Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

June 30, 202375/1007 min
Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Boyd Holbrook
Written by
Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp, and James Mangold
Directed by
James Mangold
Run Time
2h 22min
Release Date
June 30th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

It was 41 years ago when the heroic creation of (even then) legends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas graced the big screen. Indiana Jones, the product of cliffhanger serials and James Bond-type globe trotting gave us the fearless archeologist who bravely acquired rare antiquities. There have been several other mediums the character has crossed over to, including video games, comic books and television. And there have been four sequel films dawning the name that stood for “adventure”. The latest, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny which is set up to be that final adventure with actor Harrison Ford retiring the character that made him just as much a legend as its creators.

Indy (Ford) is now the crotchety old professor trying to navigate through the space race and the hippies of the late 1960’s. On the day of his retirement party he is approached by his now adult goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who pulls him into one last search for a rare artifact, the dial of the title. Hot on their trail is government toughs led by Mason (Shaunette Renée Wilson) and Klaber (Boyd Holbrook). Following the lead of a former Nazi turned NASA rocket scientist Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) who will stop at nothing to get the dial and reveal its incredible power.

Being the first Indiana Jones film not directed by Steven Spielberg, director James Mangold (Logan, Ford vs. Ferrari) steps in to take Indy on that last cinematic ride into the sunset. He certainly had his work cut out for him after the last film Crystal Skull which had many fans wondering that if Spielberg and Lucas couldn’t make a film living up to the three previous ones, could Mangold? The answer: Yeah, sorta. Dial of Destiny checks all the boxes of what makes a great Indiana Jones movie. Action, adventure, chases, rare antiquities, colorful characters, the hat, the whip, and of course, Nazis. Where it stumbles though is in the story. With four credited writers it plays out like they were all struggling to tell a different story. Or several that were supposed to complement and intersect but don’t. Waller-Bridge’s character Helena is enjoyable to watch, but we never know what she wants, its always changing, there is supposed to be parallels between her and Indy, like ability to get out of jams and young side-kick. But it goes several steps then not much further.

Ford is still phenomenal as Indy, he has the charisma and the reverence for the character that is clear, but again the writing kind of pulls him in too many directions. The shifts from goofy fun to serious worked so well in the 80’s just doesn’t translate as well now. There is a lot that comes off that way, for instance, John Williams brings in his last trilling score for this one, but the first time we hear that iconic theme that is supposed to give us goosebumps, we are watching a CGI Indy running across a CGI train in a CGI setting.

They also in fact spend the whole opening on a de-aged Harrison Ford, and when he’s not in close-up talking to fast, it looks pretty good. There are some old friends that pop up, but rarely do they serve the narrative, and other characters are introduced, have time devoted to them, only to simply be dispatched.

There are still some thrilling moments throughout the film, and the less CG looking ones are the better ones. Unfortunately they are outweighed by a full blown CG fest in the final act. Indy is given a fitting end, before the credits roll, but I can’t help but wonder if Spielberg was in the same nostalgic headspace he took to The Fabelmans what could he have done with his character’s last dance? Still Mangold made a perfectly serviceable Indiana Jones film, my expectations were just been a bit too high. Or maybe I’m just going to miss one of my heroes.

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