"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY is the final Indiana Jones picture, the only one not directed by Steven Spielberg (ALWAYS), and the only one not conceived by George Lucas (AMERICAN GRAFFITI). Personally I did not ask for such a thing. Even if the boys were still in charge (they chose to just be producers, with only Spielberg being hands-on) I’m one of the weirdos who enjoys visiting the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so I had no need for another one to set things right. But Harrison Ford (EXPENDABLES 3) wanted one more for closure, and I’m glad he did. I think it’s a good movie, and a good ending.

The director is James Mangold (COP LAND, WALK THE LINE, 3:10 TO YUMA), who is also credited as writer alongside Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (EDGE OF TOMORROW, GET ON UP) and David Koepp (I COME IN PEACE). Koepp wrote multiple drafts when Spielberg was gonna direct and the other guys drastically rewrote it for Mangold’s version. Mangold is, I can exclusively reveal, not Steven Spielberg; he’s a totally separate person. So by definition the many fine and spectacular action set pieces throughout this movie are not Steven Spielberg fine and spectacular. But I’d say Mangold is a stronger Spielberg substitute (or Sammy Fabelman, if you will) than any of the JURASSIC PARK or JAWS sequelizers, let alone the makers of any Indy-inspired adventure movies such as THE MUMMY.

It helps that he’s not trying to disguise himself as Spielberg, he’s openly James Mangold. DIAL OF DESTINY shares many concerns with my favorite of his movies, LOGAN. Like Professor Logan Wolverine in that film, this Indiana Jones is washed up, beaten down and unhappy in an era that has left him behind, alone, disillusioned, and haunted by tragedy as he wastes his extraordinary skills on a shitty job, starting not to care anymore. Then he’s thrust into some trouble protecting a younger female protege from some bad people (even including a redneck psycho played by Boyd Holbrook, minus the cyborg hand this time) and he finds new purpose.

Like THE LAST CRUSADE, this episode opens with a younger Indy having his first encounter with a particular legendary artifact. In this case it’s not during his childhood, but 1944 (in between parts 3 and 4), when he and newly revealed life long friend Basil Shaw (Toby Jones, YOUR HIGHNESS) of Oxford are infiltrating Nazi looters at Nuremberg Castle, trying to retrieve what turns out to be a fake Spear of Longinus. They’re separately captured and reunited on a moving train where they find more action against Nazis and also more stolen artifacts, most notably one half of the Antikythera mechanism, a.k.a. Archimedes’ Dial, an item also sought by Nazi astrophysicist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen, RIDERS OF VENGEANCE), who believes it can calculate “fissures in time.” There’s a thrilling battle on top of the speeding train as Allied Forces drop bombs all around them, but our guys get away with their half of the Dial.

It’s a thrilling 25-minute-long set piece full of great little gimmicks (Indy trying to escape a noose, alternately helped and hindered by a bomb dropping through the roof; a Nazi gun turret spinning out of control, massacring the shit out of their own guys) and exchanges (the realization that the Nazis think the Spear has magic powers while our boys just think it’s history that needs preservation). But I know some viewers will reject this for the simple fact that it’s achieved not through the miracle of recasting (as they once did with River Phoenix) but the pagan sorcery of digital de-aging. I sort of get it, ‘cause when I first heard Ford’s current grumble coming out of a youthened Indy I thought it was gonna be a problem. Then like ten seconds later I forgot about it. It’s not IRISHMAN goofy at all, and THE IRISHMAN was a great movie anyway, so what are we even talking about?

As with many things in art and life, I’m agnostic on de-aging. It just depends. There are many cases where recasting is the way to go. THE GODFATHER PART II turned out pretty good, I thought. There are also cases where recasting is a shame because de-aging would’ve been so much funnier (F9). DIAL OF DESTINY is a case where de-aging was absolutely the correct choice. The “okay, I will pretend Sean Patrick Flanery is young Indy” mental hurdle would kill the main point and joy of the sequence, which is the jarring moment when the wave of glorious pulp heroism whipped up by thirtysomething Harrison Ford punching Nazis to John Williams music crashes down in 1969, with octogenarian Indy asleep in a chair in his tiny NYC apartment, getting woken up by his hippie neighbors blasting “Magical Mystery Tour” and stumbling down in a backwards inside out t-shirt to bang on the door with a bat. (I like that they know him as Dr. Jones, and smile when they see him.)

Much like CRYSTAL SKULL worked in lots of emblematic fifties business (Elvis, hair grease, Russians, nuke tests, flying saucers), DIAL OF DESTINY works in sixties shit: the Beatles, the moon landing, the Vietnam War. For at least two reasons we can speculate about, the CRYSTAL SKULL character Mutt Williams does not appear (SPOILER), instead being turned into the emotional linchpin of the story: grief over his death in Vietnam pushed Indy and Marion to separate. He’s a depressed husk as he resignedly retires from his current job at Hunter College, teaching largely disinterested students about historical shit that happens to be related to the Dial.

Speaking of which, good ol’ Basil Shaw (RIP)’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY) shows up at the college asking for Indy’s help researching the Dial. He’s her godfather, lovingly calls her “Wombat,” but hasn’t seen her since she was a kid. She’s playing him – he reveals that his half of the Dial is in the university archive, and she runs off with it to sell at a black market auction just as government agents arrive, chasing her.

They pretend like it’s a legitimate police matter, but also gun down innocent witnesses, because although they work for Uncle Sam their loyalty is to Voller. That’s right, even in the Saturday morning serial world of Indiana Jones, it turns out, the defeat of the Nazis wasn’t as thorough as we’d like to think. Voller is not only alive and still seeking the Dial, but working for and protected by the U.S. government, having been given a new identity to work on the space program (as in the real life Operation Paperclip). It’s like he’s reversing Indy’s old trick of putting on the Nazi uniform, but much more permanent. His security detail/hit squad includes a well-meaning CIA agent and some Nazi or Nazi-wannabe goons like this Juggernaut-looking motherfucker named Hauke (Olivier Richters, KNUCKLEDUST, BLACK WIDOW) and a regular sized maniac named Klaber (Holbrook, THE PREDATOR), who’s trying to learn German.

Indy leads these assholes on a chase through the streets during a ticker tape parade for the Apollo 11 astronauts and an anti-war demonstration, so he’s caught in the collision of the optimistic and turbulent sides of the era. He does what an old man thinks he’s supposed to do in a situation like this – wave down a cop – but they’re no help, so he ends up stealing a police horse and riding it into the subway. I love movies!

If you’re gonna compare this to the horse chase in TRUE LIES then you’re right, that was a better action sequence. Mangold is not Steven Spielberg or James Cameron. But this is still a cool scene and I certainly prefer its themes and attitudes to those of Cameron’s only cold-hearted, hateful movie. Underneath the excitement here is the realization that Indy did his part to stop the Nazi menace, only to find his government collaborating with some of them (while sending his son off to die in a meaningless war).

Mangold puts an even finer point on it in a scene where Voller makes racist insinuations to a Black porter at the hotel (Alton Fitzgerald White, THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT). We learn that this man is a WWII hero, now serving food to a Nazi being given the VIP treatment by the same government that treats him as a second class citizen. Mikkelsen is perfect, never going over the top, or even very close to the top, but conveying that familiar smugness of a guy who knows you know what he is and that it’s all the more infuriating if he unconvincingly claims he’s not.

There’s one other Black character, the CIA agent Mason (Shaunette Renee Wilson, a 1992 Dora Milaje in BLACK PANTHER). Her cool afro and leather jacket suggest one of her roles is informing on Black militants. She doesn’t know what Voller and company are up to, tries to to keep them in line, thinks she can do the right thing within this fucked up assignment the system has given her. That doesn’t work out.

Worried about the Dial falling into Voller’s hands, Indy goes after Helena, with passport assistance from his old pal Sallah (John Rhys-Davies, SWORD OF THE VALIANT, BLOODSPORT III), now an American citizen thanks to his help. I know some people grumbled about Sallah returning because of the outmodedness of a white due playing an Egyptian, among other reasons. But I like this scene because it’s this established compatriot from parts 1 and 3 excited to help Indy, wanting to go with him, being all this is great, this is just like old times, we get to go on an adventure! And Indy straight up tells him no, this is not an adventure. That’s not what this is.

