“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” may be the last time we see Harrison Ford on another globetrotting artifact chase around the world, but it is an unforgettable adventure.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is the fifth installment of the franchise. film received mixed reviews during its theatrical run and performed decently at the box office, knowing this would be the last time we would ever see the legendary cinematic rogue grace the screen is bittersweet. And yet, the film franchise capper feels like a call back to what made the character so great and a reminder of why audiences need to see these films on the big screen.
Even forty years after Indiana Jones debuted, the adventurous archeologist who has saved the world against dangerous threats has put audiences on the edge of their seats, hoping he can make that jump, reach for that edge, and save the day. And director James Mangold brings a fitting end to the character, even if it has difficulty finding its footing to get to where it wants to go.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” opens in 1944, during the fall of the Nazi regime. The de-aged title character and trusty archeologist friend Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) have infiltrated a castle in the French Alps held by the Nazis. The two are searching for Archimedes’ Antikythera. This ancient artifact is said to find the cracks in time, thus giving the one holding it the power to control time. However, astrophysicist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) has half of the film’s MacGuffin and is hunting for the other half. Though Jones and Shaw can retrieve the artifact, Voller escapes and would later join NASA to help with their space program while servicing his own agenda to rebuild the Nazi regime.
Flash forward to the 1960s when adventuring reached the stars. History is being made as Buzz Aldren and his fellow astronauts are being celebrated for their return from the moon. However, the once-respected professor of archeology has since gone by the wayside. Jones teaches at a local college to a nearly empty class. Alone and separated from his wife, Jones’ days of going on adventures around the globe are behind him, and he is awaiting retirement. However, that life he thought was over had decided to call him back when his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), enters his life. She proposes he join her on the hunt for the other half of the Antikythera. Unfortunately for Jones, Helena’s intentions aren’t entirely pure, and Voller and Klaber (Boyd Holbrook) are also searching for the other half.
Eventually, Jones and Shaw come to an understanding and take an adventure around the globe to find the other half of the Antikythera before Voller does.
For what it’s worth, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is pure nostalgic fun that reflects the sense of adventure and thrills we saw in the original thrill. The story itself is a bit convoluted as Indy and Helena race around the world to get away from Voller or follow up on a clue that could lead to the whereabouts of the other half of the Antikythera. The second act is mostly filler that shoehorns a few nods to Indy’s extreme fear of creepy crawlies, shows his vast network of friends who could assist, and takes him underwater – a bit that we haven’t seen before in the franchise until now. Though the nostalgic bits, some that come with a twist, are in the right place, they only do little to advance the story or the development of these characters other than prolong the story. So much of it could have been edited out for shorter runtime and narrative clarity.
If anything, the film rests on Ford’s shoulders. And he takes the film as far as he can with his commitment to the character and giving him the ending he deserves. He’s still skeptical about the magic that these artifacts contain. Now, imagine a cranky curmudgeon reflecting upon his legacy and racing to get an item that defines it. Our hero still cracks-wise, crack whips, and occasionally cracks his back. But he is still very much the Indy that we know and love, and watching him reminiscence is touching as this is likely the very last time we see him on the big screen.
Of course, there are also the supporting players to consider that make these Indy films what they are. Co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ Helena is a formidable femme fatale that sly grifters with the charms of the girl next door. At times, her strength and independence put Indy’s inclusion into question. It’s almost as if she didn’t need him, and he’s only along for the ride because the story calls for it. So, the contrasting personalities and sense of adventure make for great banter.
Aside from the convoluted story, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” suffers from a lackluster villain. While Mikkelsen provides a bone-chilling performance, his character is severely underdeveloped and one-dimensional. Then again, most of the villains of the Indiana Jones film franchise were rote and lacked nuance.
Ultimately, Mangold delivers a franchise finale that’s rich with nostalgia. Even at his geriatric age, Indy still has that charm that has been difficult to replicate. There are also familiar faces like Sala. And John William’s score still resonates, especially when that iconic theme is cued up for the bigger action sequences. And seeing how the film is being treated as a finale, Mangold puts are more emotional stakes into it so that fans of the franchise can bid a proper farewell to their beloved character.
While “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” runs a lot longer than it should and its story is convoluted, it is still an entertaining piece of work that reminds audiences about how much fun action films can be without the need of having prior knowledge of earlier films like other interconnected superhero franchises. The heart and the humor are organic and come from a place that wants to do right by the character and give him the conclusion to a four decades old story.
Now, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” has a 50-plus minute documentary that reflects both the production of the film and the legacy of the franchise. The first chapter focuses on the film’s cold opening and how it uses modern technology to deage Ford while still keeping the character in the 1940s. The next three chapters take us an a globetrotting adventure around the world, while also showcasing the cast, production design, and practical effects it took to bring Indy’s latest adventure to the big screen. Much of the documentary is told through interviews and behind-the-scenes looks that gives us a glimpse at the intense production. Additionally, the film reveals how the nostalgia goes far beyond just the look and feel, but also the sounds like the iconic bullwhip snap and Willhem scream. Ultimately, the film’s home release needs this one bonus feature as any more would just ruin the quality of what the documentary has achieved in capturing the magic of filmmaking and reflecting upon the legacy of a character who has captured our hearts for the past 40 years.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is available now on digital, and will start streaming exclusively on Disney+ on December 1. It will be available on Blu-ray and 4K on December 5, 2023.