Review | Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny | 2023

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm's INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

It is interesting that the 5th Indiana Jones film is essentially about a man who's spent his entire life living in the past struggling to live in the present, because that essentially sums up the entire raison d'être of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, a film that is doggedly determined to live in the past.

Following up Steven Spielberg's final entry in the series, the generally maligned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Dial of Destiny acts as though its primary purpose is to course correct the series back into more familiar territory. Say what you will about George Lucas sometimes bonkers ideas, the man has imagination, and his attempt to make the previous Indiana Jones adventure reflect the cinematic styles of the decade had vision, even if it didn't always work. 

Dial of Destiny dials back that attempt to stretch Indy's legs, and returns him to the more familiar territory of fight Nazis for more earthly treasures, in this case the Antikythera, an ancient device that may hold the key to time itself. It is a treasure sought by Indy's goddaughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), whose interest in the ancient treasure is less about historical curiosity and more about monetary gain. The dial is also being sought by Dr. Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a former Nazi scientist who is determined to use the device to rewrite history to ensure a German victory in World War II. 

Naturally, Indy (Harrison Ford) picks up his iconic whip one more time and joins Helena on a race around the world to find the Antikythera and save time itself before he himself becomes just another relic. The film misses several opportunities to reflect on Jones' place in the world and instead devotes large amounts of screen time to a de-aged Ford jaunting around Berlin in 1944. Director James Mangold (Logan) is unfortunately no Steven Spielberg, so Dial of Destiny seems content to remind of what was rather than showing us anything really new. Neither are the action sequences on par with anything in Spielberg's films, lacking the legendary filmmaker's innate sense of clarity and razor sharp pacing (the underwater sequence is especially muddled).

On the other hand, Harrison Ford clearly loves this role, and it's hard not to feel some warmth seeing him as Indiana Jones for a 5th (and final?) time, and Waller-Bridge proves to be an amusing foil for the crotchety Indy. Legendary composer John Williams also delivers another rousing score (reportedly his last before his retirement at age 91). There are some nice moments here and there, and the film actually looks good, which immediately sets it apart from much of the current blockbuster landscape. But watch it in comparison with Raiders of the Lost Ark, a near-perfect thrill machine, and Dial of Destiny feels too bloated and convoluted by half, weighed down by its constant need to explain itself. It's a perfectly passable piece of entertainment, but it somehow feels like we've seen all this before, with a greater sense of fun and wit. Like its weary protagonist, Dial of Destiny is all too content to live in the past.

GRADE - ★★½ (out of four)

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY | Directed by James Mangold | Stars Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen, Karen Allen | Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, language and smoking | Now playing in theaters nationwide.


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