Don’t get me wrong – for us it’s an adventure. But for him, he’s correct.

When he crashes Helena’s auction in Tangier we learn more about her. I like the specific ways she mirrors and differs from her godfather. Disillusioned by her dad’s tragic life, she uses her vast knowledge of antiquities for opportunistic, capitalistic purposes. But she’s like young Indy in her cavalier attitude toward relationships, breaking the heart of Moroccan mobster Rahim (Alaa Safi, AMERICAN ASSASSIN), who thought they were a couple. She also has her own Short Round, an orphan pickpocket teen named Teddy (Ethann Isidore) who at one point gets kidnapped and held hostage but at other points takes out the biggest Nazi goon and figures out how to hotwire and fly a Cessna. I love when he lectures her about violating their code of only treasure hunting “for the right reasons” but by “the right reasons” he means for the money.

Indy and Helena debate their motives in the middle of a crazy tuk-tuk chase through narrow streets, eventually joining forces to search for the other half of the Dial, a journey that takes them underwater and into the traditional INDIANA JONES territory of tunnels, tombs and puzzles. There’s a brief appearance by the great Antonio Banderas (FEMME FATALE) as another new old friend of Indy’s, “Spain’s greatest frogman” Renaldo. I think the limits of the 1969 diving equipment make for a tense sequence. Also I’d like to note that I thought one of the guys on the boat was Renaldo’s boyfriend, but no one else I’ve talked to thought that, so I probly imagined it. I’m still gonna take it as an homage to THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, where Pete Postlethwaite’s character was in a committed same sex relationship but they cut out the parts that made it clear.

As in all INDIANA JONES adventures (or not-an-adventures) he does get his hands on the artifact and find out that oh shit it really does have powers. In this case they’re explained as mathematics, not magic, though admittedly it’s a Nazi who says that. I never heard of it before, but the Antikythera mechanism is a real archaeological find, considered the first known analog computer. The connection to legendary mathematician Archimedes is only one theory, because one of the calendars engraved into it is believed to come from Corinth and, as seen in the movie, Archimedes lived in the Corinthian colony Syracuse.

I think it’s a great McMuffin because it’s very different from the others (not being of a religious nature at all), but it looks cool (working parts!) and it’s a neat sci-fi premise that it can calculate these so-called fissures and be used SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER BUT YOU PROBLY GUESSED IT for time travel. But also because making the Dial all about time and time travel fits with the theme of Indy’s aging, feeling out of place in the modern world, and having to accept that he can’t (or I guess shouldn’t) change the past.

The Dial gives us the movie’s biggest swing when Voller’s stupid plan to go back in time to assassinate Hitler (but not to stop him – to take over for him!) goes horribly wrong. I like both Indy’s first theory for why it happens (miscalculation due to continental drift) and later realization that it’s something else (an intentional plan by Archimedes). But the point is SERIOUSLY THIS THE BIGGEST SPOILER they end up in 212 BC flying bombers over the Siege of Syracuse (previously mentioned in Indy’s class). Man, it’s so funny, and also very believable, that Klaber doesn’t know what to do so he just starts shooting at everything.

The silliest part, that I imagine might be a bridge too far for some people, is that Indy actually gets to meet Archimedes (Nasser Memarzia, THE RHYTHM SECTION) and wants to just stay there and get to know him. We all know from Indy’s young chronicles that he got to meet Teddy Roosevelt, Norman Rockwell, Ernest Hemingway, T.E. Lawrence, Pablo Picasso, Al Capone, Edith Wharton, and others, but this is obviously a bigger deal due to the many centuries previously between them and also because Indy seems to be a huge Archimedes fanboy. I don’t know enough about the Archimedes lore and mythos to pick up on the easter eggs, so I can’t say whether or not Indy is just Mangold’s insert character for shameless wish fulfillment and Archimedes fan service. But it works. A crazy choice, but just about the right amount of crazy for me.

On that topic of fan service, there are specific references or connections to the other movies – the tragedy of CRYSTAL SKULL’s Mutt, mention of the events of TEMPLE OF DOOM, a repeat of RAIDERS dialogue in his SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER reunion with Marion – but I think in pretty much every case it’s used as an emotional moment for the character, not a “ha, did you catch that?” for the audience. Oh, I guess an exception is when Teddy says a swarm of eels they have to dive into look like snakes and Indy angrily grunts “No they don’t!” But that’s okay, that’s a good joke.

The response to this one seems pretty mixed so far. Lots of like, maybe less love, which is fair. It definitely hasn’t gotten the same widespread condemnation as CRYSTAL SKULL, but I’ve seen some pretty savage pans. Otherwise I’d have assumed it would appease most of the anti-SKULLniks. It’s not as goofy as CRYSTAL SKULL, it’s steadier, more modulated, better structured, arguably better looking, less green screeny. But I guess it still doesn’t do it for some people.

That’s fine. I get to enjoy both. Suckers!

Between the two I probly lean CRYSTAL SKULL for the sheer, intoxicating momentum of Spielberg’s filmatism. Fuck you, the refrigerator sequence is an all-timer, that’s non-negotiable. The advantage of INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY is that it’s that thing I love so dearly: the entertaining popcorn movie that also has some substance under the surface for those who care to look for it. On a political type level it notes that insidious ideologies persist and poison systems as the lines between “good guys” and “bad guys” become less obvious. On a more personal level it reminds us that the world changing (in Indy’s time and in ours) is okay. Once we accept this and stop clinging to the old days we can move on to new things, and Indy can have the happy ending he deserves, walking off into the sunset with the woman he loves, probly playing some saxophone, and probly still crawling into an ancient tomb or two, even if the rest of us take care of most of the Nazi-punching.

Other notable Hunter College faculty: Dr. Joyce Brothers, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Actress Rhea Perlman studied drama there and graduated with a B.A. in 1968, so she may have passed Dr. Jones on campus if she didn’t take his classes. Vin Diesel also attended but long after Indy retired from teaching… unless he decided to come back, which in my opinion he did when he heard about Vin Diesel being there.

update: I’m afraid I have been corrected. According to Shana K., “Rhea Perlman went to the Bronx campus, not the main campus in Manhattan where Indy taught. My mom went to school with her. She’s in my mom’s yearbook.” Thanks Shana! But I stand by my belief that Indy met Vin Diesel.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 6th, 2023 at 1:21 pm and is filed under Reviews, Action. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

67 Responses to “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”

  1. Peter Campbell

    July 6th, 2023 at 2:40 pm

    Good look at the film. Glad you enjoyed it.

    To be honest I didn’t like this film. I thought it was dull a lot of the time on a purely story-telling and character-base, with the God-daughter character essentially being a collection of character types without ever having an identity. Her sidekick I found to be an annoying and charmless plot device.

    I felt that James Mangold was miscast as the director. He did well with some of the actors but seemed uncomfortable with the flippant style of action, the momentum needed for the plot and character mix, and in the pacing for this type of film. Even the praised flashback scene I found to be pretty much by the numbers and way too long. All the action scenes were far too long and lacked motivation to make the action beats work as they seemed to be there to have an action scene rather than having a clearly defined purpose. That was not a problem with the earlier films but is here.

    I like a lot of Mangold’s films like Ford Verses Ferrari, 3.10 To Yuma and his Wolverine films (have a soft spot for his Japanese one) but I found here he and the Indy films did not make for a good partnership. A lot of the time it felt like late-era Roger Moore Bond films with the older actor using lots of stunt doubles and all the scuba-diving and rocky locales. Mangold also didn’t have the light touch needed to pull off that ending. It felt cumbersome where it needed humour to succeed. It could also have done with better effects.

    Trying not to be negative for the sake of it but this film annoyed the hell out of me. On a funny note the early America scenes were shot in Glasgow Scotland, so the street where they shot the horse chase scene is somewhere I used to walk to work every day for a while. Which was fun to notice.

