever-so-slightly old-fashioned quality to it: until the final half-hour, it is softly lit and the dialogue is soft-spoken. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that this little indie dramedy was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, two giants of the mainstream entertainment industry. Unfortunately, big-name producers don’t always inspire interest from general audiences – James Cameron learned that with Alita: Battle Angel, and Spielberg/Winfrey presumably learned that with The Hundred-Foot Journey, which is sadly neglected, almost completely forgotten, in fact. I don’t even know what inspired me to choose it, almost at random, from a wide selection of films on Netflix – but I am so glad that I did.
Hopefully, this post will inspire you to check it out for yourself, whether today, on this French national holiday, or any day of the year. I urge you to at least try it. I truly believe your life will be a little better for it.