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.