By Jason Williams
Rarely has a film combined all of the worst elements of what people dislike about modern Hollywood and stuffed them into one giant ugly mess of a movie, but that’s just what Disney’s Indiana Jones No. 5, Dial of Destiny, does. The fact that it is among the most expensive films ever made (nearly $400 million) means Disney is extremely vulnerable to audience reactions, which gives people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to send Disney, and Hollywood as a whole, a big message by saying NO.
Here are seven reasons to boycott Disney’s Indiana Jones # 5.
#1. Using film to take political potshots. A line of dialogue in the film about the magic treasure that keeps changing hands goes, “You stole it. Then you stole it. And then I stole it. It’s called capitalism.” The fact that this line is in the main preview of the film shows Disney is willing to showboat their politics at the very center of their film’s promotion. During the same month this film is releasesd, another film, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, came out, and one of the Disney Spider-Man characters looks at something that just spectacularly destroyed itself and says that this self-destruction is “a metaphor for capitalism.” Both these anti-capitalism political lines come a few months after Disney’s other film, Ant Man No. 3, Quantumania, included a line where the father points to the productivity of ants and says, “I know socialism is a charged word, but you can learn a lot from [them]…” So, in just a few months, one Disney superhero film touts socialism and two other films featuring Disney characters knock capitalism.
This fits a pattern. In its 2019 Dumbo remake, Disney offered a political theme that all zoos are unnecessary and should be abolished. Disney used Captain America to describe the Tea Party movement and its call for lower taxes as a racist movement. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the audience is told that the George Washington Monument was shamefully built by slaves, which is a verifiable lie. Disney’s cartoon, Proud Family, told middle school-aged kids that Lincoln did not free the slaves—another verifiable lie. It also quietly elevated people who support Marxism, defunding police, and abolishing prisons. In 2022, Disney’s Strange World animated film was described by one reviewer as “a preachy, suffocatingly politically correct slog … a poorly disguised, preachy lecture about climate change.” That film’s political messages repelled audiences so much that it lost nearly $200 million dollars, making it one of the biggest mistakes in Disney history. It is bad enough that Disney inserts politics into films targeted to young children, but it’s obscene that much of the politics being spoon-fed to our kids is outright falsehoods.
#2. The company violated Spielberg’s holocaust pledge: After Director Steven Spielberg made the groundbreaking Holocaust film Schindler’s List, he began to regret the way he had depicted Nazi soldiers in his two previous Indiana Jones films. Spielberg contended it was grossly inappropriate to feature Nazis in semi-comedic situations. He also said his previous films did not fully represent the evil of the Nazis. Even during the filming of Indiana Jones No. 3 in 1989 (before Schindler’s List), Spielberg ‘s conscience was conflicted enough that he forced actors portraying Nazis to cross their fingers behind their backs whenever they gave a Nazi salute. This is why Spielberg in Indiana Jones No. 4 switched the villains to Russians. Now under Disney control, the film goes back to not only portraying Nazis but they put Indiana Jones into a Nazi uniform and made the villain a man who wishes to “improve” upon Hitler’s work. It completely disrespects Spielberg’s convictions and his personal journey involving the Holocaust without the slightest accomodation.
#3. The company vandalized the character of Indiana Jones beyond recognition. The previous Indiana Jones film No. #4 ends on a high note with Jones getting married and beginning a new life with his newly discovered son (as seen below).
Disney chooses to tear down these milestones by making Indiana suffer a divorce and introduce news that his son was killed in Vietnam. Jones is shown passed out with a hangover, shirtless and pant-less on his couch.
The Hollywood Reporter says Indiana’s “older, but not necessarily wiser. Drinking a bit too much, he’s full of regrets.” Film reviewer Jeremy Jahns says he is a “grumpy, alcoholic, very depressed old man.”
