What Should the New ‘Indiana Jones’ Film be About? This Archaeologist Has a Few Ideas.

It’s time to take it to China, he says.

By Laura RiceMarch 22, 2016 1:53 pm|

There’s been some news recently about a popular cinematic franchise developing a new movie. No, not Star Wars – we already know those are in the works. But this one does involve a common actor: last week it was announced that Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg will be teaming up for a fifth Indiana Jones movie.

That got us thinking: what could Indiana Jones’ next adventure be?

Fred Valdez, Jr., a professor of archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin, has a couple of suggestions for the newest installment about Indy’s adventures. Scene: China.

“Of course Indiana Jones is now a bit older, and at this point, I’d say for me an interesting line would be Indiana Jones more as the mentor, perhaps as he has some students, former students that are out in the field investigating various things,” Valdez says. “Perhaps it would be going to ancient China to look for something.”

Based on the timeline of previous movies in the series – Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was set in the 1950s – Valdez reckons that the next film would probably be set in the 60s. Indy could be a retired field archaeologist mentoring his protégés, who might travel to China to search for artifacts. An added twist, Valdez adds, is that China is still under a more authoritarian regime during this time.

“Access would be, of course, limited,” Valdez says. “Perhaps he had connections that had built up over time and got his students there, perhaps now he has a responsibility to look for them and track them down.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Indiana Jones film without an element of fantasy.

“The fantasy part may take place here where, as happened in the first Indiana Jones and others, perhaps stepping in certain places or walking in to certain areas could in essence be a form of time machine,” Valdez says. “So there has to be a key for understanding where one can go, where one can step.”

And while those whimsical elements set the films apart from real world archeological expeditions, Valdez says that the movies do have some true to life elements to them. What’s more – the films have even inspired a future generation of archaeologists.

“Most of my students and former students seem to have come into archaeology because they saw the first Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that inspired them to go on to careers in archaeology,” Valdez says. “And many of them are professors in their own rights at a number of different institutions.”