I feel like I was a little premature in writing about Indiana Jones 5 last weekend because if I'd just had a little patience, I would have waited for the trailer to come out and give me more to work with. Now it's out and I think I'll go ahead and analyze it. I've never analyzed a trailer before and I don't expect to do so as skillfully as the YouTube channels dedicated to that sort of thing, but I think it will be fun. For me, at least. I can't promise it will be fun to read. Everything here is either my own speculation or information from official channels. I have no desire to ruin the movie for myself. Director James Mangold did see fit the other day to debunk one particularly stupid internet rumor from mouth-breathing misogynists who claim that Indiana Jones will use time travel to erase himself from existence so his goddaughter can take over the role. This is particularly stupid because he's seventy years old and could just, you know, retire, at which point I would have no objection to his goddaughter taking over the role and starring in additional movies that would at best be great and at worst fail to ruin the great movies that already exist. Good grief.
So here's the trailer on YouTube, but it looks much better on Disney+. The first four Indiana Jones movies aren't on Disney+ because Paramount still owns the distribution rights, but fear not, that will be moot in the near future when Disney buys Paramount. In the meantime I suppose this will be the only movie that doesn't open with the Paramount logo dissolving into a real mountain or a mountain etched onto a gong or a CGI prairie dog hill.
First things first: I'm not crazy about the title, which was already rumored and is now confirmed. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. As much as I appreciate alliteration, I just don't think it conveys the proper sense of scope and awe for an Indiana Jones movie, especially one that's meant to cap off the franchise. Across the titles we have an ark, a temple, a crusade, a kingdom, and now... a dial. But whatever; the title won't make or break it. Visually, I think it looks great and I can tell it will be a thrill to watch even if the plot and the dialogue and the acting suck. Some of the CGI looks a bit dodgy, but with seven months left until release I'm sure it will be finessed further. Most of the cinematography and effects of the movies from the eighties still hold up and feel timeless while I'm watching them, but then the cinematography and effects here are still a vast improvement, more visually interesting with more kinetic energy. This particularly stands out in the shots set closer to the timeframe of the originals - but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The trailer opens with a voiceover from Sallah reminiscing about the desert and the sea, and we see shots of the desert and the sea. He didn't do anything with the sea in his original movies but it's implied here that he had several more adventures with Indy. He had some in the books and comics, of course. I don't know how seriously Disney is taking the tie-in materials. It didn't explicitly purge them from canon like it did with Star Wars. Some of them contradict each other, of course, but unlike the contradictions in the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, I like that because it contributes to the feeling of Indy as a larger than life, almost mythical character. Anyway, the desert shots show a bit of a chase sequence including Indy and his goddaughter Helena and some other people, and then there's a shot of him in New York City (actually Glasgow in costume) even though Sallah doesn't mention missing the city, and then there's a rearview closeup on a couple of divers (probably Indy and Helena) and then an old barnacle-encrusted skeleton is destroyed by some eels swimming out of its mouth. Will eels be the creepy crawlies of this movie? Granted, they neither creep nor crawl, but they're basically underwater snakes, which could present some entertaining possibilities.
Sallah keeps talking and makes it sound like he used to go on an adventure with Indy every day. That's a bit much. I didn't see him in India (actually Sri Lanka in costume) in 1935. Indy's in a classroom lecturing students about some kind of alien spacecraft or diving bell, and it's a nice little lecture hall with rising seats, nicer than his previous classrooms, but this is 1969 and he's old and his students, far removed from the days when they would write "Love You" on their eyelids, probably think he's, like, not a groovy cat at all, man. Then Indy and Helena walk over a bridge in a cave and look down at the outstretched hand of a statue. Then all of a sudden it's 1944 and a couple of Nazis - okay, really they're just German soldiers who may or may not be formally affiliated with the Nazi Party, but at best they're Nazi enablers and that's bad enough - are dragging a prisoner with a bag over his head while a castle explodes behind them. Who could it be?? Then a wide shot of someone running across the top of a train on a foggy night. Who could it be?? Then a rear view of a motorcycle approaching a parked plane in the rain in the dark. Who could it be?? A lot of build up here. If the shots weren't so quick, the suspense would be unbearable. Someone walks between the shelves of what looks like a museum storage room, and fortunately he comes into the light so we can see that he's none other than Indiana freakin' Jones!