Under Spielberg, in films No. 1 and No. 3, Indiana is shown as a distinguished professor whom students adore listening to. In Disney’s updated version, it is the exact opposite as his students, bored and uninterested, disrespect Jones. For most of the film, Jones’ new partner, goddaughter Helena, ends up insulting and degrading him. When Jones complains of his injuries and gun shot wound, Helena puts him down. Helena tricks and outsmarts him repeatedly in the film. Indiana is a discarded shell of what people loved about the character. The complete shaming of a character is bad enough, but it also represents a widespread pattern by Disney. For a bonus list of how Disney sabotages legacy characters beyond recognition for quick profit (Snow White, Captain America, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Thor), see the appendix at the end.
#4. Selling out the brand to cash in on a spin-off: Audiences accept when studios release sequels where the characters are set up for a spin-off show. (Example: Despicable Me 2 was used to launch the Minions film spin-offs two years later.) Disney does this by introducing a spin-off character (such as goddaughter Helena) who outshines, upstages, and leads in the film. Helena is the driving force of the new Indiana Jones film, the smartest person who makes the key decisions. The show’s final scene features Helena riding off to her next adventure as if to force audiences to buy into the next film. Producer Kathleen Kennedy even hinted about a Helena spin-off sequel even before the film was released to the public. Never have I ever seen such a film studio act so publicly obsessive, greedy and reckless about their next film that it overwhelms and hurts the film at hand. This is why Indiana’s character has been so gutted, deconstructed, humiliated and trashed while Helena’s role comes off as exaggerated, unrealistic and inauthentic. It isn’t about strong women in film (as critics will complain against any criticism) because audiences adored the strong women in three out of the four previous Indiana Jones films. It is about studios who find it too easy to vandalize historical heroes because they wish to re-invent new ones, about studios who feel the only way to elevate someone new is to downgrade others, and about studios so money-driven that it steamrolls over basic storytelling such as character development, motivations, plot and story lines. If audiences do not say “stop,” they will continue to see film studios trash cherished characters and history in order to prop up new inventions.
It is not limited to fictional heroes either. This is why, as previously described, Disney finds it so easy to denigrate symbols of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in their films. A larger movement is stake here.
#5. Shallow morally bankrupt heroes: When the character of Indiana Jones was first created, there was pressure to make him a gambler or an alcoholic. George Lucas pushed back as he wanted Jones to be a role model and “honest and true and trusting.” This persona of being honest, true, and trusting carried four films over three decades until Disney acquired it. Now Indiana Jones is shown in scenes where he comes across as a bigot. As previously described by reviewers, Jones is sadly depicted as an alcoholic. Spoiler alert. The movie’s final climatic scene shows Indiana choosing against doing the right thing, choosing against returning home, and instead giving up and opting to die. Helena becomes the hero by striking Indiana in the head and knocking him out so she can force him against his will to do the right thing and return back to the modern time (via a time machine). The entire five film franchise ends with our hero acting like a lesser man. How many films end with the hero doing the wrong thing?
Indy’s goddaughter, Helena, appears motivated more by money and obsession than by protecting treasures for historical preservation, a goal Indiana Jones and his fans embraced. In one scene, an angry man in his pajamas emerges with a machete and chases Helena, hinting that she uses sex to steal from people. Film reviewer Chris Gore states, “It is made very clear in this movie that she sleeps around to get what she wants.” Disney could have given us two heroes who were each inspirational, family friendly, and rich in virtue—the type of role models America needs right now. Instead, Disney gives our children heroes with barely any virtue at all. If people continue to pay money for these shallow movies, then Disney will keep cranking out fake heroes who act like people we disrespect in real life.
#6. Dishonest promotion: The film poster barely shows Indiana’s co-star, Helena (lower right). Even the villain’s face in the poster is bigger than Helena’s.
Yet, as discussed, it is Helena who drives the film, makes the key decisions, and draws the focus. Disney wanted to hijack a popular Indiana Jones film by putting their spin-off star at the center of the film, but didn’t want to make her the center of the poster. They value the money over the story.
This type of poster placement politics has garnered Disney criticism before. Disney downgraded the Black actor, John Boyega, in its Star Wars posters for international audiences.
