There’s an old, old show-business maxim that encourages performers to leave their audiences wanting more. Apparently that concept is unknown to many of today’s movers and shakers. 

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has everything money can buy and then some. If one hair-raising, high-speed chase through narrow city streets is good, two should be better. How about three? The motto seems to be “more is more” as the film piles on set-piece after set-piece in a full-throttle attempt to exhaust us in the audience.

What began as an homage to the Saturday matinee serials that George Lucas grew up watching on TV (a generation after they were made in the 1940s) has wound up as a bloated vehicle for the still-charismatic Harrison Ford. And if it isn’t enough that the actor retains his ability to command the screen, the filmmakers de-age him digitally for an admittedly rousing curtain-raising sequence. Stuff like that costs a fortune to execute, but where Indy is concerned, money doesn’t matter.

Even mediocre action movies require a script, and this one, credited to experienced screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp, and director James Mangold is disappointingly formulaic. The likable Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays Ford’s plucky rival in the archeological world, while Mads Mikkelsen enacts the part of Dr. Voller, an unrepentant Nazi who will not be stopped in his worldwide quest for an ancient artifact. Other characters come and go in the course of this busy narrative; few of them make a lasting impression except for the ever-reliable Toby Jones as someone who might be even older than the movie’s protagonist (although in real life, he isn’t).

Here’s another problem: there is so much use of CGI that it’s difficult (for me at least) to invest in many of the most spectacular stunts because I know they aren’t real. The lengthy end credits confirm that hundreds upon hundreds of people were hired to bring the writers’ most fanciful ideas to life in a photorealistic form. But when those actions defy all logic and become cartoonishly unreal, it’s No Sale, at least for me.

I can’t say I had high expectations for this film, but even so I consider it a disappointment. Let’s revisit Raiders of the Lost Ark and remember when the premise was fresh and the picture was fun to watch.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024