Now the trailer does the clever trailer trick where it switches from a voiceover over a bunch of different shots to the actual scene that the voiceover is coming from. We see Dr. Jones up close and personal for the first time since he turned seventy (actually eighty in costume) talking to Sallah in front of what appears to be an airport. Sallah is once again played by John Rhys-Davies. Nowadays casting a Caucasian British man as an Egyptian would probably be frowned upon, but he's been grandfathered into the role. Indy says to him, "Those days have come and gone." He turns away and starts walking toward the airport. Sallah says, "Perhaps - perhaps not." Indy, apparently just waiting for the flimsiest pretext to persuade him to do what he really wanted to do anyway, stops, turns back, and manages a bit of a smile as the scene fades out. Mic drop. Here we see clear evidence of James Mangold's script revisions. Originally, aside from a few jokes it didn't address Indy's age or how he's become obsolete in a changing world. It was just another adventure and didn't serve to cap off his career as neatly as it could have. James Mangold may have fixed that - or he may have been too heavy-handed with the idea. These brief snippets of dialogue seem kind of heavy-handed. But eh, at least they weren't written by George Lucas.
Then old Indy shines his flashlight on a statue that kind of looks Greek except that it has arms and isn't naked. Then young Indy and his assistant played by Toby Jones stand atop the train and brace themselves as a Nazi emerges from the fog, but we don't get a good look at them yet. Then we get our first closeup shot of Helena, looking concerned about something as she runs to the edge of something in New York City. I actually don't watch a lot of the movies that normal people watch, so I still associate Phoebe Waller-Bridge with a woke robot that makes weird innuendos, and I hope this character will be completely different. Now, holy crap, the guy with the bag over his head is tied to a chair that appears to be inside the castle (before it exploded?) and someone takes the bag off and HOLY CRAP IT'S LIKE HARRISON FORD TIME TRAVELED! The de-aging looks phenomenal, at least in the brief glimpses we get here. Some people are concerned that he'll still move like an eighty-year-old man, but I don't think eighty-year-old Harrison Ford even moves like an eighty-year-old man, and if they did use a stunt double for most of these scenes I don't even care. Whatever it takes. Now here, in 1944, is where I think the contrast with the cinematography and effects of the originals really stands out in a good way. It's the best of both worlds - twenties technology with eighties Harrison Ford. (Not to be confused with eighty-year-old Harrison Ford.)
Now we get a succession of quick shots. Voller, the main villain and unequivocally affiliated with the Nazi Party, opens a box as two other Nazis look on. I was only half-joking when I predicted that Mads Mikkelson would be a villain as soon as his casting was announced. A big machine gun turret on the back of the train fires and burns. Antonio Banderas looks up suspiciously as he sits in his humble abode with a banjo and some other stuff nearby. I saw him earlier this year in Uncharted and couldn't help but notice that even at his age he remained sexier than either of the young female leads. Someone walks across an airfield in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot and then Voller, probably on the same airfield, looks up majestically. Young Indy turns around inside the train and gives us another good look at his unnatural face. Twenty-five years later, his aged hands pick up some kind of mechanical disk artifact that just might be the titular dial, although tossing it in here so casually doesn't exactly rectify the title's lack of awe. Helena shines a flashlight over the statue's arm. Indy and Helena fall into a canal with broken Gregian pillars on either side. The shot is too quick for me to tell, but I think they're standing in the water and the canal floor suddenly gives way.
Through all of this, Indy - perhaps still talking to Sallah, perhaps not - gives a voiceover: "I don't believe in magic. But a few times in my life, I’ve seen things, things I can’t explain. And I’ve come to believe that it’s not so much what you believe...." And he leaves us hanging for a moment before concluding, "It's how hard you believe it." This addresses a couple weird details of the quasi-reality that is the world of Indiana Jones. First, essentially every religion, myth, and legend is true. Second, in spite of this, he spends much of his career being skeptical every time someone tells him about a new magic artifact. One has to assume that as a scientist, he looks for the most naturalistic explanation and evaluates everything on a case-by-case basis. It wouldn't be professional to start with the assumption that the Holy Grail is real just because Sankara stones and the Ark of the Covenant are real. But even so, by 1957 he's seen enough to say, "I believe, sister. That's why I'm down here." Now with this line in the trailer he seems to grant some validity to all supernatural beliefs without embracing any of them. He maintains an agnostic detachment, but long gone is the outright skepticism of his younger years. One can imagine him hastening to add, "Sallah, I've been from one side of this planet to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything."