Interestingly, as much as I documented how much they have bleached Indiana Jones of his core values, the film promoters are saying the exact opposite. Actor, Boyd Holbrook, touted to the media “They stay true to the subject and they stay true to the characters.” This very odd line that seems out-of-place is proof that the filmmakers know that fans are angry and that the film creators are guilty of character assassination of a hero the fans love. This is why they are sending out actors to kill the rumors — even though the rumors are sadly true.
There is additional information on dishonesty in promotion of this film in the appendix.
#7. Disney’s history of anti-competitive antics. Disney used its star power behind the Star Wars films to force theaters to accept a new contract, which required them to continue showing these films in the bigger screen rooms regardless of the film’s success in the successive weeks after the premier. This meant competing films released in the following weeks were, by contract, knocked out of many of the larger rooms. Simply put, theaters likely lost lots of money on other competing films simply because of the contract Disney forced them to sign. It was a blow, especially to small-town theaters. Go to the appendix to see a long list of how Disney uses anti-competitive practices to crush its competition. Disney’s near-monopoly power in the entertainment industry allows the company to hurt rivals while turning out a series of shallow, virtue-less heroes in poorly made films. Disney will not change until audiences become more selective about what they watch.
One final reason to avoid this film is the fact that reviewers themselves are spoiling on this movie. The first round of advanced critics in May placed reviews in the 50% range, making it a verifiable flop according to Rotten Tomatoes. It is proof that Disney’s combination of dishonest promotions, politics, spin-off obsessions, virtue-less script writers, indifference to historic heroes and basic profit-seeking greed have poisoned the modern film. To boycott this film is to send a message against all of these factors all at once. If you think about it, you will notice many of these terrible trends ruining other movies you wanted to love. Things won’t change until audiences do.
ALTERNATIVE TO BOYCOTT: There are some who agree to some of my seven points but who feel that they simply cannot miss this film. For those conflicted souls, I suggest they wait 100+ days for when the film comes out on video. Then you can purchase a used DVD and watch it at no direct benefit to the filmmakers.
How Disney sabotages legacy characters we love: When Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, it took another Harrison Ford character, Han Solo, and ruined him beyond belief. Solo was a character who rose above his self-focused ways to help others, save the universe, and eventually marry his love. When Disney created its first sequel, the company (again) made our hero divorce his wife in addition to abandoning his son and returning to a life of crime. Soon, his angry abandoned son murdered him. In a single film, Disney reversed all of the character’s decent morals built up over three previous films—and then murdered him. Disney changed the other Star Wars legend, Luke Skywalker, from a universal hero to an unkept, angry madman who hides from the world after burning down his entire religion.
With Captain America, Disney had him surrender early from crime fighting (after only a few years) in order to use a time machine, go back and (technically) steal another man’s wife, and live as a non-hero in another time dimension. Since the original Captain America disappeared with another man’s wife, Disney started a TV show featuring a brand new profanity-laced, overly violent Captain America who resigned in disgrace. Then it created a third Captain America to replace the disgraced one. In the comics, Disney made Captain America bash the American dream as a big lie. Interestingly, Captain America existed for 70 years in comics, films, and television shows as an exceptional patriotic role model—until Disney purchased the rights and ripped it all apart in just three short years. No longer moral. No longer patriotic. No longer a role model as he once was.
In 2019, the company changed the Norse folklore hero Thor, a powerful demi-god, into an untidy, obese, give-up-on-life, beer guzzling loser living in his basement as depicted in Avenger’s Endgame. In the next Thor film in 2022, Disney humiliated Thor by having all of his clothes accidentally stripped away before an assembly of gods from around the universe who laugh at him. In another scene, Thor is dressed in a hideous hotdog costume. The deconstruction of the once admired hero was so awful that actor Chris Hemsworth said he would never return to the role.
