The internet is abuzz today as it’s been revealed that Shia LaBeouf, who played the character of Mutt in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, will not be returning for the upcoming, thus far untitled Indy 5.
It’s a logical move – after all, Crystal Skull is widely hated in general among oldschool Indy fans (and fans of good cinema in general), and many point to the bizarre performance given by LaBeouf as a big part of the reason why the movie sucks.
But here’s an opinion that might make Indy purist feel a bit ill: perhaps we shouldn’t be celebrating the absence of Henry Jones III in the new movie.
In cutting out this unpopular character, Disney are missing out on an opportunity to make Indy 5 the best thing that it can be.
First, a little backstory. We need to talk about Shia.
At the time that Lucasfilm was making Crystal Skull, it looked like Shia LaBeouf was going to be the Next Big Thing. He was a huge deal in Transformers, people had liked Holes, and as such, you could kind of see what George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were going for when they hired him to essentially become the new Indiana Jones.
Too bad nobody at the time in Hollywood seemed capable of spotting a trainwreck in advance of its inevitable derailing crash. The warning signs were all there – even before becoming an international laughing stock, LaBeouf simply wasn’t as compelling as movie casting directors seemed to think he was.
Audiences were already growing to tire of Shia when Crystal Skull came out, and watching Mutt preen about, swinging from vines, swordfighting on greenscreen sets, and just generally annoying everyone by disrespecting everyone’s favorite Nazi-punching Archeologist made the already frustrating fourth Indiana Jones movie all the more intolerable.
Collectively, we did not like this movie, and we definitely didn’t like the fact that Shia LaBeouf was being pushed on us as the replacement for Harrison Ford. That just didn’t feel right.
Now, though, things are different. Since being bought by Disney, Lucasfilm has banished any idea created by George Lucas in the past twenty years, and has instead set out to give audiences nothing but fanservice.
You like X-Wings and TIE Fighers? Sure! Have a ton of them! Hey look, there’s Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber, in a cantina that looks exactly like the one in Mos Eisley! Let’s have not one, but two movies about plucky heroes fighting to destroy a giant Stormtrooper base that can blow up planets! No new, challenging ideas here; Lucasfilm now only gives people movies that are exactly like their most popular films of years gone by.
This naturally means that Shia LaBeouf and all related story ideas go in the trash.
Nuts. If Lucasfilm had wanted to make Indy 5 anything other than a Greatest Hits tour for the franchise up to this point, they could have done something really interesting with Mutt.
No, Shia shouldn’t accompany Harrison as the plucky sidekick again. He obviously sucked at that. But with Mutt, Lucasfilm have the one thing that the Indy series has always struggled to create: a character that everybody absolutely hates.
Shia LaBeouf would make the perfect villain.
Try and name a bad guy from an Indy movie – other than just Nazi #4. There was French archeologist dude (Belloc? Bellach?), creepy heart-pulling guy (cool, but little more than a racist caricature), the guy who “chose poorly”, and Hot Blonde German Lady (Gretta? Gretchen?).
It’d be easy to look these names up, but that seems like wasted energy. The point is that, in the public consciousness, Indy simply doesn’t have a worthy opponent. The franchise hardly has a Darth Vader.
So imagine if Indiana Jones 5 featured our titular hero fighting against another, younger, more capable opponent that is instantly hated by the audience with a fiery passion. What if the entire movie is a race, as Indy desperately tries to get ahead of his own son, who’s now become a kind of evil Indiana Jones, and whose mere presence on the screen makes people want to boo and hiss.
Then, think of the utter satisfaction as, at the end of the film, whatever supernatural artefact the pair are hunting for is finally found, and it makes Shia LaBeouf’s head explode.
It’d be the perfect end to a character that nobody likes. The catharsis would be incredible.
Alas, we won’t get this kind of movie, and that’s probably fine, as it makes sense for Disney to want to steer clear of such an unpopular character.
When the movie finally reaches theaters, though, and its main villain is forgettable and dull, just think – we could have been watching the violent Indiana Jones style death of Shia LaBeouf.
Surely that would make the entire movie worth watching all by itself!