Indiana Jones and the Golden Compass Review: A review of The Dial of Destiny

Do what thou whilt shall be the whole of the law.


I waived the movie today and decided to do a little review of it starting with a chart of content.

The good:

The cinematography was well done. The CG was almost convincing. The acting was good. The directing was decent though Teddy could have used a bit more direction of when to be serious.

The bad:

The basic premise was absurd. The plot revolves around this artifact referred to as the Antikythera mechanism. In the context of the film it’s a machine to keep track of time included when time fissures would appear allowing one to cross into a different time period. It is said to have been made by Archimedes. As someone who’s fascinated by history just about everything historical in the movie was extremely cringe because it was wrong to inexcusable levels. How does a project this big not have at least one decent amateur archeologist on the team that’s actually listened to?

The Antikythera mechanism, which is the dial referred to in the title, is a real historical artifact but it looks nothing like what’s presented to us in the film. The real one is just a handy device to keep track of various stellar configurations and the like. It’s an amazing piece of craftsmanship and we don’t see anything else before or since equally as intricate until much more modern times. It’s a fascinating piece of history in and of itself. It feels cheapened by the movie version which they keep insisting was made by Archimedes which is just not the case. We don’t know who built it but picking Archimedes and forcing it to fit was a bit of a weird choice.

Given this is the mcguffin the plot is built around it’s not surprising in the least to know that the rest of the take on history is a whole mess.

The movie itself is way too fastly paced and yet paradoxically at the same time way too slow. There was a lot of high octane action sequences. This in and of itself is not a problem. My favorite film is Shot Em Up, which is almost entirely a long action scene. My problem isn’t that, it’s the pacing and the writing, or lack thereof. There was a car chase and they were going down small streets in a old city and I constantly lost track of who’s where and who’s chasing who etc. There were far too many shots inside the car or outside the car but without seeing the rest of the set and it made it really hard to follow. That kind of third person angle is great for this kind of thing. Don’t be afraid to have multiple establishing shots as they get into different parts of the city..

The writing is where the real problems start. It’s clear the writer procrastinated until the last minute and ran to Wikipedia to figure out stuff to include or reference without a real understanding of what they actually entails. I’ll share you the list of everything that was wrong. Suffice to say it was a lot.

The villain made no sense whatsoever. His motivations are vague and underdeveloped at best. He seems to have been written with “he’s a Nazi” and let that on its own be his justification. While yes being a Nazi in and of itself is horrible., human beings still are human. Make no mistake I’m not looking for something to turn him into some kind of anti-hero or wherever. I’m not interested in that. I’m just saying that villains in general are more interesting characters when they’re fully fleshed out rather than a walking stereotype.

Indiana’s personality leaves a lot to be desired as well as he feels too flat and clean. He’s supposed to be gruff and manly yet compassionate and thoughtful, sure but also he has to have flaws or he’s just a power fantasy and nothing more. At the end he gains a family and moves forward with his life in a positive way such that I don’t anticipate any more films being made with him being the focus. Not just because it ends on the perfect note, but also simply the age Harrison Ford has gotten to. I could see them making a reboot with a different actor though.

While there were a few comedic moments, there was really not enough comedy in the film. It takes itself way too seriously for its own good all that action needs to give way to humor or it gets too much and hard to keep paying attention to.

The conclusion:

Overall I have to say don’t waste your time. It’s not a bad movie but it isn’t a good movie either. It’s somewhere in between.

Love is the law, love under will.

All we are is stars,