The Indiana Jones-Captain America Crossover Nobody Noticed
We all know that the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe consists of a laundry list of movies, comics and TV shows -- but sadly not the commercial in which a seemingly inebriated Spider-Man proudly commits voter fraud. But upon closer inspection, the MCU also includes the entire Indiana Jones franchise; everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to the time an elderly Indy was forced to visit a psychiatrist to prove that his fantastical stories of past adventures weren't, in fact, evidence of mental instability.
How? Well, obviously Captain America: The First Avenger takes many of its tonal cues from that other Nazi-punching adventure movie; Raiders of the Lost Ark which, according to director Joe Johnston, served "as a template" while developing the story. Which makes total sense, especially because Johnston began his career working for George Lucas, and even won an Oscar for his visual effects work on Raiders. Captain America features more than one nod to the Spielberg classic. Not only are Nazi henchmen Arnim Zola and Arnold Toht dead ringers for one another --
-- but Captain America subtly references the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Red Skull first finds The Tesseract, he mentions that "the Fuhrer digs for trinkets in the desert." And while it's true that Hitler was preoccupied with occult objects in real-life, especially given Johnston's career history, this seems like a pretty direct shout-out to the events of Raiders.
Indiana Jones and Captain America occupying the same fictional reality may sound like an eye roll-inducing fanboy wet dream, but it kind of makes a lot of sense when you think about it. For one thing, Indiana Jones used to be the star of his own Marvel comic series. It began with a comic adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark and later expanded to chronicling the "further adventures" of Indiana Jones which included Indy battling sorcerers, searching for the lost city of El Dorado, and being mistaken for a giant hot dog bun by a flock of angry birds.
More importantly, the primary narrative currency of the Indiana Jones universe is completely at home in a comic book universe. We're of course talking about ancient supernatural artifacts. In fact, a number of the specific freaky antiquities from Indiana Jones movies have appeared in Marvel comic books throughout the years; The Ark of the Covenant shows up in an issue of Nightstalkers.
Similarly, Marvel superhero Union Jack battled a horde of vampires searching for the Holy Grail, and in the 1970s, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man fought over an ancient Crystal Skull. Not only is the Marvel universe positively littered with cosmic knick-knacks, just like the world of Indiana Jones, but there are even some pretty direct comparisons to be made concerning how they're handled in the MCU. In Avengers: Endgame we see that some of the most powerful objects that exist in the MCU have been mothballed in a top-secret government facility, just like how the Ark is stashed away in the Amazon warehouse of mystery at the end of Raiders.
And the much-shit-upon fourth movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, introduced the concept of interdimensional aliens -- destroying the believability of a series that previously featured both Bible ghosts and killer goblets. Of course, aliens and alternate dimensions are both key parts to the Marvel universe.
So ... would it really be that crazy to throw superheroes into the world of Indiana Jones?
By steering the franchise into flying saucer territory with Crystal Skull, Spielberg and Lucas made it clear that the function of Indiana Jones wasn't to simply rehash the 1930s and '40s exotic adventurer serial, but to reflect a multitude of pop-culture trends as Indy progressed through the twentieth century. According to Lucas: "The idea was to take the genre of Saturday-matinee serials, which were popular in the '30s and '40s, and say, 'What kind of B movie was popular in the '50s, like those B movie serials were popular in the '40s?' ... We wouldn't do it as a Saturday-matinee serial. We'd do it as a B movie from the '50s."
So by that token, wouldn't kind of make sense for the future of the Indiana Jones franchise to similarly take inspiration from the next decade's populist youth entertainment fad: the 1960s comic book superhero boom? Superheroes wouldn't even be that weird of a fit in the Indy-verse, because so much of the character of Indiana Jones already feels patterned after a costumed avenger.
Think about it; he's near-invincible, has his own theme song, and even wears a costume of sorts -- but instead of spandex and a cape, it's a leather jacket and a fedora. Plus Indy basically has a secret identity. While he doesn't hide the fact that he's Dr. Henry Jones, Indy clearly leads a double life. By day he's a drab academic, donning a suit and glasses reminiscent of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. Which doesn't even really make sense. Why would he require glasses to blather on about archaeology to a roomful of unnecessarily horny students, but not to survey a temple full of spring-loaded poison darts?
Raiders of the Lost Ark even gives Indy his own superhero-like weakness: snakes. Belloq and the Nazis lock Indy away in a room full of serpents then simply wander away -- which calls to mind all the times Lex Luthor sloppily left Superman alone in a room with a chunk of Kryptonite.
Of course, now that Disney owns both Indiana Jones and Marvel, the question is: could Indiana Jones show up in a Marvel movie, beyond simply as a fleeting reference? Should the studio hit total creative bankruptcy in the future, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that Disney would start swapping around their characters like couples at a 1970s key party. After all, this is the same company that defied time, geography, and common sense in general in order to orchestrate a fist fight between Aladdin and Hercules.
And it wouldn't even be the first half-baked crossover to feature Indiana Jones, lest we forget the comic in which Indy discovers Han Solo's skeleton inside a derelict Millennium Falcon. Thankfully, the writer stopped short of including a scene where he also finds the corpses of Rick Deckard, Richard Kimble, and the dude from Hollywood Homicide.
So perhaps we will one day see Hawkeye and Spider-Man palling around with Indiana Jones, now played by one of the kids from Stranger Things.
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Top Image: Lucasfilm