Consider also Ralph Breaks the Internet, a film that brings together in one room all the Disney princesses for the first time since the creation of Disney. The film depicts most of the princesses as either dumb, simple-minded, or clueless. Snow White is seen as stupid and immature for believing in “true love’s kiss.” The response from the protagonist is “Eww! Barf!” A few seconds later, Snow White reappears, interrupting everyone by singing a short goofy tune for which she receives silence and disparaging looks. Later, Snow White is made to look dumb (again) as she describes how she loves to stare into water wells for inspiration. The year after Ralph Breaks the Internet ridiculed Snow White, Disney released a book called Mirror, Mirror, a Twisted Tale where Snow White is reinvented as a warrior princess. So, two years in a row, Disney made quick cash by selling off a beloved legacy character’s identity for something completely unrelated to who she was. This is so common in Hollywood that it has a name—Jumping the Shark. This is when a studio losing its audience begins doing gimmicks (like when Fonzie from Happy Days jumped a shark on skis) that breaks with the show’s spirit. Disney is Jumping the Shark on much of its list of beloved characters as the company radically wrecks or reinvents them beyond recognition to make a quick dollar. If Disney wants a cartoon princess to lampoon and humiliate, why not create one? If Disney wants a warrior princess, why not create one?
More Dishonesty in the film’s promotion: As the Indian Jones film production suffered continual delays, rumors from insiders stated that the troubled film was so bad that they had to re-shoot its ending. This was vehemently denied. Then the film composer, John Williams, said to the public that he was called back for a re-shoot, followed by similar statements from lead actor Harrison Ford. All signs point to a re-shot ending and the director lying about it. It is a tough call when you have one of the most expensive films ever made in your hands and how to handle negative publicity. Then again, we need to consider how much it hurts studios to engage in lying in order to sell a film.
How Disney acts anti-competitive: When Disney was building its streaming service, the company went after rival Redbox, which offered Disney DVDs in kiosks across America. Disney strong-armed middlemen DVD suppliers (who sold to Redbox) to release their customer data so Disney could target them and limit sales to Redbox, which made it hard for Redbox to keep those DVDs in stock.
When rival Universal Studios became famous for its Hollywood-themed park, Disney systematically stole Universal’s key ideas and created its own new Hollywood Studios theme park. Disney also got jealous of rival theme-park Busch Gardens in Florida, which offered zoo animals, so Disney created Animal Kingdom to crush them and steal away their customers. This is legal competition, but Disney howls when people do it to them back.
Walt Disney had a dream of building a futuristic city with advanced transportation and environmental ideas called Environmental Prototype City of Tomorrow (EPCOT). Walt received approval from Florida to form his own government special district to build this real-life utopian city. Soon after Walt died, his brother junked the city idea and used the new governmental power to build a theme park called EPCOT. With government power, Disney could skirt many regulations, building codes, and inspections that all other theme parks must follow. The government power allowed Disney to issue bonds at a government rate and save potentially hundreds of millions of dollars—a savings not available to other privately owned theme parks. In 2019, rival Universal Studios sought a special government district like Disney’s, but the request was soundly rejected. When the Florida Legislature finally removed Disney’s special government district power in 2023, Disney President Bob Iger said it was “anti-business” and sued in court. Disney clearly wanted special privileges for itself and no one else. This is anti-capitalism. Giving only a few private companies special privileges is practiced in socialism. No wonder recent Disney films are bad-mouthing capitalism and touting socialism.
TECHNICALITIES: (1) This article attributes Spider-Man film events to Disney as a shared intellectual property with Sony Pictures. (2) There is an attempt to reconcile the Indiana Jones film’s divorce at the end as well as give the character Helena a character arc and a character growth moment. This is too little, too late and too minuscule compared to the weight of the trash that make up most of the entire film. (3) Many of things charged Disney in this article are actions Disney does by subtle implication, yet implication is important when it is targeted to our children and also compliments the spirit of a film. (4) Part of the cost of a film is the promotional/advertising budget, which can be 50% to 75% of the cost of what it takes to make the film. This promotional budget is factored into the cost and profit of a film in this article.
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