Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny can best be summed up like this: my wife seriously considered using her phone during the movie so an usher would kick her out of the theater…
Earlier this month, I wrote an article making predictions for Dial of Destiny. Let’s see how close I got. I will give a few minor spoilers. Frankly, I don’t care about preserving this movie. However, a chance exists a person could glean some guilty-pleasure viewing from Dial of Destiny. If so, more power to them. I’m not one to judge. I think Howling V is fun…
Prediction #1: Indiana Jones will be kinder and gentler.
Indiana Jones is a killer. Check out the body count of the original movies. If an enemy gets between Indy and his goal, that enemy is gun, fist, whip, or propeller bait. The simplicity of this morality violence is a hoot to watch. It’s a throwback to the good old days when everything didn’t need to be shades of gray. Removing body count knocks the legs out from underneath Indiana Jones.
Sure enough, Dial of Destiny removes body count. In my prediction article, I toyed with the idea that Indy wouldn’t even point a gun at anyone. I should have had courage in my convictions. I can’t remember a single instance where Indy used a gun in Dial of Destiny. Maybe he did in passing during the opening sequence. Mostly, all Indy does is throw a couple of guys from moving vehicles.
Prediction #2: we will wonder why Dial of Destiny is rated PG-13.
Dial of Destiny is essentially a G-movie. All of its teeth have been removed. Overall, the action is contrived and sanitized. It mistakes activity for achievement. There is zero face-melting, heart-ripping, rapid-aging or anything of the like. The worst that happens is Boyd Holbrook shoots NPCs in cold blood. Between Dial of Destiny and The Predator, Boyd should get labeled franchise poison.
Prediction #3: Indiana Jones will be a damsel in distress.
I was concerned that Dial of Destiny would be Pheobe Waller-Bridge to the rescue over and over, but Dial of Destiny was not overly egregious on this point.
The fun of Indiana Jones is that he gets in over his head, and then he wiggles his way out of it by killing everyone. Unfortunately, this dynamic is also absent from Dial of Destiny. Neither can I remember a single instance of suspense, such as Indy getting chased by a giant rock, getting beat down by Pat Roach, on the verge of being compressed by a ceiling, or on the verge of being compressed by a tank. Indy is present in the action scenes, but as I said earlier, the action scenes are simply activity. No real weight exists to them. The entire movie is basically dandelion seeds in the wind.
Mostly, Indy is saved by contrivance. For example, when he is getting hung in the beginning, a bomb falls through the roof, but it doesn’t explode. Instead, it falls through the floor, then it explodes, conveniently killing all of the Germans in the room AND knocking Indy free from his makeshift gallows.
Prediction #4: no one will laugh at the woke humor.
Phoebe made capitalism and indigenous-people jokes in the trailers. The capitalism joke was in the movie, but the indigenous-people joke didn’t make it into the final cut. In the end, Dial of Destiny wasn’t overly woke. Mere glimmers existed here and there.
Addressing the humor in general, it fell flat. No one in the theater guffawed or even gave a sensible chuckle. They mostly sat there in stupefied silence and waited for it to be over.
Prediction #5: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character will go for the woke BINGO
I thought for sure they’d want to make Waller-Bridge a lesbian, but they didn’t go that route. They actually made her a man magnet instead.
This is also a good time to also talk about the elephant in the room. Phoebe’s character was one of the biggest concerns going into Dial of Destiny. Folks were worried about her being a perfect Mary Sue, but she is actually not that bad.
There were rumors that Pheobe’s character was reined in a bit by having her scenes cut down after bad test screenings. If that is the case, the clean-up job was effective. Phoebe didn’t particularly bother me in the movie. The film’s other problems were greater sins.
Prediction #6: seeing Indy doddering around will be depressing
As stated in my prediction article, Indiana Jones shouldn’t get old. He should exist forever young in our imaginations, going after valuable treasures and punching out Nazis. Sentimentality and melancholy don’t belong in these movies, especially the on-the-nose variety. You should leave the theater with a skip in your step and not feel like you just consumed a bowl of obituaries covered in syrup.
