Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Bombs, to No One’s Surprise

As predicted, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is bombing at the box office. It met the insanely meager expectations box office predictors had set in its opening weekend, garnering $60 million domestically and $130 million worldwide. For a film that needs to make at least $800 million to break even, that’s a catastrophe. As I discussed previously, this is a lower box office take than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which made $100.1 million in its three-day opening weekend in 2008, and when adjusted for inflation, is also lower than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In other words, fewer people bought tickets to see Dial of Destiny in the past few days than they did for the older movies. How many fewer? According to The Motley Fool’s calculations, ticket sales were down 59% from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (And how many of those came free with an overcooked steak and watered-down cocktail at Applebee’s?)

What happened? While several factors went into The Flash and other big movies bombing, I think it’s clearly expectations that sunk Dial of Destiny. When Kingdom of the Crystal Skull landed, people only had fond memories of Indiana Jones, with three classic adventure movies and a stunt show at Disney World being their entire experience with the character (unless you count The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, but that show was pretty well-liked, as I recall). But Kingdom of the Crystal Skull disappointed almost everyone, and that was the last experience we had with Indy when Dial of Destiny was announced. Throw in a lack of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, an overabundance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and the last almost-decade of Lucasfilm productions being infuriatingly awful, agenda-driven slaps in the face, and everyone knew what they were about to do to one of the greatest movie heroes of all time.

Added to that was the asinine decision to show Dial of Destiny at the Cannes Film Festival several weeks before it hit theaters. Disney and Lucasfilm were surely counting on a warm reception from Cannes attendees and film critics eager to please the hand that feeds them, but they got neither. The reviews were lousy, the reception at Cannes was supposedly lousier, and the confederacy of dunces behind the movie had egg on their faces and a month to convince the public that it was better than everyone who’d seen it said it was. What possessed them to box themselves into that corner? Supposedly, they got their confidence from the test screenings, which, we were assured, were overwhelmingly positive. That’s what did it, right?

Well, not so fast. Deadline has been told that there were no test screenings, even  Disney’s favored closed ones to ensure no plot details leaked (ha-ha). All those reassurances that everyone who saw it loved it were nothing but a phony marketing scheme designed to assure you that all was well with something any idiot could see was a disaster waiting to happen. This isn’t confirmed yet, but it certainly fits in light of the reception so far. Dial of Destiny has a B+ CinemaScore, which is not very good for a big blockbuster, and according to that Deadline article, the Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak report reveals that, while only 8% of moviegoers say they don’t recommend it, only 9% say that a family or friend recommended it to them, which indicates that people lie positively on these things. Word of mouth is not going to be kind to Dial of Destiny.

This all tells me that everyone involved knew Dial of Destiny was a bad movie all along and figured on the Cannes and entertainment media folks covering for them. It couldn’t be any other way; hubris doesn’t explain the lack of screenings, and it doesn’t seem possible that anyone thought this was a good film or that it was anything close to what people wanted to see in an Indiana Jones movie, let alone any other movie. James Mangold has made some incredible films; I can’t believe he thought Dial of Destiny measured up to any of them. And the people at the top, the Kathleen Kennedy and Bob Iger types, are what I’ve been saying they are: activists before businessmen and businesswomen, old enough and rich enough to be willing to burn every IP and company in their custody to the ground to make their cultural mark. They knew what they were doing with Dial of Destiny, just like they knew what they were doing with the Star Wars sequels, what Iger and Kevin Feige were doing with Phases 4, 5, and probably 6 of Marvel, and what they’re about to do with that Rey movie nobody wants.

That’s why the massive amount of money Dial of Destiny is about to lose Disney – or the Marvel bombs, or the fall of Pixar, or the money pit Disney+ has become – does nothing to convince me that change is on the horizon. I don’t think Kathleen Kennedy is going anywhere; rumors are surfacing again, but I doubt the 168th time’s the charm. I think the Rey movie will be exactly as awful as everyone assumes it’ll be. I think Bob Iger, Kathleen Kennedy, and any like-minded Disney bigwigs will continue to burn money and churn out bad movies and TV shows until they decide they’re done. And while we’ll all laugh at the next Dial of Destiny, the next $300 million disaster they release, they’ll be laughing too, secure in the knowledge that they’re doing whatever they want and don’t have to worry about the repercussions.

I mean, they paid somebody to come up with a title like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny; these people have no shame.

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