When George Lucas first developed the Indiana Jones character, his quests were meant to mimic the rousing movie serials from Lucas’s childhood in the 1940s. Now that Raiders of the Lost Ark is over 40 years old, perhaps it’s inevitable that Indy’s fifth and final adventure Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is imbued with a type of 1980s nostalgia for the original Indy trilogy. Those films were intentionally throwbacks even in their day, meaning that this latest chapter is necessarily even more old-fashioned, but that’s always been the cornerstone of what makes these modified swashbucklers work. Stepping in for Steven Spielberg, director and co-writer James Mangold brings some of the master’s signature touches to the film but brings his own instinct for kinetic storytelling to the table as well.
After a thrilling prologue set in the final days of World War II, Dial of Destiny flashes forward to 1969, where history is being made in front of the eyes of professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as man first walks on the moon. However, Jones has his eye on more ancient history; specifically, the Siege of Syracuse in 213 BC. It was there that mathematician Archimedes created a device known as the Antikythera, a dial that can point its possessor to cracks in time through which they can travel. Half the mechanism has been lost through the centuries but Jones has the other half in his collection, prompting his goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to help him reassemble the artifact before German physicist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) can get to it first.
If there’s such a thing as an “Indiana Jones formula”, then Mangold follows it closely for Dial of Destiny. There are MacGuffins, there are Nazis, there are chases, all set to the musical score of the best film composer to ever do it. Were Disney to treat this like their other George Lucas acquisitions, there’d be a new Indiana Jones movie every two years but since it’s been 15 years since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, these adventures feel more momentous by comparison. The development for the new faces around Indy isn’t as strong as it could have been but the performances make up the difference. Waller-Bridge is a snappy foil for our aging protagonist and while Mikkelsen is basically playing a cardboard cutout of a villain, he’s certainly having a fun time doing it.
Much has been made of the de-aging that’s been performed on the 80-year-old Ford for Dial of Destiny, both the facial variety for flashback scenes and the physical kind for action sequences where Indy appears particularly agile. With a few exceptions, I think the process generally works quite well and helps to hide the seams. Sure, Indy’s artificially younger face isn’t as naturally expressive as it could be and there are some clunky shots, particularly a scene of Indy jumping atop a moving train, that look undeniably inauthentic. Nevertheless, the majority of the terrific chase sequences feel especially tactile and impactful, thanks to top-tier stunt work and outstanding editing. The movie has the character beats and the archeological sleuthing that you want from an Indiana Jones outing but Mangold knows we’re also in the theater for exhilarating action and he delivers.
Mangold also understands the star power of Harrison Ford and wields it intelligently here. I have no doubt that several stunt doubles were used in lieu of Ford in some of the trickier shots but Mangold does a laudable job maintaining the illusion that it’s really him the whole time. Dial of Destiny may also mark the end of a trilogy, of sorts, in Ford’s career. Over the past ten years, he’s brought back iconic characters Han Solo and Rick Deckard for legacy sequels that were not only stellar films in their own right but also implemented Ford wisely within their respective narratives. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny may not be as strong as Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Blade Runner 2049 but it’s a properly entertaining sendoff to everyone’s favorite archeologist-adventurer.
Score – 3.5/5
New movies coming this weekend:
Coming to theaters is Insidious: The Red Door, a supernatural horror film starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne set ten years after the events of the first two Insidious films, which finds Dalton grown up and ready to go to college but still plagued by demons from the Further.
Also playing in theaters is Joy Ride, a comedy starring Ashley Park and Stephanie Hsu about four Asian-American childhood best friends as they bond even closer while they travel through Asia in search of one of their birth mothers.
Streaming on Netflix is The Out-Laws, a crime comedy starring Adam DeVine and Pierce Brosnan which follows a bank manager on his wedding week whose bank is robbed by criminals that he very strongly suspects might be his future in-laws.
Reprinted by permission of Whatzup