One more time, give them hell, Indiana Jones! Or, it should be, in your fifth installment that has spanned decades, try to keep up, Indiana Jones. Times have changed, and the signs are everywhere that famed archeologist Dr. Henry Jones Jr. also known as Indiana (Harrison Ford) is ready for a quieter life that only retirement can bring. One of those signs being the fascination with space exploration. The country transitioned itself from idolizing cowboys and westerns to idolizing astronauts and the many wonders of space exploration. Indiana Jones is the last of a dying breed – chasing historical artifacts for their preservation instead of succumbing to greed and the almighty dollar.
It’s why Indy lives in a cramped New York City apartment with neighbors that don’t know when the party is supposed to end. But before Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny gets to present day, which in this case is 1969, director James Mangold who co-wrote the screenplay with Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and David Koepp take us back to the ending of World War 2 and a young, spry Indy is captured by his favorite enemies, the Nazi’s. Indy and colleague / friend Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) are searching for the Lance of Longinus, or so they think.
The opening sequence screams classic Indiana Jones trilogy – all of the excitement and possibility of reclaiming a lost and treasured item of historical value and the “power” it wields with a much-needed facelift. It’s also a sequence that shows the first crack in the foundation for The Dial of Destiny. It’s 2023 and star Harrison Ford is 80 years old. His voice has a gruff cadence to it – just watch Shrinking on Apple Tv Plus and you can hear it for yourself. To give Harrison the appearance that he’s younger in the past, de-aging technology is used, which, by all accounts has only gotten better with time and it looks like Harrison has gained 40 years.
The problem is his voice. Once the “younger” Indiana says something while under Nazi interrogation, the gravely, grainy voice comes through instantly – taking you out of moment. I had the same issue with The Irishman. Robert de Niro’s de-aging looks spectacular, but you cannot de-age the body and when de Niro’s Frank Sheeran attacks someone and kicks them on the ground, collectively, everyone couldn’t suspend the disbelief enough to commit that de Niro lost 30 years, the same with Harrison.
Back in the present, Indiana doesn’t employ the same gravitas he once had. Indy is in many ways a man out of time – bringing a bull whip to a gun fight. He’s still a professor but the attention of his students is non-existent. In his younger days, the line to just say something to Indy was around the block. Now, no one answers his questions or shares his enthusiasm for artifacts or archeology. Maybe it is time to hang it all up, even teaching. Harrison’s face says it all – Indy lost his spark because his students don’t share the same passion. His final class is spent discussing scientist Archimedes from Syracuse when after, Jones is approached by estranged goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge).
Helena has followed in her father’s footsteps looking for the artifact Archimedes Dial – split in half and presumed lost. But Helena isn’t the only one looking for the dial. Former Nazi doctor turned NASA scientist who had a hand in getting astronauts to the moon Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) uses his clout in the moon landing to retrieve the dial. But as the saying goes, once a Nazi, always a Nazi and his goal is something more sinister. Voller seeks the dial to correct Hitler’s mistakes, believing that this dial can give him the power to change the course of history.
Been there, done that. I guess Voller didn’t read up on the Nazi group looking for the arc of the covenant and what the power of looking directly into it did to those Nazi’s.
The Dial of Destiny employs that familial Indiana Jones sense of adventure. It’s globetrotting search takes us to different counties (yes the dotted map returns) with Mangold tapping into what made the original trilogy so endearing. Harrison Ford, being his final performance as Indiana Jones hasn’t lost a step in the portrayal – his charm and ingenuity is still striking when there’s a break in the action. But when the film calls for an action sequence or the narrative moves in that direction, it’s the younger characters that have to slow down so Indy can catch up.
As much as The Dial of Destiny is Ford’s final performance in the franchise, it is his swan song. 42 years playing the same role, being 1 of 2 iconic, timeless characters, you cannot ask for much more than that. To be fair after Raiders, Indiana Jones was already a classic, household character. Paired along with Phoebe Waller-Bridge for his final turn and the two have an exciting chemistry together in their respective pursuits. Most of Indy’s pursuit is chasing Helena until the two join forces against Voller and his goons Klaber (Boyd Holbrook) and Hauke (Olivier Richters).
It wouldn’t be an Indiana Jones film without the classic theme that can be identified and hummed in an instant. Coming back to score The Dial of Destiny is legendary composer John Williams who creates a sound that transports us right back into the mindset of this globetrotting adventure. Out of his illustrious career, very few theme’s stand out among the rest and Indiana Jones will stand the test of time. Dial of Archimedes not necessary.
Mangold stepping in as director pulls out all the stops to give one final adventure to Indy. The action sequences will dazzle in their complexities and moving parts however they overstay their welcome by a hair. In fact, the films runtime, a lengthy 154 minutes can be felt from its inconsistent pace. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a clear standout with all the charisma in the world and is made to look like the successor to the franchise with her own version of Short Round, Teddy (Ethann Isidore) by her side.
Everything you could hope would make an appearance does so in The Dial of Destiny. There may not be any snakes however, a substitute of eels and creepy crawlers briefly make their appearance. “Snakes, why does it always have to be snakes”. I agree, Indiana, snakes and anything that slithers or has more than 4 legs are the worst. Despite the over-reliance on computer generated visuals, The Dial of Destiny through and through is a fitting ending for Dr. Henry Jones Jr. and the actor who brought this one-of-a-kind character to life. If this be the final chapter in a franchise, it sure has been one hell of a historical adventure for the ages.
Screenplay By: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp & James Mangold
Directed By: James Mangold
Music By: John Williams
Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael
Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Shaunette Renée Wilson
Edited By: Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland & Dirk Westervelt
Release Date: June 30, 2023
Running Time: 2 Hours 34 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Based On: Characters by George Lucas & Philip Kaufman