It’s a truth universally accepted that sequels will happen, and reboots will follow them. The original Indiana Jones trilogy ends beautifully, and I know a lot of folks absolutely loathe Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as a result of that and myriad other reasons. I…am not one of those people. I love how the change from fantasy to science fiction as the baseline genre meshes with Indy’s age and means instead of being the guy who does the Thing, he’s the guy who watches The Thing.
egardless of your feelings about the last outing, Indiana Jones 5 is a thing that’s barreling towards us. Spielberg has said some encouraging things about a possible reboot but most likely it’s going to be Harrison Ford again, handing over to either a younger version of himself for flashbacks galore or presumably passing the hat and whip along to Mutt. Again, I don’t have the Shia LaBeouf hate a lot of other folks do, but I do accept it feels a little off. Especially as Indy already has a functional son and heir.
Short Round is, along with Willie and that opening dance number, one of the few bits of Temple of Doom that REALLY works. Jonathan Ke Quan retired from acting in 2002 (And brilliantly is now a stunt coordinator i believe) and I honestly feel he never got enough credit for Shorty. The kid wears the movie’s heart on his sleeve, he’s tough without being tedious, innocent without being stupid and has precisely no time for Indy’s bullshit nonsense. He also saves the day and I defy anyone to not get choked up at their desperate little hug when they’re finally reunited. Along with Marian (And, problematic as having a SUPER right wing Welshman play him is) Sallah, he’s one of the all-time great companions. He’s also far and away the most competent and it would make a ton of sense, if Indy is retiring, to hand the hat and whip to him. But, like I say, Ke Quan retired from acting over a decade ago. So how do you cast an adult Short Round?
THERE IS VERY POSSIBLY TIME FOR LOVE, DOCTOR JONES.
Lewis Tan, the man whose career was given a shot in the arm by NOT being cast as Iron Fist is having an extremely good year. He was a vital part of the final season of the much-missed Into the Badlands, he was excellent as Lu in the deeply fun Wu Assassins and has just been cast, reportedly, in a lead role in the long overdue Mortal Kombat reboot. Excuse me a moment.
Anyhoo, Tan’s an intensely gifted martial artist and actor who can play to his physicality and intelligence with equal ease. He’s a leading man in waiting, Wu Assassins showed he can nail the ‘more of a hero than he thinks he is’ approach that is at the core of the Indy movies and he’s absolutely at home with his own stunt work. It makes so much sense. The one issue is Tan is British-Singaporean where Ke Quan is American-Vientnamese of Han Chinese descent. Making a re-casting like that work requires honest and compassionate engagement. It is doable though, witness the shift from George Takei to John Cho in the rebooted Star Trek movies.
Even if you do pass the torch to an adult Short Round, there’s still the Mutt issue. I actually really liked the idea of the role and I thought LaBeouf did fine although he’s clearly infinitely more comfortable with the sort of experimentation that movies like Peanut Butter Falcon and Honey Boy offer him. Asking him back wouldn’t, I suspect, work for anyone, least of all him. But Mutt is Indy and Marian’s kid. You have to address him if you want the franchise to move forward. The way to do that?
This guy. This is Noah Centineo, currently part of Netflix’s rep company where he’s been the male lead in the brilliant To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, as well as Sierra Burgess is a Loser, The Perfect Date and the upcoming sequel to To All The Boys. He’s also just been cast as He-Man and is appearing in this year’s ‘DEAR LORD HOW DOES THIS LOOK THIS FUN?!’ Charlie’s Angels reboot-quel. It’s a thing. Run with it.
Centineo is a phenomenally gifted comedian whose physical presence (And he is not a small dude) is inherently reassuring. He’s also an instinctively generous performer who is as happy working in the background of someone else’s scene as he is being front and center. Like Christian Kane, the greatest Wolverine we’ll never get, he’s a surprisingly generous leading man and one who has a fantastic range. You want asshole? Noah. You want amiable beefcake? Noah. You want a smart, tough, kind of sick of being in his hero archaeologist parents’ shadows Mutt Jones?
So here’s what you do. Cast them both and unite them in the search for their folks. Throw them onto that red line and send it hurtling across every map you can find as they work out their family issues while searching for their family. Have them rescue Indy and Marian and let their parents retire disreputably (And who wouldn’t want to see Indy get to be as badly behaved as his dad in Last Crusade?!) and then? Do the thing. Hand over the hat, the whip, the jacket. To each of them. You KNOW he has spares. Bring the career of one of cinema’s greatest action heroes to a close as he hands off to not one, but both his sons. Because it’s time for Doctor Jones to retire. But the Jones Boys, I like to think, are just getting started.