  2. Great review, and I am pleased to agree with Vern about a film from time to time. I already shared some comments in the LUCAS MINUS STAR WARS edition CRYSTAL SKULL thread. I think this was a competent, non-flashy, pretty soulful INDIANA JONES film that makes the correct choice at the fork in the road with the signs that read “acknowledge and work with Indy’s age” (this way) vs. “unconvincingly and pathetically pretend he’s still 30 and can still do Tom Cruise type shit with the magic of bad special effects” (that way). Indy adventuring in his late 70s (or whatever his in-canon age is supposed to be) is never going to be as exciting as him adventuring in his 30s or mid 40s, but this film acknowledges that ship has sailed and mines deeper themes in a coherent and interesting way. A surprisingly original and non-cynical choice for a piece of Disney “intellectual property.”

    Actually, it’s better than that characterization implies, because the film *does* give us a fun younger Indy adventure at the beginning, so, it manages to have its cake and eat it, too, as far as classic swashbuckling younger Indy and tired old exhausted (but still intrepid!) Indy. And as Vern notes, it’s not just that these two incommensurate films as smooshed together, because the cut from young Indy to old Indy is pretty affecting and meaningful in relation to the film’s main themes and narrative. Pretty well-done.

    As I mention in the CRYSTAL SKULL thread, the film sags and drags a bit in the middle (and it’s a long middle!), but it is competent and handsome enough, and it picks back up at the end. The last act is make-or-break time for this film — it usually is, but especially so for one that has underwhelmed a bit in the meantime — and this ending lands in “made it” category. In addition to being the most melancholy and weighty of the films (something that seems right and generally appeals to me, though I may be in the minority), it continues with CRYSTAL SKULL’S precedent of getting away from Judeo-Christian religious paranormal type stuff and goes in another direction altogether. And, as Vern notes, that other direction works and ties the rest of the film together.

    The cast is pretty solid. I like Waller-Bridge, Toby Jones always solid and belongs in this world, Mikkelson is always great and is perfect for this role, and although it’s nothing super flashy, I like Boyd Holbrook in this, too. Solid casting and performances all around.

    I love the NYC / Hunter College stuff. the tomb sequence is also very solid. I like Banderas but felt like he hand nothing to do here and was pretty forgettable, and the eels / deep sea dive set piece was kind of a cold fish (eel) for me. It was aight.

    I think this will age well, and I commend Mangold for bringing it home and taking perhaps the biggest risk of all: telling an age-appropriate and reasonably weighty story in a coherent fashion. Stepping into Spielberg’s shoes and playing the journeyman yet again is a pretty thankless (and ballsy) move for this journeyman, and I think his approach shoes that he choose wisely.

  3. I feel like this movie is pretty aggressively OK. It’s neither a crashing disappointment, nor a soaring triumph – it exists somewhere between those 2 poles. The computer de-aging is something the old fashioned side of me wishes didn’t exist, but I can’t really say why, other than I know it’s fake…but it’s ALL fake anyway, none of this actually ever happened, so what difference does it really make? Anyway, it’s here and it’s not going away. And it’s not like this looked horrible, it actually mostly looked like a younger Harrison Ford, the voice mismatch issues that were obvious right away aside. I thought the opening sequence honestly had other problems anyway, more editing and lighting issues, but maybe the lighting problems are on the theater I saw this in and not the film (a good bit of the car / motorcycle part of it was really murky and I found confusing).

    I guess part of my overall malaise about this is that I’ve never really been a big Indy guy. He’s fine, I like most of the films, TEMPLE OF DOOM being my favorite probably because it’s the only one NOT about Nazis–every right-thinking person knows Nazis are bad and so they need no context, but the supernatural menace of the Thugees was more mysterious and a stronger hook for me, even though the film is almost absurdly racist and borderline sadistic. I still haven’t seen all of CRYSTAL SKULL, I watched the famously over-hyped “Nuke the Fridge” (in my book it’s generally of a piece of several other stunts in the series people DON’T ridicule) and a bit more, but maybe because I’m not really a big Indy guy and the word of mouth was so poisonous it wasn’t worth the bother. But anyway…Indy’s fine. He’s good. I don’t get a huge amount from him…kind of like James Bond in that way, except I’ve seen a much higher percentage of the Indy series. So I probably wasn’t gonna love this one no matter what, but it’s OK.

  4. Yeah, I don’t know, man. I’m usually pretty easy on movies. I’ll usually leave a movie seeing its good stuff rather than its bad, but I left the theater thinking this one wasn’t very good and it’s only gone down in my estimation upon reflection. I went home and rewatched CRYSTAL SKULL, which I don’t think I’ve seen since the theater and I liked that one more than I did upon first viewing. Maybe this one will go up after a few years.

    One, it’s not Spielberg and while I’ve liked some of Mangold’s other movies, it just doesn’t feel like Indy without Spielberg.

    Two, I’m sorry, but Ford is just too old. He’s 81 for chrissake. 81!! That is too old to be swashbuckling. Every time he punched someone I thought his entire hand would collapse into a meat puppet of crushed bones. And running? Even the two steps they would give him before they cut to either a stuntman or just different action looked awkward and painful. The best part of the movie (and the only action scene I even remember 5 days after seeing it) was the de-aged beginning. I was just complaining about how weird face CGI was in THE FLASH review, but now I’m saying just put young Harrison Ford’s face on a stuntman and do the whole movie as an adventure from his past.

    Three, actors that I’ve previously liked, mostly liked a lot, were nothing. I found Holbrook so compelling in things like Narcos and The Sandman and here he was as compelling as a wet dishrag. Same with Mikkelsen, who just seethed with interest in Hannibal. Waller-Bridge at least had some personality, it’s just too bad most of it was unlikeable.

    Look, I don’t want to go on and on tearing this thing down, but I really wish they had just left it with CRYSTAL SKULL.

  5. I think the best faux-Spielberg was Joe Johnson for Jurassic Park 3. The movie was fairly stupid and pointless with no climax, but he directed it creatively and it almost felt like Spielberg. He had the right touch for the material.

    As for this movie, haven’t seen it, probably never will.

  6. I was genuinely surprised by how much I unapologetically loved this movie. It’s not perfect—you could help the pacing by shaving off 20 minutes, I would love more reliance on practical effects and I miss the physical comedy of previous entries—but goddamn did I have a blast with this from start to finish. This will be an unpopular opinion but I think Mads Mikkelson’s villain is the best of the series. He’s so smug and arrogant until you realize he barely knows what he’s doing and is completely out of his depth. And the balls on this guy to go back and kill Hitler—not to stop him but because he thinks he can do better! The ending is such a home run for me. If anything, Kingdom of Crystal Skull needed a CRAZIER ending (I never had a problem with aliens but they don’t actually DO anything once they show up)—definitely don’t have that complaint here and it works thematically very well. I loved PWB (I guess some people just don’t like her, oh well) and the final scene with Marion hit me harder than I ever would’ve expected. I dunno, man, this one was just aces for me, despite a handful of complaints. This is #3 in series for me (I’m a weirdo who thinks Last Crusade is the best).

  7. Yeah, I thought it was OK as well. I liked the prologue a lot, even if it’s about the safest choice possible (de-aging aside) – but the rest of the movie slowly and constantly deflated that high. Ford certainly gave it his all, though- really liked his performance here, and the last few grace notes hit me pretty hard.
    Other than that… it was weirdly lifeless, and I was constantly annoyed by tons of silly scripting like the way they constantly stayed on Voller’s tail in that Tangier chase; it was lousy on the latest Jurassic World Malta bit, it was even worse here. The final sequence felt unearned; I get the themes behind Indy’s whole ‘leave me here’ thing, but he doesn’t have anything there either, and honestly the whole ‘but I’m closer to history’ felt extremely forced and not true to the character.
    And there are a ton of continuity errors and dropped threads! Why pointedly establish that the kid can’t swim, if he’s going to need to do some serious diving/swimming later on? Reeks of rewrites and reshooting, but that one stings because it could so easily been removed with just one edit.

    But overall, I’m kind of OK with it, and even at two hours and a half, it went down fairly easy. It’s about on-par with CRYSTAL SKULL for me, a movie I didn’t like much but didn’t hate either. And certainly had much better action and imagery than this one.

