Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny with Guest Columnist Leonard Maltin!

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Hi, folks! Movie critic-extraordinaire and thrice-banned White House correspondents’ dinner guest Leonard Maltin is here to discuss the latest Indiana Jones movie.

Some people call it Indiana Jones 5, but who’s counting? Indy’s latest globe-trotting romp involves a “Dial of Density,” or something like that. What is this dial, and how does it measure mass?

Like many of my peers, I was apprehensive about seeing another beloved franchise bastardized by the Walt Disney Company under their acquisition of Lucasfilm. And to make matters worse, Spielberg didn’t even return to direct.

That’s like Francis Ford Coppola not returning to The Godfather Part III. Can you imagine what kind of movie that would’ve been?

Spielberg’s absence is an ominous sign, but then I remembered he directed the much-derided fourth installment, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

It’s one of few movies to receive an “Atomic Bomb,” my lowest rating. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), also directed by Spielberg, was another. Maybe he’s not so great after all.

How bad can it be?

I wasn’t thrilled enduring another unnecessary Indiana Jones installment after the trauma-induing Crystal Skull.

Prospects of seeing an eighty-year-old Harrison Ford jump from planes and fight Nazis sounded about as thrilling as seeing Steel Magnolias (1989) for the tenth time. One of my ex-wives loved that film and regularly tormented me with it. I want my DVD back, Evelyn!

Perhaps it’s time to discuss the latest Indiana Jones movie itself. My employers at the Louisville Gazette are expecting as much, but they don’t own me. Maltin is his own man!

If I delivered a diatribe on the eternal search for a decent pair of socks, they’d be none the wiser. I’d gladly see Indiana Jones solve that mystery, but my screenwriting career took a hit after penning Howard the Duck in ’86.

It was originally titled, Howard the Duck: An Erotic Journey. They made so many changes, I disowned the script and had my name removed from the credits.

The film’s notorious failure vindicated my decision, but after three DUIs that year and one unruly “incident” with Brooke Shields at a party, Hollywood stopped calling. She struck me first.

Initial thoughts

There I was, sitting in a darkened theater, ready to tear Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’s Child to shreds, a massacre not unlike that chainsaw movie about Texas.

I scoffed at the movie trailers, laughed at the irritating PSAs, and jeered at the Walt Disney logo at the beginning of the film.

“Why does this movie exist?” I asked myself. “To destroy whatever fond memories I have of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Bone and The Temple of Poon, the porn parody?”

Life continues to mock me, even as a seventy-two-year-old film historian and drag queen (on weekends).

It’s time to expose the shocking truth about the Hollywood moguls and their latest cynical offering. It’s time to reveal the “big picture.” It’s a good movie. There, I said it.

A pleasant surprise

Firstly, you’ll be pleased that Shia LeBeouf is nowhere to be found. His character “Mutt” from the last film is referenced once in passing, and we, the audience, happily move on.

There’s an abundance of new characters and some familiar faces, including John Rhys-Davies as Sallah and Karen Allen (briefly) as Marion, Indy’s first love interest from Raiders.

I hoped to see Temple of Doom’s Willie (Kate Capshaw) return as an awkward third wheel, but we can’t get everything. 

In addition, the new cast is well-rounded and appealing. No one wears out their welcome, not even the obligatory scrappy kid (Ethann Isidore). There’s also a fair amount of depth to their characters.

The movie’s brisk pace, incredible action scenes, fun tone, engaging story, smart script, and wonderful John Williams score deliver a surprisingly worthy sendoff to one of our most iconic action stars.

Indiana Jones 5 stands as a moving tribute to the original trilogy and to the movie serials that inspired the franchise. Even the fan service throughout is genuine and credible.

The movie just works and deserves credit for not being an astonishingly stupid cash grab. It pains me to be so positive, so please bear with me.

Dial “D” for Disney

There’re no scenes of Indiana Jones tossing his whip off a cliff behind him, no scenes of iconic characters returning just to die, no forced setups for new installments, and no blatant attempts at world building. None of this, I believe, was accidental.

Director James Mangold, whose impressive resume includes Girl, Interrupted (1999), Walk the Line (2005), and Logan (2017), among others, cites Raiders of the Lost Ark as his favorite film of all time, and it shows. Disney clearly picked the right man for the job.

The film opens with Jones in the thick of Nazi-occupied Europe and recently captured impersonating an officer. We’re introduced to a convincingly de-aged Harrison Ford whose quest to recover priceless artifacts continues.

A daring motorcycle chase is followed by an intense action sequence aboard a Nazi train, where we learn of Archimedes’ Dial, a mechanism believed to make time travel possible.

gray and black galaxy wallpaper

The film then leaps to 1969, where we find Dr. Jones as a soon-to-be-retired college professor living alone in an NYC apartment. Astronauts have just landed on the moon, and the streets are manic with joy.

Jones, however, is lost in his surroundings, like an artifact in his own time.

He receives a special visitor on retirement day in the form of his goddaughter Helena “Wombat” Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Waller-Bridge reminded me of Eva Green, which proved distracting, since I would’ve preferred Green in the role. But she’s okay.

Wombat comes to Jones for answers about her deceased father’s archeological work, particularly half of the Dial Jones has kept in secret.

Meanwhile, shadowy government agents and a team of stoic former Nazis are in hot pursuit of the Dial and its other half hidden in Archimedes’s tomb. The plot gets a little complicated.

In Closing

I was distracted by the popcorn kernels in my beard and a couple necking in the next aisle. I told them to get a room and was cheered on by theater patrons young and old. But that was all my imagination. I said nothing, because I, like Indy, am an old man.

I’m thankful for this movie and thankful to see Harrison Ford crack the whip one last time. There’s always a chance for another adventure, but for now, they closed things out just fine.

This is Leonard Maltin signing off with a tear in my eye as I listen to Indy’s theme play in my head. Farewell, Dr. Jones, and thanks for the memories.

1 comments on “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny with Guest Columnist Leonard Maltin!”

  1. I enjoyed this movie much more than I anticipated. I think it is by far the best of the sequels to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and is a very satisfying conclusion to Indy’s adventures.

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