[This full review is now available for subscribers who support Give Me Some Light over at Substack. It will eventually be published in full here.]

The sun has officially set on Indiana Jones.

And what a disappointing sunset it was. Moviegoers fell in love with that whip-cracking, wise-cracking, Nazi-blasting, fedora-wearing archaeologist because of a 1-hour 55-minute cliffhanger classic of standard-setting stunts and practical effects. Light was real light. Actors were real actors. And the feelings we felt were as much about discovery and awe as they were about action. Every scene and every shot contributed to our suspension of disbelief.

We say farewell with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny: an unnecessary, over-long (2 hours 34 minutes) marathon of poorly lit action and obviously half-animated characters in which there isn’t much to care about and everything feels familiar. Almost every scene and almost every shot contributes to our disbelief.

And then — speaking of disbelief — things take a turn for the much, much worse. Like the sputtering sound of air being let out of a balloon, Indy speaks the single-most disheartening line of dialogue in the entire franchise. When asked what he has learned in his many decades of adventure, Indiana Jones actually answers with words alarmingly similar to the “wisdom” delivered by the conductor of The Polar Express: “It’s not so much what you believe — it’s how hard you believe it.”

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'IT'SNOT SO MUCH WHAT YOU BELIEVE, IT'S HOW HARD YOU BELIEVE IT. INDIANA JONES'

Wow — the QAnon folks are going to love that! Truth? Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you commit yourself to whatever nonsense you choose! It’s just as worthwhile to commit yourself wholeheartedly to lies than to the truth, so long as you walk hard, young man!

Imagine Indy reading the hate-screed manifestos of mass shooters, or the watching the trials of the January 6th insurrectionists, and responding with such dangerously irresponsible nonsense. Would we ever care to follow him anywhere again?

So, yes… it’s an anticlimactic sunset for Indy, at best. If I could turn back to the clock, I would closed the series at the end of Last Crusade… or maybe even at the end of Raiders.

But Mission: Impossible movies?

Well, the sun may still be rising on director Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise, and company. While my frustrations with certain aspects of the franchise are growing, I think it’s possible we may yet see the best this series has to offer. Here is a cast of characters who believe in Capital “T” Truth, and who will dedicate their lives to making sure that the Truth wins out over deception.

While watching the train crash of Dead Reckoning, it’s hard not to think of young Sammy Fabelman (young Spielberg, that is) as he watched the great train crash of The Greatest Show on Earth. [Image from the Paramount Pictures trailer.]

Unlike the storytellers and action-scene designers of the latest Indy film, these filmmakers are showing us that they’ve learned some of the best lessons that Raiders of the Lost Ark has to offerI may dream of a series that has greater sense of spirit (like Raiders did), something to complicate its “Scientological” worship of a white male hero (like Raiders did), and women less likely to worship the leading man (like Raiders did). But I love that the M:I company want their audiences to be surprised and amazed and laughing and getting all fifteen bucks’ worth of adventure. They’re bringing much of what is necessary to inspire that Raiders kind of wonder: real light, real stunts, real actors, and a compelling musical score that we can actually hear through the chaos (like Raiders did). They want us leaning forward, slack-jawed, giddy, pounding the arms of our chairs to the beat, and asking “How did they do that?!”

The stage is set for Dead Reckoning Part Two to be the apex of the sun’s arc on this series — but it is difficult to imagine how Part Two matches Part One for relentlessly jaw-dropping action. This, like Fallout before it, is showing every other action franchise — including Bond and the MCU — how things should be done.

What’s it about? …

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