    I rewatched NOPE earlier this week, and it really struck me how Peele is the only director who seems to be aiming for the same style of visual impact as Spielberg these days. Or at least, successfully pulling it off. Wonder if he’d be interested in doing The Adventures of Wombat and Short Round 2.

  8. I just find it weird that in the very beginning of the very first Indiana Jones movie, Alfred Molina leaving Indy to die so he can sell an artifact for profit is treated as this evil deed that makes him worthy of death, and here, another character does that exact thing, and it’s just… that wacky Helena, at it again!

  9. I feel like I wouldn’t have minded the de-aging as much if it had been used more sparingly, like in a quick flashback scene or two, the way the quick glimpse in the trailer made me expect as opposed to the centerpiece of an extended–and I do mean extended–action sequence. But then again it’s Indiana Jones and an opening action scene is pretty much required. I’m not sure if the upfront spectacle of octogenarian Indy would’ve worked.

    Also I suspect that if I ever did sit down and watch CRYSTAL SKULL as objectively as possible my reaction at the end would be along the lines of “THAT’S what everyone’s so angry about??” much as it was for THOR: THE DARK WORLD, which despite being almost universally (in my limited experience, at least) cited as the bottom of the barrel for MCU felt pretty much like all of the rest to me. Maybe a slight cut or two below here and there but generally the same stuff.

  10. Though this is a solidd thumbs up for me, I will concede that there is something to dreadguacamole’s critique of this film as “lifeless.” What’s weird is that sometimes it’s just melancholy, and Indy seems legit tired and too old for this shit. That’s a bit of an existential gut punch — like, okay, Indy is an old man, and I’m gonna die someday for real, aren’t I? I don’t think this is helped by the way the film drags and meanders a bit in the long middle. Still enough good stuff to get the “W” — of course, old tired, soldiering on Indy is an iteration worth watching. If there was any doubt, I think Harrison Ford’s excellent performance seals the deal. But I could see how a person would find it genuinely depressing to see Indy old and tired and world-weary and whatnot.

  11. Franchise Fred

    July 6th, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    Man, I’m glad this worked for you but I just cannot conceive of any of these sequences being thrilling. At no point did any of the train sequence look like an actual train and even tho I’m not anti-de-aging, but I think I could buy de-aged Ford more if he was the only digital element in a practical scene. Either way, 20 minutes is too damn long to leave that on screen. Make that a tight five minute bit.

    Tangier and the finale never looked like they were actually in a place. The parade was even real and that looked bad probably thanks to digital cameras. The Temple of Archimedes and the noose bit almost worked because they were on sets. Maybe Crystal Skull green screen stood out more but the practical work in the film elevated it.

    If this is how movies are going to be I’m going to be the disgruntled old man who doesn’t like new things anymore. Fortunately there are still people making John Wicks and Mission: Impossibles, which of course use the same techniques but combine them with practical work more skillfully.

  12. I guess everyone’s radar for what quality of effects they’ll accept is different. The train sequence and deep dive were the only ones where I felt keenly aware of the overuse of digital effects. The Tangier sequence,, Sicily and the siege of Syracuse ending all worked really well for me. The de-aging is fine until he starts speaking and sounds like an 80-year-old, that really threw me. The de-aging in the other later flashback was totally convincing, even if I think that scene is pointless, giving us information we’ve already been told and could easily be cut.

    Did anyone else catch the “bad dates” joke? It’s so subtle I wonder if it’s even intentional but I choose to believe it was.

  13. Great review. All Vern’s Indy reviews are terrific reads. This reminded me of his first review of Crystal Skull from 2008, which I went back and read tonight–man, what a classic.

    I also liked DIAL overall. Something about the time travel sequence fell flat for me, though. I’m not against it in theory but the scene just kind of felt like a Disney or Universal ride where you zip through and look at immersive surroundings but then all of a sudden it’s over. Indy and Co. just seemed like passengers riding that experience out more than driving the action. But there’s a lot in the movie I do like, with my personal highlight being the NYC chase.

    Here’s a detail I find interesting but you mileage may vary. This is the only Indy movie where he’s still in possession of the main artifact at the end of the film, and only the second time where he succeeds in bringing ANY artifact home in any of the films—the first instance of success is the beginning of LAST CRUSADE, immediately after the River Phoenix sequence when it jumps forward to 1938 and the adult Indy reclaims the Cross of Coronado from the Man in White. So, his wins are the Cross of Coronado and the Dial of Destiny. And his losses are the Ark, the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol, the Shankara Stones and the Holy Grail. We don’t love this guy because he’s perfect or because he always wins—in fact he usually doesn’t. We love him because he hustles like hell and survives. But I’m glad that in this last one, he finishes as a winner in the artifact retrieval game.

  14. Without having seen it, I still refuse to believe that any of the effect work in this movie will look as bad as some of the shots in LAST CRUSADE, which were even by 1989 standards really bad and far below anything that was shown in the previous two movies.

    I’m glad to hear that the return of the Nazis really seemed to be motivated by using them for a real world metaphor, instead of some misguided “The fans didn’t like Indy fighting communists, so maybe we should bring back Nazis. These guys were cool, weren’t they?” fanservice, as I had originally feared.

    That said, I mostly stayed out of discussions about this movie, but I think the funniest fan reaction so far to me was


    that the same people who hated Mutt with a fiery passion seem to be really upset over his off-screen death in Vietnam! They were all like “Hell yeah, I’m so glad we don’t even get a LaBeouf cameo, but…y’know…did you have to kill him? That’s dark, man. Couldn’t you just, I don’t know, let him live happily ever after somewhere else or maybe just be on vacation? What’s wrong with you sick fucks? I didn’t hate him THAT much.”

  15. I really enjoyed it, especially the way they worked around Ford’s age by showcasing Indy in some inventive ways: The horse chase during the Moon Day parade, diving in the Aegean, and that glorious finale that really expanded the scope of what an Indiana Jones movie could be. It reminded me of the old Dark Horse comics from the 90s, coupled with the emotional resonance of Last Crusade.

    It’s true the film runs a little too long but- much like the excessive cgi of Crystal Skull- that’s also what makes it a product of its time. I also love how each Indy movie ended up having its own unique vibe, with Dial of Destiny riffing on political paranoia thrillers of the era. Mangold has cited 3 Days of the Condor as one influence on the story, and you can definitely see that in the way Indy is completely unprepared for being dropped into the middle of one last adventure.

  16. I am one of those who thinks the first three movies are all absolute classic – I do have a very slight preference for Temple of Doom as it was the first one I saw in the cinema, and it was such a seminal movie for young Edgard. Indiana Jones was my favorite movie character. Then came Crystal Skull and I felt so disappointed by it initially – I did not mind the fridge thing (I actually really like the whole beginning), I was just struggling with that thing of giving a son to the main character, and then it just did not click for me. But over time, I did change my view on Crystal Skull and learned to really appreciate it – I watched it again 2 weeks ago and was surprised in fact that I really like it now. It still does not reach the level of the first three, but it has a lot to offer.

    I liked Dial of Destiny quite a lot – but again, feeling it is not at the level of the other ones. I do like the emotional touch here and playing with the age of the character (and the “mileage”) – but I simply could not get to like Helena and see what was really her added value. Action scenes were okay and fun, but lacking the “urgency” that you had in the earlier films – Raiders’ truck scene, the mine cart chase in Temple of Doom (or the bridge), the tank scene in Last Crusade… here it feels that there is no stake at all. I also felt that Antonio Banderas was a distraction (felt like you Vern that maybe the other guy on the boat was a boyfriend – there was definitely something there). Similar to Crystal Skull where they had to bring John Hurt and Cate Blanchett – in the earlier films, outside Sean Connery, Harrison Ford was front and center and all other characters were fully supporting – not distracting.

