Is Harrison Ford Trying To Destroy His Oeuvre?
Harrison Ford is a bonafide legend of the silver screen, playing iconic characters such as Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, the titular adventuring archaeologist Indiana Jones and replicant hunting future cop Rick Deckard in Blade Runner and perfected the rebellious cocksure swagger that made his name.
He is the highest-grossing actor of all time for his troubles and only Samuel L. Jackson, who has a sheer volume of work on his side, comes close. Over six decades of on-screen work, Harrison has been in some of the most enduring films of all time and often starred in many of the scenes that have made them so great and has an Oscar nomination to his name. Put simply there is very little left for him to achieve and so what more can he do? Well, perhaps dismantle that legacy.
Think about it, what was the last original film you saw Harrison Ford star in? Sure, there have been some since 2006 but did you genuinely go out to the cinema to watch them? If so, that sets you apart from most of the population who have collectively shrugged at Harrison's career post-2008 except for the sequels to his classics of which he keeps agreeing to appear in, but why? Even the original films he does appear in, come across as god-awful pastiche's of his previous career roles even if this is unintentional, so why do it to himself?
This all started in 2008 when some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to make yet another Indiana Jones movie some 19 years after the last one. Yet it was out of time, struggling against the zeitgeist and with a weird retrofitted storyline that didn't really serve the character that we all came to know and love, as such it got absolutely critically slated, but it still made some very decent money.
Skip forward to 2015 and Disney have bought the rights to the massive Star Wars franchise and are continuing to make more and more films that follow on from the original trilogy's storylines, the first of which is released under the title Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Ford has once again been called upon to reprise a classic role of his, and he agrees.
Now, the film was widely considered an alright starting off point for a new trilogy of Star Wars films and was nowhere near as bad as the aforementioned Indiana Jones sequel, but it was still widely considered a watered-down remake of the very first film in the franchise. That being said, it also made a lot of money. In fact, to date, it is the highest-grossing film ever made, and Ford came away from it very handsomely paid even though his character finally got killed off (probably due to spiraling costs).
Now, just this week, a sequel to Blade Runner has been released in cinemas with many gritting their teeth and expecting the worst after the last two times Harrison revisited a beloved role of his. Still, things looked to be on the up this time round.
Critics lauded it and trailers seemed to catch onto the essence of the cult sci-fi hit with Ford getting second billing to new lead Ryan Gosling and having his face splashed all over posters and promotional materials but for anyone brave enough to sit through the 163 minute running time, they may come away more than a little disappointed (if not bored out of their skulls).
Beautifully lit and with a constant, crushing feeling of a fully-thought-out dystopia, the aesthetic should certainly be praised but so desperate is the film to capture this alongside a sense of tension that it moves at a snail's pace to a story that doesn't go anywhere for a very, very, long time.
Ryan Gosling gets through the whole thing without having to make more than one facial expression except for the ten minutes that Ford finally turns up where they spend some time scowling at each other. Yeah, that's right, our man Harrison is barely in this despite a rather large plot point revolving around him. It is a dull film and excruciatingly so and you get the feeling Ford knows this, yet he still persists!
Since 2008, Ford has been in 17 films, 3 have been the sequels to well-known properties that we have already mentioned, 3 have been documentaries (one so far unreleased) of subjects Ford himself has an interest in and one has been an uncredited cameo. Setting those aside, by my count at least another 3 have been playing on the fact that the actor has been cast in such roles before. Essentially they are a pastiche without directly marketing themselves as such.
There's probably another two that could be added to that list with a bit of debate, but the point we're trying to get at is that Harrison Ford's career now seems to be predominantly making films that use his previous career path as a reference point.
Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that and Ford is entitled to do whatever he wants but none of these films have been any good, and all make a mockery of the icon Harrison has spent years trying to build. He is now becoming a caricature of the taciturn action hero archetype he managed to carve out for himself and it's a little bit depressing so why is he doing it? As previously mentioned, he is the highest-grossing actor of all time and surely doesn't need the money, and none of these flicks are challenging his range or pushing him toward major awards, so that raises the question, is he trying to destroy his own oeuvre?
Think about it, the fourth Indiana Jones movie was so roundly hated by fans and critics alike that it is largely dismissed as non-canon, and yet Ford has signed on for a fifth one to come out soon whilst his depiction of Han Solo is rooted in the arrogance of youth, so no one wanted to see an elderly man trying to parody the young oaf he once was. Sure, his Deckard character in the new Blade Runner offers some viable character development, but he's barely in this boring revisit to that universe whilst still doing enough to credibly remove his character from any ongoing iterations of the story and, by extension, tainting the first in the line.
As such, it would seem that nothing in his collected works is sacred. There is no respect for the classics that he has starred in, and it seems that providing that the money is right, Harrison will be only too willing to jump aboard a project destined for ignominy compared to the behemoths of which they stand against and draw inspiration from. So what other sequels will we soon see from his back catalog? The Fugitive 2: Still On The Run, Air Force 2: Re-election, Apocalypse Then: Apocalypse Harder? We wouldn't rule it out.
Of course, perhaps the actor just doesn't hold his work in the same regard as the rest of us do, and to him, they always were and always will be just another paycheck. Nothing has to be sacred and certainly when it comes to Hollywood things rarely ever are, but it would be nice if things were just left alone for us to enjoy in their pure, original form and that includes Harrison Ford films.