- Harrison Ford, Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies
- James Mangold
- Action, Adventure
- Release Date
- June 30, 2023
Do you remember when Indiana Jones movies were fun and full of colorful characters for whom to root and dastardly villains to jeer? Well, Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny has killed them. Welcome to Indiana Jones and The Problems with Modern Cinema.
Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny
Set in 1969, Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny follows the titular character on what will hopefully be his last adventure. In a completely unneeded prologue/flashback so overlong that you can probably still catch it, we are introduced to half of The Dial of Destiny, a device engineered by the legendary mathematician Archimedes. Its purported purpose is to pinpoint the location of rents in the spacetime continuum.
Introduce Mads Mikkelsen’s Dr. Voller, the blandest and most generic Nazi villain in movie history. At the end of World War II, Voller was recruited by the U.S. Government to aid them in rocket technology. Now that he’s completed his task and man has walked on the moon, he’s turning his genius to his ultimate purpose, the recovery of The Dial of Destiny. Should he find both pieces of the ancient treasure, he plans to return to 1930s Nazi Germany, usurp Hitler, and use his advanced knowledge of rocket propulsion to win the war.
It’s actually an interesting premise that could have easily been the seed for even a mediocre action-adventure film. Yet, Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny is so boring that large groups (as in more than one group) of viewers left the theater I was in throughout its 2.5 hours. Except for actors who are far better than the material, some beautiful costume designs, and cinematography lovingly crafted to feel like this film’s vastly superior predecessors (The Crystal Skull notwithstanding), this dismal entry into the lore is a wretched mess.
While Indiana doesn’t survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator this time around, a soulless digital simulacrum of a completely exposed and unprotected 40-year-old Indiana survives (completely unscathed) a nearly point-blank explosion from a conventional bomb the size of two men during the film’s never-ending prologue. This level of “not quite as bad as the last one” permeates The Dial of Destiny.
In lieu of the ridiculous vine-swinging army of monkeys and Indy Jr. from The Crystal Skull, this film has Indiana’s lifeless digitally de-aged avatar fighting on a computer-generated train, making the whole sequence feel like the Nazi Polar Express. Still, it’s not as bad as the last one. Instead of goofy-looking Shia LaBeouf‘s bad Fonzie impersonation, we get the talented Phoebe Waller Bridge’s bitter and unlikable Helena acting like a bitter and unlikable man. Still, it’s not as bad as the last one.
What is worse than the last one is Indiana Jones himself. Once the pinnacle of masculinity, a brave and daring man’s man whose zest for life was only matched by his brilliance, Henry Jones Jr. is now a broken, sad, and lonely old man with less energy in him than the PlayStation cutscene posing as Indiana from the previous scene. It’s clear that the filmmakers’ intention was for a lost and broken Indiana to recapture his spirit by the film’s end. However, its horrible pacing and meandering and underdeveloped plot, along with Harrison Ford’s miserably sad demeanor in nearly every scene, make for a deeply depressing movie with an empty and unearned resolution.
In a movie whose pedigree, both in front and behind the camera, is virtually unassailable, it’s inexcusable that this team of filmmakers couldn’t achieve greater heights. However, the film suffers on every level. Minor details, like shiny and polished cars that have just traveled dry and dusty dirt roads, inconsistency with ballast in a major set piece set underwater, and the fact that Mad Mikkelson’s character takes a metal pipe to the face at 60 mph (I can’t stress enough how violent this collision was – he should be a headless corpse rotting in the Alps) yet only has a scar on his forehead, serves to inch the viewer out of a fictional reality whose story is so boring and whose lead is so sad and depressing that the audience is already looking for any excuse to do so. Moreover, this lack of attention to detail perfectly underscores the disparity between care and love for the property that the makers of the first three clearly felt and this current crop.
Stuffed with dangling and unnecessary plot holes and suffering from poor and inconsistent pacing, a sad and depressing shell of a once loved and admired legend, a forgettable and generic villain, a plot that doesn’t begin to grip until the film’s end, and a resolution that resolves nothing, Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny is destined to rot at the bottom of the DVD bargain bin for the rest of eternity.
UPDATE: Upon reflection, I’ve had a change of heart. Considering that the entire film is Indiana being a broken-down shell of a once great legacy character who has to be saved by the perfect younger chick, I’ve bumped the film to woke
- While Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s charismatic performance couldn’t save Helena from being an off-putting stereotypical “strong independent woman (i.e. woman written as a snarky cartoon man),” she does about as much with the character as anyone could. At least Helena isn’t shown as being able to manhandle 200 lbs men in their prime.
- There are several woke one-liners hamfistedly peppered throughout the movie.
- “You trigger happy cracker” is uttered without any self-awareness.
- Just because white people think it’s dumb and aren’t bothered by it doesn’t make it any less a racial slur. The hypocrisy is what’s offensive.
- “You stole it. He stole it. I stole it. It’s called capitalism.”
- “[I’m] daring, beautiful, and self-sufficient” is uttered by Helena as a snarky reminder that she’s a strong independent woman, just in case you forgot.
- Indiana Jones has witnessed the wrath and healing powers of God first-hand. Yet in this movie, he utters the meaningless Leftist platitude, “It’s not what you believe but how hard you believe.”
- “You trigger happy cracker” is uttered without any self-awareness.
- The CIA and U.S. Government are evil and willing to let innocent Americans be murdered in order to let their pet Nazi rocket scientist pursue what they believe to be a hobby.
- Helena scoffs at the idea of being rescued by a man.
- Helena knocks out the legendary (but now hysterical) Indiana Jones with one punch!
- Oh, and she punches like a girl.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.