    But having said that, there is a lot to like in Dial of Destiny too – and I feel that it will grow on me as well when I re-watch it. I like the fact that they did not decide to pull a James Bond and kill the character to make sure we understand that this is the last one. The ending is perfect for that character. I was a bit hoping when it was clear that there was a time travel element to it that they would go the Back to the Future 2 route and have Indiana Jones re-visits some old adventures… (I do love that movie trick!) – but that would have been maybe too complicated technically to do so…

    Anyway – feeling a bit sad that it is seen already as a failure, between mixed reviews and lower than expected box office returns… but I am sure its reputation will grow over time like Crystal Skull did. The Indiana Jones saga is definitely one of the best out there… 5 very strong films.

  17. All the high profiled movie franchises have their fair share of die hard fans that it’s near impossible to have a reasonable discussion with. The Indy fans aren’t nowhere near as bad as the Bond and Star Wars gangs, but let’s say I’ve had an exhausting week after I declared that DIAL OF DESTINY is better than both LAST CRUSADE and CRYSTAL SKULL.

  18. Inevitably, this is the most clear eyed and sensible review of DIAL OF DESTINY that I have seen. So many people seem to be congratulating themselves for the critical achievement of noticing that Mangold is not Spielberg that they failed to notice what Mangold brings to it. For me this edges it over CRYSTAL SKULL in that it achieves a consistent elegiac tone. Mangold at his best – and my favourite remains COPLAND – has central characters staring down their regrets and finding an accommodation with their past that allows them to see the future. It’s not exactly a redemption story – hell, Indy has probably saved the world a couple of times; he doesn’t need that kind of redemption – but it’s a story I can always stand to watch when it’s done this well. The globe-trotting McMuffin hunt structure doesn’t lean into Mangold’s facility for turning things into a western as much as I might have liked, but I’ll take Indy chasing down a train, riding a horse, getting into a fight in a bar one last time.

    Honestly, I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. Yes, there are irritations and deficiencies, but those are outweighed by all the good stuff that is there.

  19. They should kill Shia Labeouf more often.

  20. Vern, thanks to your enthusiasm, I rewatched CRYSTAL SKULL before I went to see DIAL, and I liked it a lot more this time. I still think it peaks early (the fridge nuking is the best part), but I appreciate it now. Some of the things I complained about at the time– Indy being too old, too much CGI, etc.– now seem quaint to me. Heck, I even thought Mutt was the best of the supporting characters (it helps that I noticed how much Shia LaBoeuf gets beat up in that one).

    As for DIAL, I liked it! Weirdly, the INDY FIVE I’d been developing in my head over the past ten years shared some similarities with this– 1969/the moon landing, Nazis coming back, a de-aged Harrison Ford, even Mutt being in ‘Nam!– but then this went in a much different direction.

    I kept waiting for the movie to take a dive in quality, but it never happened. Pretty solid all the way through. They played the hits for sure, but I also like the themes of the changing world, old Indy feeling left behind and suffering loss, and Nazis trying to reclaim the glory of their past. The past constantly haunts us, whether it’s because of nostalgia or regret, but we have to keep moving forward. I think the movie might be too subtle/subdued, though. They could punctuate some of these themes or motifs a little harder– this is supposed to be a larger-than-life Indiana Jones movie, after all. Helena’s character progression doesn’t feel entirely earned, though I do like how she acts as a mirror to Indy’s younger self– setting out on her father’s quest, bringing her own Short Round (though he reminded me more of Scooby-Doo’s Flim-Flam), looking for fortune and glory. It’s nice that Indy learns he has to be “present” in the world, but it also feels like this lesson is foisted upon him, rather than him discovering it himself.

    Could’ve probably used another pass on the script to shore up the themes/character arcs and maybe add some more Spielbergian business/gags/moving parts in the action scenes. Ford’s age and pre-production injury may have caused him seeming more “passive” in the action scenes as some have pointed out. I also expected a different third act– either returning to the events of earlier movies, like others mentioned, or even just revisiting the prologue from a different perspective, Back to the Future 2 style. I like what they went with, but can you imagine if the climax involved Indy more than just as an observer? Swinging from ship to ship, getting to actually fight one of the baddies, etc. I feel some opportunities were missed there. However, I’m glad they didn’t go overboard with easter eggs and callbacks.

    After a first watch, this is in fourth place for me in the Indy series, which isn’t bad considering the first three are probably in my top ten movies of all time. I look forward to revisiting it.

    My favorite Mangold movie is KNIGHT AND DAY, for what it’s worth.

  21. Serious question. If you had been trapped on a desert island for 30 years and the first thing you were shown was this film, what would you make of the de-aged Harrison Ford? I have seen this twice now, the first time I spent the entire 25 minutes of the opening looking for flaws in the de-aging, There are some, but it still works great. Second viewing, I fell for it more. But would someone who has no idea what digital de-aging is just think “wow, they must have filmed some deleted scenes years ago and plopped them in here”?

  22. JeffG—the voice would be the give-away to me. He looks convincingly young but sounds old.

  23. Chuck- That is so weird, I saw it opening Thursday and didn’t even notice the voice at all. After reading a few reviews, I heard mention of the voice issue and did notice it a bit on second viewing.

  24. dreadguacamole

    July 7th, 2023 at 9:35 am

    The de-aging is pretty good, and helped by the fact that there’s so much green-screening going on around him; It kind of fits right in. I found it slightly uncanny at points but never distracting, however we as a culture are getting savvy (or think we’re getting savvy, and have the need to nitpick) at detecting CGI. The fictional islander would maybe think there’s something slightly odd with the action, but mostly just be amazed.
    But the voice… it broke the spell for me every time he spoke, even though Ford was trying to inject more energy than on the rest of his (excellent) performance.

  25. Like JeffG, I wasn’t really bothered by the voice thing, but one of my kids mentioned it. So, like a lot of things, I think there’s a spectrum from “didn’t notice” to “really took me out of the film.”

    It seems to me that voice de-aging should be even easier than the face de-aging. Is this wrong? What then is the reason for not doing this (in for a penny)?

  26. I really liked this one as well. In fact, it has been my most anticipated movie of the summer, mostly because I just love the Indiana Jones movies. I’ve cooled on so many geeky genre fare that I loved as a kid, but Indiana Jones (and Star Trek) is something I still get excited about. That first movie is absolute perfect popcorn filmmaking. And the rest are effortlessly fun.

    Starting last year, I read some of the Indy novels, played a bunch of the video games, and rewatched the movies, of course. I even watched a bunch of the Young Indiana Jones show when they finally released it on Disney+. (I wish they had done so earlier so that I could have made it through the entire series instead of the seven episodes I managed to watch before seeing Indy 5).

    I didn’t mind the de-aging or the lack of aging of the Ford’s voice. The one thing that I had to get used to was the fact that Spielberg wasn’t behind the camera. Mangold is a very different filmmaker. He’s less fluid and more terse in his approach. And I honestly thought he was a terrible choice for director at first, despite really liking his movies overall.

    But you really can’t do the same action and stunt spectaculars now that Ford is 80 (playing a 70 year old), so I think in some sense Mangold’s approach makes sense. You need to hide Ford’s age a little, and using longer shots would have too easily revealed the moments where an 80 year old is replaced by a stuntman. Honestly, I think they did a fine job of the action scenes considering the limitations of using an older actor.

    Compared to the two biggest legacy sequels, The Force Awakens and Top Gun Maverick, I actually think this is the better film. It takes a few risks, avoids too many lazy call backs, and respects the characters. In fact, the one big call back at the end is beautifully handled. My guess is that when they knew that ending, they realized that they needed to avoid any other on-the-nose allusions otherwise it would sap that moment of its power. (I’ll admit that I teared up a bit.)

    I had my doubts, but you did good, Mangold.

  27. i liked this, with one caveat: the treatment of mason. this would not have bothered me at all if there had been a single black woman in the entire franchise up to this point (not to mention the ONLY black character we meet besides the boat captain in raiders) but damn they did her dirty. she is either okay working for a nazi, or a woefully uninformed CIA agent (neither of which make her look good) does nothing but look disapprovingly when murders occur in front of her, and then SPOILER is merced extremely early on. upsetting!

  28. I have to admit I was pretty baked when I saw this and don’t remember much of it, but this review and the subsequent commentary and thought of my grandfather, who remembered the Wright brothers and also the Apollo moon landing.That’s pretty cool! Are our lives going to be that interesting? I doubt it. I guess the 20-somethings might see the time when the earth becomes unlivable but frankly I’m glad I’ll probably miss that.

