Cannes #76 - “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”
Updated: Jun 6
Sorry, you have dialled an incorrect destiny.
I’ll be honest, this review is particularly painful to write. I love Indiana Jones. I grew up wearing out old VHS copies of the original trilogy, and I was even a fan of 2008’s generally abhorred Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Mostly because I thought that through that film’s ending, cinema permanently bid farewell to the legendary archaeologist. So when I heard the rumour of yet another sequel, I wasn’t jumping for joy... And now I’ve seen it, I can say my concerns were justified.
The film opens with the sound of a ticking clock. Time is indeed at the core of the picture, aiming to control it whilst also accepting its inevitable, merciless passing. And despite the fact that time has certainly been kind to Harrison Ford, he’s still an 80 year-old man. An elderly Indiana Jones struggling with age had already been done in the previous instalment, so why indulge in this sadistic, pathetic self-deprecation? “Indiana Jones, out with a bang, back on the saddle… I’m not selling it, am I?” says Indy’s goddaughter Helena, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. And no, she’s not really selling it to the viewers either. There is a constant feeling of pity, with other characters looking at Indy as if to say: “can he still do that?”
Mangold’s film is unnecessary and pure fan service, so despite enjoying some action sequences, we still feel a bit guilty for forcing an old man to endure such rocambolesque adventures. We have to deal with the uncomfortable truth that he, or at least his franchise, has lived for too long to keep going like this. Indiana Jones lives in the past. He nostalgically recalls his old adventures like a demented grandfather.
This could have all been forgiven if the film had at least been entertaining, but narratively it lands closer to a cheap knockoff National Treasure flick than the original Indiana Jones. Something feels constantly off. The plot is messy and riddled with silliness, relying on ridiculous coincidences. Indiana Jones spent his life saving History, but James Mangold destroys it. Sallah, his trusted friend in the middle east, is now a cabbie in New York. The flat, one-dimensional henchmen and villains are cheap, easily dislikable and with no charm whatsoever. John Williams chimes the old, tired themes, without adding anything new.
Perhaps it’s missing Spielberg’s touch, or maybe it’s the unbridgeable uncanny valley in Ford’s de-aged appearance, which wraps the whole thing in a video game aura. That alluring celluloid aesthetic is now a saturated CGI pastiche. And, personally, this anachronistic feeling is the movie’s fatal mistake. Indiana Jones is a 30’s/‘40s hero, invented to match the style of adventure movies of that period. And this doesn’t feel like a 40s film, but a 2023 blockbuster sequel (that nobody has asked for).
Unfortunately, this will prove the tragic epilogue to one of cinema’s greats - the only human character so iconic that he can be recognised by his shadow. That is, unless Bob Iger the Greedy decides to milk the franchise even further - he has already confirmed his interest in in possible extensions. To him, I can only say.. Kali Ma!