The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend: Indiana Jones and the Dial of DestinyThe Dark Herald
I was a very reluctant convert to the Church of Indy.
I hadn’t seen Raiders of the Lost Ark for most of its original theatrical run. Sure, I knew that Lucas had written it, Spielberg had directed and neither of them had ever failed me… Yet. But it just didn’t interest me either. I saw the commercials and they looked something like the old Crash Corrigan serials that Channel 38 had strung together into an incredibly cheap Saturday morning movie. It didn’t look like the Han Solo guy was even going to be fighting Atlanteans.
I kind of saw it by accident. I was at a dollar movie theater and planning to buy a ticket to see Clash of the Titans. There was a herd of girls from my new school in line ahead of me and they bought tickets for Raiders. I adjusted my plans accordingly and followed them in. I figured they would be bored soon, and I would have an opening. I put those plans on a back burner by the time Indy found the poisoned dart. I was hooked.
Raiders of the Lost Ark spoke to every generation who first saw it, old guys fondly remembered the Republic Serials from the Before TV Time. The rest of us had certainly seen plenty of movies from that era. Generation X was the last one that would think Errol Flynn was super cool. Angry jungle natives, temple traps that still worked after hundreds of years, a giant rolling boulder, and sauve enemy with an unidentifiable foreign accent. We were familiar with all these tropes and stereotypes.
We all had at least a tangential connection to the long-gone zeitgeist that produced Indiana Jones. We got Indy on an instinctive level
That connection does not exist today. More on that in a minute.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny isn’t one movie, it’s three movies, hence the life-devouring runtime, I guess.
The first movie is an extended prelude that takes place in 1945 with the SS trying to get the Spear of Longinus to Hitler, so he can magically turn the war around. Alas, it’s a Christian artifact so it has no power in Science World. We meet the film’s antagonist, Voller, and some friend of Indy who is going to father a plague rat of a character named Helena. It’s a good Indiana Jones action piece starring a de-aged Harrison Ford and his stuntmen.
Not a great one.
But the best one it can be under very trying circumstances and that’s almost inspiring.
I’ve heard a few people whine, “Why didn’t they just make the whole movie like that?” From a technical standpoint, it just wasn’t doable. The whole thing was a night sequence with Indy’s face shaded as much as possible. It still had some rubbery, uncanny valley moments. You can make Deepfake work if the character moves slowly and doesn’t talk on camera. You really can’t build an entire movie around that and besides, they didn’t want to.
LucasFilm had a white, a male hero to destroy.
Kennedy-era LucasFilm has never met an old white man they didn’t hate. You’d think just for variety’s sake they’d consider making one of these geezers a satisfied grandpa who is so content with his life that he really doesn’t want to give it up to go adventuring again. No, that would be unthinkable to the legendary LucasFilm story group.
The second movie starts, and old Indiana Jones wakes up in 1969 in a shitty New York City apartment. He’s in his boxers with saggy old man moobs hanging down to his navel. Ford insisted on that for some reason. He yells at some young people and trudges to the office on the New York subway like any normal plebian instead of a legendary hero. I suspect that Ford is hoping for an Apology Oscar from the academy, he’s only been nominated once and lost to William Hurt in 1986. This year is going to be a weak field of candidates and he doubtless feels he deserves some kind of life achievement award and he does deliver a couple of scenes that are rich with pathos and have no business being in an Indiana Jones movie.
Anyway, Indiana Jones is a sad, pathetic, failed old man. His son, Mutt joined the military just to spite Indy and promptly got killed in ‘nam. Marion left him because of it. Mutt needed to be degraded too, I guess. The writing here is as weak and brainless as usual from LucasFilm. Given where their relationship was at the end of Crystal Skull it would be just as believable if Mutt joined up to make his father proud of him because, and take note here, Indiana Jones was not some goddamn hippy pacifist. A World War One-era father wouldn’t be upset if his son put on the uniform. That could have been an easy ‘show, don’t tell’. Just a picture of Mutt in dress uniform with a black band around the photo and a Medal of Honor (obviously posthumously awarded) laying right next to it in loving care for a fallen son.
I suppose there is the question of how the fuck did a Mutt who was born in 1937 get killed in Vietnam? Mutt was 20 when we first met him in 1957. The last year he could have enlisted was 1966 at the age of 29 and forgive for stating the obvious but 29-year-old men with Daddy Issues don’t join the Marines. It doesn’t scan at all, LucasFilm can only think in cliches.*
So, Indy has now been forced retirement in a sad and pathetic office party. Gentle reminder, tenured professors don’t retire, they just stop teaching classes but that would imply a successful life and that isn’t allowed here. At the party, our hero(?) runs into Kathleen Kennedy’s latest lantern-jawed, brunette self-insert, Helena Shaw (played smugly by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Now for those wondering about Indiana’s tenured position at Marshal College, Connecticut, ‘don’t ask questions. Just consume product and get excited for…’ Well, the next product thing may be an issue here. Yes, Kennedy LucasFilm clearly wanted to make Helena Shaw the new Indiana Jones but given how big of a box office disaster this film is going to be, I really don’t see that happening.