  29. Skani, they actually can pretty much do anything with voices.they have done it on a lot LF the Star Wars TV with Luke’s voice and I believe Vader’s voice on the Kenobi series is completely digital, James Earl Jones doesn’t even do it. I think they kept Ford’s normal voice in there just out of respect (just a guess) and, honestly, these movies are inherently kind of goofy. A 30 year old with an 80 year old voice isn’t nearly as wonky as a time traveling adventurer.

  30. Seeing it the second time and knowing what I was in for, the voice didn’t bother me much at all. This thing is aging like wine! ;)

    Why are people complaining that there isn’t enough backstory for Voller’s goons? They’re goons! Who cares? We just know they’re loyal, we don’t need to know why. Finding Nazi sympathizers in Alabama ain’t hard, y’all.

  31. Yeah arl doesn’t do Vader’s voice. I remember thinking he was past the point where he could do it even when he did Rogue One, he had Old Man Voice in that. Then came Kenobi and I was like holy fuck he must have had a cold or something back then because he seemed on POINT. Then found out it was AI and that made sense. He just doesn’t have the pipes for it anymore, I love that Vade can now go on another 100 years.

    I didn’t think the effects in Last Crusade were too janky…yeah there was the bridge which looked fake as hell but also cool as hell and was something new. Dudes fighting on a train? Eh…they’re already sticking fake faces on there, do it for real and just paste the face on his stuntman.

  32. Muh, this is just one of the kinda substandard FX shots in LAST CRUSADE that I could find without putting too much effort into it. (Skip to 1:52 if the video doesn’t start there.) There is also some other stuff, like the guy who falls in his tank towards the camera and other things. Now don’t get me wrong, they aren’t dealbreakers for me. If I would stand up and yell “FUCK THAT MOVIE!” every time an effect shot isn’t looking photorealistic and unnoticable, I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy Ray Harryhausen movies anymore. I do think it’s just weird how people get all worked up about a few wonky effect shots in an Indy movie, as if only tHe CgI is to blame. Seriously, there is nothing in LAST CRUSADE that looks as bad as much of the blue screen shots in LAST CRUSADE.

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (6/10) Movie CLIP - No Ticket (1989) HD

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie clips: http://j.mp/1VlqCtOBUY THE MOVIE: http://j.mp/1T0AmUcDon't miss the HOTTEST NEW TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/1u2y6...

  33. All of this Indy talk finally got me off the fence to give CRYSTAL SKULL a chance, and boy do I feel dumb. The baddies are Russian (makes perfect sense for a 1950s-set movie) not Nazis, so TEMPLE isn’t the only non-Nazi entry in the series. That’s revealed early on; I’d even seen that part before! Oh well.

    The movie? OK. Not to the level of the first 3, but that could be the fogey in me talking. It’s certainly not horrible.

  34. Wasn’t the bridge in Last Crusade actually painted to blend in with the background from the right angle? That’s why they showed the camera turn to reveal the perspective.

    CJ the issue isn’t the CGI itself, it’s the lack of craft. Those shots in Last Crusade are minor components of an entire sequence blending lots of techniques to create an illusion which makes it easier to suspend disbelief.

    Hollywood has placed outsized confidence in CGi to be the driving force of every shot. The result is feeling like you’re only looking at cgi. And that was before they literally invented The Volume which is a screen actors can stand in front of for entire scenes. But even green screen looks less tangible than front projection, I suspect because projection at least combined two film elements so something was still being filmed in a real environment.

  35. @vern, “I love when he lectures her about violating their code of only treasure hunting “for the right reasons” but by “the right reasons” he means for the money.”
    Just a detail but I’m pretty sure he actually says “but I thought we were only doing this for the WRONG reasons!”
    Anyway I really enjoyed it, I thought it was a lot of fun, I liked little touches like Indy taking time to acknowledge the brutal death of his coworkers and his friend rather than immediately moving on to the next action piece or joke like they’d do in a Marvel movie, but I was a little bit disappointed by the ending, both because it feels like Disney just refused to let them make it impossible to do another sequel, and also because… well doesn’t it mean Indy’s gonna have to face murder charges now? Sure the people trying to frame him are all dead but he was already presented on the news as a wanted killer so how is he gonna make that disappear?

  36. Yeah, the bridge at the end of Last Crusade works on that old magic-eye logic or something. The effect of him putting sand on it still looks cool to me. The thing is the effects in Indy movies SHOULD look janky. I love that the tank that goes over the cliff in Crusade is such an obvious model, because it’s true to the serials these were inspired by. The modern digital effects are what feel out of place. I know there’s just no getting around it—even Tom Cruise’s stunts, which are about the best production practical stuff happening now, have a ton of digital clean-up but at least there it’s mean to be invisible.

  37. Oh yeah and sorta wrong thread, but has anybody made these jokes? I mean both one hundred percent though.

    1.) What about a TV show called THE YOUNG WILLIE SCOTT CHRONICLES, where Willie is annoying and it’s hilarious and everyone hilariously hates her. Except like it’s an annoying kid, or two kids the same ages as young Indys, two annoying ass young ladies annoyingly meeting the famous historical figures of history. Except she meets like more famous elephants than most children in order to keep her animal nemesis theme going, like Indy and the snakes. Then in one episode there is a guest appearance from Kate Capshaw playing the saxophone.
    2.) News has it that Paul Thomas Spielberg, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese have united in effort to program Turner Classic Movies following severe corporate restructuring. In keeping with the format of DreamWorks SKG, the group will be airing films under the collective of TCM: ASS.

    Those jokes feel moronic and spurious and not representative of where I’m at right now or ever at all in any sense, but I couldn’t help but make the jokes, Anything Goes like Indiana Jones says. 1969. Is there a part in this movie where Old Indy goes to see Young Iggy?

    The best Indiana Jones is Gary Gianni and also the CD-ROM Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis where he dishes out even ruder CD-ROM justice than that of Sam and Max.

    Is there an extended universe comic Marvel book where you see “Mutt” get brutally murdered for assaulting women. They should make that.

    Also it should play the alternative rocking Fred Schneider solo song Your Kiss is a Whip while Indiana Jones whips shit.

    Also it woulda been cool if while time traveling Indiana Jones saw Jerry O’Connell and the rest of the Sliders slide by and then the two Rhys-Davieses see each other and are like OH SHIT or like pointing fingers happily all LOOKING GOOD YO.

    Anyway I wanted to make this about as much as Spielberg wanted to direct Indy 5, but sometimes Indiana Jones just means materia, and I tried.

    Also the young Vern could have really cheesed off the nerds by writing a piece where he refused to spell the character’s name any way except “Indie”, ala the classic Hans Solo.

    I hope they bring him back for INDY ZOOMS IN.

    Also it woulda been better if Beetlejuice had the stunt spectacular show and Indiana Jones was the one who sang the songs, how funny would that be.

  38. Also, I think older people are the best and I seriously hate the idea people giving Harrison Ford grief for wanting to make a movie, but I do think it needs to be said that Last Larue was ten years younger than this in THE DARK POWER. I think that rules. Harrison rules. Also TDP has an unfortunate Native American zombie villain cast and probably some loathsome politics, but one time when I was a teenager this Troma obsessed kid I was friends with through band and Vern fandom misremembered a line as being “TASTE MY WHIP, YOU SON OF A BITCH” said with casual whipping intention and gruffly as he whips zombies. Turns out it is actually FEEL my whip you son of a bitch, way less funny. Ah well maybe Zorro can still say it. Five stars for the misremembered Taste My Whip You Don of a Bitch.

    Also I am looking forward to the investigation of a gritty criminal underworld amidst the club racket in INDIANA JONES LIKES THE NIGHTLIFE.

    Seriously though, it sucks Lucas sold this because what they really should do are make gritty, dynamic audio adventures like Escape (which kicks ass), Superman, the Dragnet radio show or The Shadow, starring a stoned as fuck Harrison Ford in exciting tales of espionage and thrills featuring Calista Flockhardt and the sound of Ben Burtt third billed. They literally could make those for as long as possible and it’d never have found such a longform-audio-ready audience. Ah well chalk that up with Haddish as Lois Lane in too perfect of an idea for dumbass Hollywood.