Ford’s performance is okay in Dial of Destiny, but you can clearly see him going to seed. Mostly, the story lets him down, however. He is a neutered presence. Who wants to see Indy choked up about personal matters? It doesn’t make him relatable. It is knocking down monuments.
What about the de-aging of Ford? It is not perfect and can be a bit distracting. It is maybe not worth having a cow about, though. Fundamentally, it is not much different than when a character is clearly being doubled by a stunt performer.
Moving on, it isn’t just Indy that suffers as a character. Sallah is worthless, merely a ‘member-berry. How did Indy and Sallah end up living in New York City anyway? That doesn’t seem true to their characters. They wouldn’t let themselves be wedged into a concrete jungle.
Antonia Banderas suffers as a character, as well. No reason for him to even be in the movie. Multiple characters don’t need to be in this movie. For example, there is a Short-Round wannabe that is so contrived he should be named Plot Device.
It appears Disney hopes Plot Device and Phoebe can be spun off in their own adventures. I don’t even know what to say about a delusion that extreme. And what was with the guy in Plot Device’s plane at the end? Absolutely, zero reasons for that character to show up in the movie at that point. It boggles the mind that these kinds of mistakes happened.
The only one who comes out of Dial of Destiny looking okay is Mads Mikkelsen, and it isn’t because he has a juicy part. It is simply because he is that good. He should have been Roland in a Dark Tower movie. In Dial of Destiny, Mads is also part of the only real clever bit — his motivation.
Prediction #7: The Big Bang Theory will be referenced by many people
This has nothing to do with the movie. Refer back to the prediction article, which addresses The Big Bang Theory’s misguided attempt to wreck Raiders of the Lost Ark for cheap laughs.
Prediction #8: time-travel will not work in an Indiana Jones movie
Indiana Jones works best when the fantastical element is muted. Indiana Jones seeks treasure and kills bad guys. That is the bread and butter of the concept. Any MacGuffins need to serve that, not the other way around. Time travel is such a big concept that it is tough to mute.
Dial of Destiny builds up to the time-travel moment, and it is underwhelming, stupid, and clunky to the point of amateur. Honestly, folks are worried about AI taking over the writing duties of Hollywood, but I’m sure AI might have been a blessing to take over Dial of Destiny. A lobotomized monkey smearing boogers across the letters of a Ouija board could probably come up with something better.
Prediction #9: Dial of Destiny will be lukewarm at the box office
Dial of Destiny certainly deserves to bomb, and whatever profits it does make should be given back to the viewing audience as reparations. The fact that this movie cost $300 million is ridiculous. What is onscreen looks $50 million tops. The CGI is terrible. The background of the entire film looks covered by a thin mist. It is very similar to the “distance fog” that occurs in video games.
The only way I can conceive of Dial of Destiny costing $300 million is if $250 million of that was embezzled, or if there is another entire version of Dial of Destiny on the Disney hard drives that was deemed so bad by test screenings that they had to start all over.
James Mangold is a solid director. I imagine his experience on making this film was showing up to the studio every day and knowing that Mickey Mouse was in the rafters with a sniper rifle pointed at his head. One speculates he had to work within very strict parameters.
Prediction #10: Kathleen Kennedy’s fate is tied to Dial of Destiny
It is useless to guess how these things go. Kennedy is made of Teflon.
Dial of Destiny is bad and should feel bad. If it was an episode of Tia Carrere’s Relic Hunter, I’d be willing to give it a couple of stars for effort. But this is a $300-million, 142-minute Indiana Jones movie. Indiana Jones is cinema royalty. They got to do better.
The very end of Dial of Destiny can do no better than cannibalize a scene from Raiders. Admittedly, it is kind of sweet and should motivate my cold dead heart to grant mercy.
Nope. Zero stars.
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