On trilogies (part 2)

May 15th, 2008

I want Clint Eastwood to play Batman.

I know, I know… he’s “too old.” That’s exactly the same thing everyone is saying about Harrison Ford, 65, on the eve of the new “Indiana Jones.”

Eastwood, who turns 78 this month, would be the perfect Batman for “The Dark Knight Returns” — considered among the best comic books ever created and not to be confused with director Christopher Nolan’s new movie “The Dark Knight.” Adapting a movie version is a no-brainer.

“The Dark Knight Returns,” published in 1986, features an old, reclusive Bruce Wayne who comes out of retirement to put on the Batsuit one last time. It’s really an allegory of the struggle between justice and law. In the comic, President Ronald Reagan isn’t too happy with what’s happening in Gotham City and wants Batman taken down. He orders — well, that would be spoiling the ending — one of the best fights in comic book history.

“The Dark Knight Returns” is smart, intense and holds up to multiple re-reads. There’s no reason Batman can’t be an old man and still kick some serious butt in a compelling story.

Or Indiana Jones.

I argued last week that although trilogies work from a financial and creative standpoint, often the audience (and economics) demands more. The more endearing properties (Spider-Man, Batman) will probably become something like James Bond — reinterpreted every few years with a different      creative team.

I don’t think age makes a difference, only the script. I think stories about an older James Bond could be just as compelling as the Daniel Craig reboot, or even the 1991 cartoon, James Bond Jr. (which, in fairness, was Bond’s nephew).

Or, again, Indiana Jones.

Over the last month or so I’ve been enjoying “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.” Volume three of the early 1990s television series just came out on DVD. Each episode is two hours long, so it’s essentially a slew of Indiana Jones movies. They’re not as great as the Spielberg flicks, but taken on their own merits, they’re a lot of fun (and showcase the earlier work of directors such as Mike Newell, who went on to make “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Young Indiana Jones follows the title character on his early adventures. World War I and beyond provide the backdrop as Indy matches wits with historical figures such as Ernest Hemingway or fights Al Capone or Count Dracula (a lot less goofy than it sounds).

Indiana Jones was conceived as a pulp hero, George Lucas’s ode to the cliffhanger serials he grew up with. In that sense, the Young Indiana Jones works wonderfully with the hero. Remember the introduction to the original movie? Indiana Jones just shows up. There’s no origin, no exposition. The audience          figures out the character and the stakes as the movie goes along.

Still, at least at the movies, Indiana Jones is inextricably tied to Harrison Ford. Can (or will) the franchise continue without him? Certainly Bond exists beyond Daniel Craig and Batman beyond Christian Bale. I think a clue to the future of Indiana Jones, however, lies in Lucas’s next Star Wars, “The Clone Wars,” a CGI cartoon due later this summer.

These characters will continue, in video games, in cartoons and maybe even in more movies. It doesn’t matter if Indiana Jones is 15 or 65; all that matters is the script and competence of the talent involved.

Unless “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is a big stinker (which, given “Star Wars Episode I,” is a possibility), this could prove for movies what comic book fans have known for years: old guy as a hero can still be a great story. After “The Dark Knight Returns” there was “Kingdom Come,” focusing on Superman’s return from retirement (which Jay-Z liked so much he borrowed the title for his 2006 album) and “Spider-Man: Reign,” as much an homage to “The Dark Knight Returns” as it was about an elderly Peter Parker dusting off his webs.

Next month superstar comics writer Mark Millar returns to “Wolverine.” Millar’s credits include “Civil War” and Wanted” (the movie adaptation due at the end of June). This is a writer who can sell books based on his name alone, regardless of the character.

His new Wolverine story? “Old Man Logan.“

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072

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