  40. CJ, those were effects of the time. But in this world where I have seen excellent composite work and seamless shit in Disney tv shows with the volume, the shoddiness in this movie sticks out. To me it’s one thing when there’s a few shots with bad effects, it’s another when the scene lasts five minutes and consists of nothing but.

  41. Fred: Honestly, I don’t care. Movies are generally fake. I really don’t wanna turn this into a “CGI bad” debate (Or how I call it these days: Nolan Vs Fincher), but I think if you look at a cool, fun, action scene with an “Ugh, the CGI looks bad” lense that makes you enjoy a scene less, how can you even enjoy ANY action scene, knowing that none of the bad guys that Indiana Jones punched in the face were actually punched by Harrison Ford?

    And Muh, these shots weren’t really “of the time”. They already looked by 1989 standards bad. It’s like when one of those people show a clip from SPAWN say “Yeah, for 1997 these effects looked pretty okay”, although it was the same year when FIFTH ELEMENT, MIB, STARSHIP TROOPERS, LOST WORLD and TITANIC came out. The first two Indy movies are full of blue screen or model shots that either don’t look as dodgy or don’t even make you realize that they are fake until you see the making of. Which, by the way, I’m sure applies to this movie too. The sad thing about special effects is sadly that we only see the bad ones.

  42. CJ, I’m really glad you liked the movie but that sounds a whole lot like “what are you expecting, Hamlet?” I’m still able to enjoy movies like John Wick, Mission Impossible, Extraction 2 et al because they’re well made. Heck, even the glaring superheroes standing in front of a screen of a desert background didn’t totally ruin The Flash for me because there were other fun things going on.

    There were lots of people who liked the shaky handheld post action decade and they must be bummed that’s largely over. But I know there are some styles that just won’t work for me and I’m able to articulate why, no hard feelings.

  43. YOUNG INDIANA JONES is not on the UK Disney+ for some reason, so in that sense Indiana Jones and Bonkers are very similar.

  44. Am probably going to sound like a fossil off the Triassic Era saying this, but are there really people who LIKE that whole shaky cam post action shit?

    KayKay say: Watching Action Movies where you cannot see the action in any comprehensible manner is like watching porn with all the best bits pixelated out.

  45. dreadguacamole

    July 9th, 2023 at 5:52 am

    I’d watch the shit out of young Willie Scott being foiled by elephants weekly.

    CJ, I don’t think the effects were bad in this, and there were enough fun details and developments to keep me entertained… but visually, except for a few things (like the rift in the sky or a few beats in the prologue) I found it pretty bland-looking. I mean, I love the subway horse scene on paper, and it’s fun enough, but it never popped; It’s a weirdly drab movie even when there’s a lot going on. That’s probably due to a bunch of things – the artificiality of the visuals, Ford’s age, the blockbuster bloat that’s in fashion these days and ruins a lot of these films for me. I’d need to watch it again to maybe get a better grip on what didn’t work for me, but honestly the prospect doesn’t appeal much.
    And I say this as someone who thinks Mangold’s a great director – I thought he’d be a great fit for and Indiana Jones movie.

  46. CJ, go check out the blue screen shots on the raft or the mine cart in Temple of DOom. I was like six when I saw those and knew that was some fake-ass stuff. But they alsi combined them with lots of real shots, models, etc. Now you’d get the entire scene shot on a stage with those bluescreens and it would be terrible.

    Kay as for the shaky cam stuff, I never liked the Bourne movies…the first was shaky but you could tell what was what, but Greengrass took over and just shit all over everything. But then I’d see people complaining later about movie fights that were simply handheld…you could clearly see everything but the autists who post on the internet would be crying about shakycam. They gotta be super happy with all of the one-shot oners they do now, eight minutes of action on a slow moving gib in a hallway.

  47. Like, if you’re going to pmpare Spawn’s effects with all of those amazing effects in movies of the time, do it the other way and compare Last Crusade’s with Honey I Shrunk the Kids or Star Trek 5’s bluescreen work. All bluescreen sucked then, it’s why James Cameron was a genius for using rear screen projections for his process shots which look fantastic.

  48. I’ll take six of one, half a dozen of the other. If special effects are there to tell the story, I’ll accept them butting up against the technical limitations of the time. I’ve never gotten the feeling from the first three Indys that they were being done just to show off new technology (although with Lucas in the mix, I’m sure that was a factor–not a criticism).

    But with certain event movies like Independence Day or your more recent Marvels, where the appeal is to see a big spectacle of special effects–if the CGI isn’t up to snuff, then that’s a problem. Don’t advertise a movie based on how cool it’s going to look and then deliver something that’s not cool.

    I feel like a lot of recent usage of deepfake deaging and even the Volume have just been there to go “hey, look at this, so cool!”

  49. Franchise Fred

    July 9th, 2023 at 9:43 pm

    I should’ve also included Fast and Furious in my pro list. That series heavily uses CGI but the sequences are well crafted.

    KayKay, for a good decade I was hearing defenses from people insisting shaky handheld made them feel more immersed in the actions There was also a contingent that said Greengrass was great. It was only the copycats who sucked. Which, again, great if you liked it. But I rewatched Bourne Ultimatum (arguably the best one) and still couldn’t figure out what was happening, and I’ve seen it before! Apparently he fights Scott Adkins in it and for the life of me I can’t spot Scott.

  50. Every ‘era’ of filmmaking will include both good and bad examples of any special effects technique or process – cgi/green screen/puppetry/models etc.

    One of the issues with watching some older movies – even from only twenty years ago is that even the best effects work does not quite hold up when viewed on the very high definition transfers being created today – basically the high resolution of newer 4k/hd etc., can out resolve the effects shot.

    Also – more simply – people can watch films much more often than they once did now – so the very repeatability of viewing exposes ‘flaws’ that we never even noticed, our eye can linger/look at stuff over and over. Filmmakers knew this when making the films, and specifically designed shots that had layers/elements that were better or worse with the knowledge that it would escape notice.

    Of course the skill of individual filmmakers/crafts people still is paramount – King Kong from 1933 still ‘works’ because of the superhuman skill/artistry and talent of the people making it – it still tricks the eye to this day.

  51. I found Dial of Destiny pretty boring. The bonkers time travel stuff right at the end wasn’t enough to save it.

  52. After the Star Wars special editions came out, Ebert said he hoped they won’t do anything similar with Indiana Jones because even if some of the effects are outdated, they basically tie the films back to their serial roots, which were made on the cheap. It would have been cool if Mangold did DoD only using practical effects, but I doubt that’s possible with a film of this size.

    Still, I thought the special effects were mostly good. The de-aging was okay, and I don’t think there’s a better way to have a scene during WWII. (By contrast, The Mandalorian should have absolutely recast Luke.) I do wonder if a couple things are happening with special effects today: first, for those of us raised on actual film, digital film still looks a bit too pristine and thus kind of fake; and second, directors and special effects companies are filling up the screen with too many special effects. Like that parade scene was done with actual peoples on an actual street. But it still looked a bit off. I’ve seen how many special effects might go into a shot on an actual location, and it was a lot more than expected. Maybe the sheer number of little tweaks just tell our brains that something is off, even if we can’t specifically pinpoint what looks wrong.

    But I also don’t think movies need to look like real life, and special effects can hold up even when we know they’re fake. We know that Indiana Jones isn’t in 1969 New York just like we know giant gorillas don’t exist. I recently showed the original King Kong to my five year old, and she loved it, even if she did notice that the close ups were of a man in a suit. (I had to explain stop motion animation to her).

    My question, though, is how this film cost $300 million. That seems insane to me. I mean, it’s not my money, so it’s no skin off my back, but it does seem like movie budgets are getting insane.

  53. RBatty, that’s the thing. What is the point of a movie this size if it’s still going to be full of screens like any low budget tv show? What does that even save you if it still costs $300 mil (COVID protocols notwithstanding. They should take on the burden of that.)

