Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review

Wednesday 5 July 2023

Plot: Archaeologist Indiana Jones races against time to retrieve a legendary artifact that can change the course of history.
Film: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Director: James Mangold

Writers: Jezz Butterworth, John Henry Butterworth, David Koepp

Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelson

Set twenties years after The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we pick up Indy's story in a very different place than we left off. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while often over hated, did have its merits. Particularly in the direction it seemed to point the promised fifth film in. Mutt picking up Indy’s hat only to have his father take it from him just before he can try it on himself. Obviously, a lot has happened in the time since the fourth instalment, it’s generally negative reception not being ideal. Still, it really is a tragedy that in order to make The Dial of Destiny happen, they had to undo what was probably the most perfect ending for the famous adventurer; reconciling with and marrying the great love of his life and creating a bond with the son (and heir?) he never knew he had. 

The Dial of Destiny actually opens with an extended de-aged Indiana Jones, fighting Nazi’s without breaking a sweat, just like the good old days, cut to the following scene of a near-retired Mr Jones, threatening his young neighbours with a baseball bat because they’re making too much noise, it doesn’t make for the most empowering scene, but I suppose it’s a true reflection of what the great Indiana Jones has been reduced to -divorced and alone, again. For the most part the film was sensitive to Harrison Ford’s age, you didn’t feel like you were watching an aged adventurer past his prime, Indy didn’t shy away from challenges, he just did things a little differently. In the previous instalment they made a lot more cracks at Indy’s age, now that Harrison is 80 years-old, which would have been late seventies during filming, they seemed less inclined to reference him being old so flippantly. 

This however is an action movie, not a drama. Henry, after some persuasion from estranged goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), becomes Indy again and we’re off, searching for the Dial of Destiny, fighting former Nazi’s and travelling to Tangier as though forty years haven’t passed. I’ll admit I think my enjoyment of Helena’s character came from my love of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I’m not sure how much hers and Indy’s dynamic really moved the film forward. Helena also comes with her own short-round in the form of Teddy (Ethann Isidore) who essentially only acted as a plot device for the climax of the film, but he was at least played by a talented young actor. 

I would agree that there’s more than enough plot to justify the two and a half hour run time, including a good amount of action, car chases, plenty of travel and the main antagonist Dr Voller (Mads Mikkelson) is very reminiscent of a proper Indiana Jones adventure. His role as a behind-closed-doors Nazi was as uncomfortable as you’d expect, especially given his motivation for the film is to rewrite history and be a more successful leader that Hitler himself. Heavy stuff, though nothing short of the politics we’ve seen in other instalments of the franchise. Of course, he was also expertly acted and just like we get a de-aged Harrison ford, we get a de-aged Mads Mikkelson in the film’s opening sequence and that was a treat for all.  

With a fifth film always being on the cards, I understand that the neat bow left on the fourth film would have to be undone but it still felt unnecessary to me. Was The Dial of Destiny a better film that its predecessor? Yes, I’d say it was. Was it a better end to the franchise than the fourth film? No, I wouldn’t say that. 

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