With an inhuman effort of will I’m going to attempt to be fair to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She really isn’t the Destroyer of Franchises, she’s way too clueless for that. It’s the women producers who look like her that destroy the franchises. She’s just a symptom of a fatal disease and not the cause of it. That said no fan is ever happy to see her because any franchise that she’s in is about to get a feminist keel hauling.
Helena (his goddaughter) wants him to help her find a working model of the Antikythera Mechanism. AKA The Dial of Destiny although it’s never been called that before. There’s half of one (sigh), in the college collections room. Helena grabs the dial and locks her godfather in the room so he can be killed by Nazis. She tries to kill him again a little later. This is supposed to make her spunky and lovable and doesn’t. Helena Shaw is a standard LucasFilm heroine. She’s omnicompetent and has no story arc. Oddly enough, she isn’t following the Feminist Heroine’s Journey. This may be the result of the repeated scrapbooking this film went through. She may have had one once, but it was long gone before this got to the silver screen.
Does she have a motive? Yeah. When asked why was she doing this? It kind of matched the setup for when Indy was asked that in Temple of Doom. I was expecting her to say, “Fortune and glory.”
She answers: For the money. This whole movie is like this, callbacks that call to nothing.
Voller, the bad guy from the prelude, is still the baddie. However, he is now, “the man who got us to the moon.” So now the movie is taking a fucking swing at Werner von Braun because he’s canceled too. The retarded MacGuffin is that Voller von Braun knows that the Dial of Destiny is a steampunk time machine. He plans to use it to go back in time, kill Hitler, then avoid all of Hitler’s screwups and win World War II for the Nazis.
Writing 101, never use time travel. Not unless you are incredibly smart and autistically detail-oriented. If it’s a one-way trip, you might get away with it but otherwise, every midwit on Earth is going to spot the paradoxes you accidentally setup. LucasFilm does not employ any writer that smart. Worse still this thing clearly and obviously went through the Disney scrapbooking process of editing excellence through data-driven audience feedback. A time travel story written by retards and the choose-your-own-adventure Disney editing “process” resulted in complete narrative incoherence. Exactly what I was expecting it to be. The new LucasFilm never disappoints.
Salla from Raiders, “the best digger in Cairo,” is now a New York cabbie because it’s the only way they could think of to jam him into the movie. That said, it was a nice little scene between Indy and his by-now-oldest friend. It ends with Salla yelling, “Give’em hell, Indiana Jones!” And the scene is promptly ruined by Indy nearly getting run over. They couldn’t even let us have that.
This second film is clearly the one Mangold wanted to make. I hated it, but if it had been about an old man that I didn’t know anything about then I would have called it poignant. I might have even called it good. But I do know this character, so it was impossible for me to not to hate it.
The third film is the one that Kennedy LucasFilm wanted to make. This is the part where Indiana Jones well and truly gets the Jake Skywalker treatment. Helena is suddenly better than him at everything, constantly runs him down, and gives Ford every excuse to wear his befuddled face as he is amazed by the glory that is Helena Shaw. Indiana is now her comic relief sidekick.
They go to Morocco, but they are pursued by Voller who uses Nazi magic to floo flame himself and his goons back into the movie whenever it needed an action beat. I’m not kidding, there is no attempt at all to explain how the Nazis suddenly found Helena and her idiot old man sidekick whenever the plot needed them to. I can accept that kind of disconnect once in a movie, like when the U-boat caught up with Indy and Marion out of the blue in Raiders, it didn’t break the movie. But this does because it happens constantly..
Oh, and Helena has her own Moroccan Short Round. When she says, “When I first met him, he tried to pick my pocket.” I thought for just a second that Indy would reply, “Hey, I knew a kid like that!” Or anything at all that directly acknowledged the fan favorite beloved character. But no. Indy doesn’t mention his little ball cap-wearing buddy at all. The incompetent makers of Indy V are just straight-up ripping off Short Round’s origin story and hoping the audience won’t notice.
Say what you like about Short Round but he wasn’t an absurd Mary Sue. He had limitations due to his size. Moroccan Round on the other hand is a magic ethnic. You name it, he can do it, to include flying a Cessna with no training at all. Seriously, the kid does a Rey Palpatine and flies solo because he’s just that good. Do the women that run LucasFilm honestly think that flying is easier than driving a car? It’s not ladies, and gentlemen who identify as ladies of LucasFilm, it really isn’t
Admittedly, the bad guys are pretty magical too.
Skipping ahead to the ending because nothing that happens in this film matters.
The steampunk time machine is a one-way ticket to the Roman siege of Syracuse. Archimedes invented a time machine to try and get someone from the future to solve the Greeks’ problem. Helena, her sidekicks, and the Nazis all fly back in time. Making Voller’s plan crap from the start, I’m sure Mangold sympathized.
You can tell Doomcock was right about the original ending. They were clearly leading up to Indy dying. He got shot in the chest and was getting worse throughout the entire third act. Except for those scenes where he miraculously rallied and could punch Nazis again. Believe it or not, this was the GOOD version of the movie.