    I definitely agree loading up shots with extraneous effects is overkill. It’s disheartening to watch behind the scenes footage and see even on location they’re putting up green screens to paint in more backgrounds. I get it saves them on building out elaborate sets but it’s too many elements. And any modern movie where people use cell phones or watch monitors they’re all added in post.

    Use cgi to erase wires. That’s fine, keep the performers safe and harnessed in. Don’t also add half a city street. And yes, digital doesn’t help. Perhaps film grain obscured some seams.

  54. Apparently CRYSTAL SKULL cost $261million when adjusted for inflation, so this is not actually that much more. LAST CRUSADE comes to “only” $117million though.

    What’s surprising to me is that (in 80s money) TEMPLE OF DOOM only cost $8million more than RAIDERS ($28mil vs $20mil); to me it looks and feels like something that cost twice as much or more. But I guess $8million by itself could get you a pretty nice looking movie back in 1984.

  55. RBatty, I could be wrong but I think the last major Hollywood production to rely entirely on practical effects for non-stunt effects was Bram Stoker’s Dracula back in 1992. It’s very rare.

  56. Franchise Fred, the frustrating thing about that Bourne Ultimatum fight scene is that Scott Adkins had the guy who fought Matt Damon in the apartment (Joey Ansah) on his Art Of Action podcast and he said they actually filmed that fight scene to play out CLEARLY and all that epileptic jitter was added in post.

    Yeah, have never bought any of those excuses for the inclusion of shaky cam.

    Immersion? The kitchen fight of RAID 2 and Adkins taking on an entire bar of goons in AVENGEMENT had me plenty immersed, without the need to reach for an aspirin because I was getting cross-eyed from trying to make out what’s happening.

    Covering the fact that the actor in question has no martial arts background? Well, STOP trying to put them in fancy kung fu fights. The whole world and their first cousin knows that Liam Neeson, while being a great actor, a tremendous screen presence and possessing one of the Top 5 Best Phone Voices on Planet Earth, is no martial artist. So rather than cutting his fight scenes to ribbons especially in TAKENs 2&3 (Olivier Megaton, quit. Just. Quit), choreograph some basic moves that can still look good. There’s a great fight scene between Tommy Lee Jones and the baddie at the end of BLACK MOON RISING that’s terrific without any elaborate martial artistry. There’s one at the start of ROAD HOUSE 2, with Will Patton (!) taking down some guys with just well aimed blocks and punches that is pretty damn re-watchable. I liked the fight in DIE HARD where McClane is just full on bruiser mode with Alexander Godunov. Hell, the 2 fights Ford has with Pat Roach in RAIDERS and DOOM are pretty entertaining without a single spinning back kick to the head on frame.

    Muh, I agree with you that if you watched IDENTITY and SUPREMACY back to back, the former is marginally better for clarity but there’s still a little too much editing there. Why, I don’t know as Damon was fighting fit and learnt all the choreography even the legit Martial Artist he fought with in ULTIMATUM said Damon performed all the moves with precision.

    Basically if a fight isn’t scoring at least a 3.5 on Vern’s ACR, I ain’t feeling it.

  57. @RBatty024

    Much like Mission Impossible, Indy had the misfortune of being hit with multiple covid delays while attempting location shooting around the globe. Ford was also injured early on, which led to another 3 month delay that burned through a ton of money. (Not to mention how much it probably cost to de-age Ford for a 25 minute prologue!)

    On top of that, pre-production on the film began back in 2016, when the studio was still eyeing a 2019 release date. So in addition to Ford’s salary, they also had to pay Spielberg a hefty fee for the years he spent working on the project.

  58. Whoa whoa whoa, so making action movies with an 80-year-old star may not actually be feasible for an efficient production??? Nothing they could’ve done about COVID.

    KayKay, once Keanu and Matt learned martial arts all the actors wanted to do it. Most of them didn’t train for 4 months. By the time of Kingsman, as cool as it was to see Colin Firth do fights, it’s like all these actors are just learning the same moves because it’s all stunt coordinators can teach a newb to make it look presentable.

    That’s why Odenkirk insisted on training for 2 years and it showed. Not everyone can commit to that, that’s fair. But I’d rather watch an expert at work than someone who learned a little of everything. Ok I did like the McG Charlie’s Angels too.

  59. I love Odenkirk and thought Nobody was a really good movie, but honestly he diesn’t do anything a reasonably in shape guy can learn very quickly. He’s not doing really interesting moves or big chained choreography or kicks. He’s doing basic punches any actor can do and a few front kicks. I think his training was just for the stamina because he wasn’t really a super active kind of guy and he wanted to be able to do everything.

    Kay, I doubt that martial artist who said the fights in Bourne were supposed to be seen clearly knows what he’s talking about. To think that you have to ignore the first two movies, and this one even had a returning director, did the guy think the style was going to suddenly change. I mean it got WORSE, sure…but essentially the same mishmash. And that stuff wasn’t added in post unless you figure he means editing, but that camera is shaking for real on set.

    And I’ve heard the shakycam argument on the Raid movies too…I don’t think it applies there, handheld isn’t necessarily shaky cam, but the camera IS pretty damn shaky in those flicks…but everything is clear to me.

    On Bourne 3 I saw behind the scenes footage and was like wow, Damon really learned the moves, they could have shot them straight up. I think they needed some work because they seem very mechanical, but still real nice. You can see it here (along with the hilarious shot of the cameraman just shaking the fucking thing).


  60. Oh and Chuck, even when they made Dracula, that was a complete anomaly. Coppolla had to fire the effects people because they thought he was nuts, and he hired his kid to do it. No one thinks a big actiony effects movie with no digital or such…but man, back in the day they built sets, not everything felt like a videogame. If you wanted a scene where a motorcycle chased a train you had a guy driving a morotcycle chasing a train. Here it just looks like nothing, an old man with a fake face on a non-moving motorcycle shot in front of a bluescreen and then digitally composited with digital background…even for wide shots! It’s all so lazy and shitty. And probably cost more doing it that way.

  61. The Art of Action - Joey Ansah - Episode 26

    In episode 26, Scott is joined by Joey Ansah from The Bourne Ultimatum, The Old Guard & Mission Impossible. He is also writer & director of Street Fighter: A...

    Muh, see the video at time stamp 37:34 onwards where Joey clearly says they dropped frame rates and changed shuttering in the edit bay. I don’t know, I tend to listen to the guy who was ACTUALLY there on set.

    As for RAID, yes there is some quick edits but anyone who lumps the fights there under shakycam is smoking some strong shit.

  62. Eh, he’s talking about HK framing and literally in the clip they’re showing, the camera is two feet away from the guy and the cameraman is shaking it. I can tell you what kind of shot that’s gonna be. Don’t know how you’d change shutter speed in post with film, it’s burned into the shot. They very well may have shot loads of wide shots, but all you need is a few shots of close ups and just edit them and there you go.

    People call The Raid shakycam because no one knows what terms mean, they just get annoyed and apply a term they’ve heard that seems like it could fit. I’ve seen way lesser shaky movies called shakycam and they were only handheld, Raid is on this side of the line but it is pretty shaky.

  63. Also in Bourne, looked at the fight. That cut that was shown on the monitor is in the movie, notice how the background is in focus. MAYBE they might have zoomed in on some close ups but at the same time there’s a lot of lens compression and the background is blurrier which means that was shot like that on set. Could still zoom in optically, but that’s not the mark of wide lenses.

  64. I’m glad Indy managed to stop those guys from going back in time to kill Hitler.

  65. Ha ha…but technically I guess the hook is really more like they would have taken Hitler’s place and would have learned from his mistakes, thus being more efficient at what Hitler was doing.

    So it’s like voting for the lesser of two evils!

  66. I liked Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Fleabag, but find her awfully miscast in these action roles. Especially when they seemingly go for a femme fatale angle, which is absurd.

    Last I heard, they were considering her to be the new Lara Croft. This just has got to be a joke.

  67. Carrying on the fine Shia LeBeouf tradition of “no, really, HIM? All the actors in the world and you wanted HIM in your movie?”

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>