But before he finishes talking - I had to go a bit out of order to preserve a more coherent flow of ideas - there's a few shots of the ticker tape parade in New York City on August 13, 1969 in honor of the "astronauts" who made the "moon landing." It marks an interesting shift in the movies' approach. The first four don't disclose specific dates, and they remain sufficiently detached from the real world that you could pretend they actually happened without interfering with known real history. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series took a very different approach. Episodes were named after years and months, and Indy constantly participated in historical events and interacted with historical figures (actually actors in costume). This movie brings in some of the latter approach. Voller works for NASA by this point and that's going to tie into the prologue and the artifact somehow. Maybe they'll have their final showdown in space, a bold original move that I'm sure wouldn't upset anyone. In a quick series of shots in the middle of this parade, Indy rears up on a horse, Voller's sycophant Klaber pulls up on a police motorcycle that he probably borrowed from one of his fellow white supremacists, a beauty pageant winner looks frightened as her unpleasant-looking driver brings her car to a halt, and Indy rides his horse at high speed. Then Indy picks up his hat and whip from a table as lightning flashes offscreen and he finishes the aforementioned voiceover. Mic drop.
Now the trailer blasts into full gear. Nazi motorcycle, falling boulder, exploding floor, Indy punches a Vietnam War protester, Indy punches a Nazi enabler, Klaber fires his gun into the air and makes parade viewers get down, Toby Jones yells "Indy!" atop the train, a Nazi gets pulled into a motorcycle as something explodes behind him, an airplane cockpit provides a beautiful view of a stormy sky reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace, Indy whips a gun out of the train Nazi's hand, someone swims away from something exploding underwater, car chase, train chase, car chase, closeup of Helena apparently gripping an old person's neck through the shattered back window of a car, Indy rides his horse down a subway tunnel toward an oncoming train and ducks aside just in time, all backed by the Hidden Citizens Epic Trailer remix of the Raiders March: DUN-DA-DUN-DUNNN, DUN-DA-DUNNNNN! How can something sound so cool and so much like self-parody at the same time? I doubt this rendition will appear in the movie itself, and I have mixed feelings about the possibility that it will. It would sound kind of cheesy and dated, but fresher than an identical repetition of the motif we've heard in three movies already. I can live with or without it. TITLE SCREEN! Meh, I'm still not sold on it.
Now we're in the home stretch. In some wretched hive of scum and villainy, a Middle Eastern gangster-looking guy asks, "Who is this man?" Indy, looking annoyed, says, "I'm her godfather" while Helena, looking perhaps embarrassed, says, "He's... mildly related." Who is she severely related to anyway? Someone British. Marcus Brody would be nice, but for storyline purposes, it's probably Toby Jones' character from the prologue. Now Indy draws his whip, cracks it thrice over a dozen people's heads, and snarls, "Get back!" But in a karmic reversal of his hilarious casual murder of the Cairo swordsman, the dozen people all pull guns on him. He gets a panicked look. They graciously give him time to duck under the table before they all fire at the spot where he was standing. This bit of ridiculousness justifies itself by being funny, but I wouldn't be surprised to see in the movie that they don't really want him dead anyway. I bet they're just putting him in his place before offering him a mutually beneficial alliance that they intend to break at the first opportunity.
Missing from the trailer, as far as I could see, was CIA agent Mason, played by Shaunette Renée Wilson. Not a good look, Disney. Also missing was Mutt, who's been confirmed to not appear in the movie, and Marion, who hasn't. Seeing as Marion is Indy's wife, liked by fans, and played by an actress who's alive and well, she should at least get a couple lines to explain that as much as she'd love to come on Indy's final adventure, she's already committed to a series of bra-burning rallies. And Mutt probably died in Vietnam. Come to think of it, even though this is meant to be Indy's final adventure, and even though every franchise doesn't need to be kept on life support forever, he's such an interesting guy that I wouldn't mind watching more movies about his everyday life as a grouchy old man. I would pay money to see him walk out of a screening of Star Wars and complain about what an obnoxious ass Han Solo is.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.