5 Things I Loved/Learned: “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”

Adrian Todd Zuniga

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I went into Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny expecting to have a good time. I didn’t know I’d love it so much, and that it would teach me as much as it did.

I adore Mads Mikkelsen, but here he plays a Nazi, and is therefore trash and a half.

LOVED: Dial of Destiny called a Nazi a Nazi

Nazis are the worst. The absolute worst. If you defend them, make excuses for them, have compassion for them, or deny the Holocaust, you are also the worst. What I loved about the DIAL OF DESTINY is when someone was a Nazi, they got called a Nazi. And I can’t tell you how enjoyable that was. It felt wonderful! We now live in a Trump-smeared world of bullshit, “both sides” and “whataboutism,” and it suuuuucks. But for the Dial of Destiny’s 2h22m run time I got to live in a world of TRUTH. Remember in 2017 when Nazi Richard Spencer was punched for being a Nazi, and there was a lot of debate about whether or not we should punch Nazis. DIAL OF DESTINY punches the shit out of Nazis every chance it gets! Hallelujah.

Tuk Tuks vs. Cars = Bliss

LEARNED: Chase Scenes Can’t Be Like for Like

The chase scenes in DIAL OF DESTINY will make you FEEL ALIVE AGAIN. Early on, Indy’s on a police horse being chased by a car and a motorcycle. Later, he’s in a tuk tuk chased by cars and motorcycles. Even later, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has to chase a car and the tires on her car are flat, so she finds…a motorcycle! That was the moment I realized that the best chases can’t be like for like. If a car chases a car: boring. Motorcycle chases motorcycle: yawn. But when a chase features different vehicles, a world of possibilities open up which means: exciting!

An aging Indiana Jones is still Indiana Jones

LOVED: Aging Out

Indiana Jones (played by an 80-year-old Harrison Ford) can’t swashbuckle like he used to. And the film doesn’t shy away from that fact. What I loved is the subtle nods to his age that resonated. Above I mention that Indy chooses to bring a horse to a car/motorcycle fight; and later on there’s a scene where he uses his whip to back off a slew of baddies before they all pull out guns. It was a great way to show that in many ways Indy lived in the past, that the world had passed him by, which resulted in him being a more likable, sympathetic protagonist.

LEARNED: We Have to See the Bad Thing Happen

The principle of “Chekhov’s gun” saysthat if you see a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it better go off in the third. And for movies centered around a mysterious artefact with crazy power (introduced in Act 1), that crazy power MUST BE unleashed in Act 3 (before the protagonists figure a way to stuff the toothpaste back into the tube). This happened in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK when Nazis (boo!) open the Ark of the Covenant and all hell breaks loose and the Nazis pay the price (yay!). And in Dial of Destiny…well, I won’t spoil it. But what I learned is that the heroes CANNOT save the day TOO SOON. Because if the crazy power is never unleashed, we as an audiences are going to feel robbed. Humans are a mess —it’s rewarding to see disaster happen, and as rewarding to watch the heroes save the day.

The minute an adventure film takes itself too seriously, it’s an action film. Meh.

LEARNED: Adventure is Mayhem with a Smile

DIAL OF DESTINY opens with Indy captured by Nazis as their base is being bombed by American forces. Because Nazis are thieving, trash people they decide to hang Indy. What follows, which I will spoil none of, made me realize that true adventure movies have to be made with joy. We know our hero, especially in the first five minutes, is going to escape. But it’s how he’ll escape that matters. Especially when it’s escaping from cowardly Nazis who are evil. The opening scene actually made me whisper, “Now this is adventure!” And set expectations that the rest of the movie would be a dazzling romp, which it absolutely was.

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Adrian Todd Zuniga

is an award-nominated author (Collision Theory), award-winning director/screenwriter (HOLD ME, DON'T TOUCH ME) and the creator and host of Literary Death Match.