The most inexplicable part is why the Nazis suddenly dipped their bomber down to tree top level so the Romans could start throwing pila and shooting ballista thus damaging the aircraft. The Nazis started machine-gunning the Romans. It was the funniest part of the movie.
After the Nazis are defeated, the way is open for Helena and company to go home. Indiana Jones doesn’t want to go because there is nothing at all for him there. He just wants to lie down and die.
Finally, Helena punches Indy in the face, knocking sad, pathetic, broken-down old-ass Indiana Jones out. He then wakes up in his shitty apartment, but Marion comes in with some groceries, so everything is alright? He’s an old failure in a shitty apartment but hey, at least he won’t be a lonely old failure.
No, it’s still crap. It’s an utterly talentless Kathleen Kennedy LucasFilm Story Group narrative with a completely last-minute ending tacked on during the now-mandatory Disney scrapbooking and audience testing phase. They clearly fought to make Indy as much of a defeated by life has been as they could manage, even with Fort Mickey breathing down their necks, demanding a happy ending.**
This is the Fat Elvis of Indiana Jones movie.
The first three Indiana Jones movies (AKA the real ones) were always about religion. The powerful artifacts that Indy rescued, always worked against the wicked men that would try to use them for evil purposes. Since this was written by retarded atheists who were told they were special by their high school creative writing teacher, they went with science fiction. Really shitty science fiction. It makes the last season of Sliders look good. Even Crystal Skull kind of stuck with wicked people trying to misuse a powerful artifact for evil and getting fried for it. I was honestly expecting Voller to be killed by the Dial of Destiny, but he ends up getting shot by Woman King Helena, then dies in a plane crash. I’m positive that none of the writers ever watched the original movies.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is fundamentally incapable of carrying a motion picture. She is not movie star material; the magic just isn’t there. Even if I liked everything about her, I would still be saying that.
This film is an editing trainwreck on a par with The Rise of Skywalker. I now understand why James Mangold lost his shit at some rando on Twitter. When he signed, he thought he was going to have the kind of freedom he had with Logan and Ford Vs Ferrari. Instead, he was drowning in a river of notes from every department at Disney from day one.
I think at this point everyone in Hollywood now gets the picture. Don’t be fooled by LucasFilm’s prestige, the paycheck isn’t remotely worth the ass ache and heartbreak that will come with the massive resume stain that is a Kathleen Kennedy production.
Was there anything at all I liked?
Well, I admit the music was great because John Williams delivered as usual. Truthfully, it’s too good for this movie. Indiana Jones and Dial of Destiny did not deserve this soundtrack.
This is the last of the original George Lucas IPs that can be destroyed by Disney LucasFilm. Howard the Duck has reverted to Marvel. A sequel to Red Tails isn’t possible and I’m the only person on Earth that remembers Twice Upon a Time ever existed. I have to say it’s kind of impressive. It took Kathleen Kennedy three movies before she utterly wrecked Star Wars. But Indiana Jones was destroyed with just one.
When Raiders came out, we all had at least a tangential connection to the long-gone zeitgeist that produced Indiana Jones.
That connection does not exist today. The generation that was supposed to watch this movie and the people who made it could not touch the heart of the original even if they had been trying. The best they could produce was a soulless pastiche of the Indiana Jones movies, which they did.
In conclusion, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a rambling, overlong, incoherent editing vomit pile of film that fails on so many levels I’m honestly impressed by its incompetence. The only reason it’s not getting my Avoid Like the Plague rating is because of the prelude. That said it was a knife’s edge decision.
The Dark Herald Doe Not Recommend Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. (1/5)
* What would have been a lot better was a story featuring a conflict between an adult Mutt and Short Round. There would be a certain amount of envy between the stepson that wanted to be his real son and the son who envies his father’s love for his stepbrother. Indy is a bit too old for this shit has gotten in some trouble and his sons have overcome their differences to save their father.
**Fanfic inbound: When the Krauts were machine-gunning innocent Romans a butterfly effect took place.
Indiana wakes up with Marion yelling at him, “How can you be napping at a time like this? You almost missed it!” She hustles him out of the study of the HOUSE he had in Connecticut in the first movie and into the TV room crowded with people. An excited and attractive woman he has never met yells, “Come on Dad, it’s almost time.” Marion drags him over to a couch and shoos some children off the couch. One of the kids says, “It’s time Grandpa, it’s time.” Marion sits him down and holds hands tightly with Indy and the kid’s mother, while a Walter Cronkite impersonator is talking about how in moments Commander Henry “Mutt” Jones III will be the first man to set foot on the Moon.
Mutt is starting to make his way down the ladder stops and says, “Is that moving?” And gives a clearly fake, “ARRRRGGHH!!”
Indiana and Marion laugh. Mutt’s wife smiling shakes her head, “he’ll catch hell for that.”
Mutt jumps off the ladder and gives a version of Neil Armstrong’s speech and tacks on “Hi Mom. Hi Dad.”
Indiana is hugged by one of his grandchildren as tears pour down his face, overcome by one of life’s perfect moments. “Hi son.”
We see a picture of a space-suited Mutt standing by an American flag, the torch having been passed to a new generation of Jones family explorers as the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme plays.
I had to get the taste of my mouth somehow and this was it.