REVIEW — “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”
Farewell, Dr. Jones. With minimal thrills and half-baked chills, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a ho-hum send off for one of cinema’s most iconic adventurers.
The film opens with an action-packed sequence featuring a de-aged Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) on a Nazi plunder train during WWII. The scene reminds of the opening of Last Crusade and the youthful Ford looks great (however, they still can’t get the CGI mouths to look right). Indy is accompanied by bumbling companion Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) and the pair stumble upon an ancient artifact known as the Antikythera, a dial built by Archimedes that is believed to detect fissures in time.
In a dramatic tonal shift, we are then sent to New York City 1969 on the day of the moon landing. Separated from his wife Marion (Karen Allen) and about to retire, an older Indy lives a slower, quieter life. But his past soon catches up to him when Basil’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) comes calling for the dial with Nazi goons, led by Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), hot on her trail.
What follows is an extended chase for the titular “Dial of Destiny” that takes the action on horseback through an Apollo 11 ticker-tape parade, overseas on a rambunctious tuk-tuk race through the streets of Tangier, to an underwater shipwreck off the coast of Greece, and into the booby-trapped caves of Sicily. However, much of the action looks fake and feels recycled from past Indy adventures. While not as absurd as Crystal Skull, this last chapter could’ve dug a little deeper and uncovered an adventure worthy of belonging in a museum.
Instead, we get an underwhelming story littered with unimportant characters. For instance, Boyd Holbrook’s Klaber is an American agent working for the Nazis. All he does is point a gun at people. That’s his entire character. Meanwhile, others are expendable and come and go without adding much to the story, like Shaunette Renée Wilson’s sympathetic Agent Mason and Antonio Banderas as Spain’s greatest frogman, Renaldo.
However, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is delightfully brilliant as Helena, Indy’s antagonistic but affectionate goddaughter. Like a chip off the old fedora, Helena (or Wombat as Indy calls her) is a take charge, tomb-raiding, treasure hunter in search of fortune and glory in the form of Archamides’ dial. She also has her own personal Short Round in Teddy (Ethann Isidore), a young pickpocket whom she took under her wing.
Back in the saddle for one last crack of the whip as an aging Dr. Jones, Ford is as physically game and emotionally vulnerable as he has been in years. It’s just a shame that the story doesn’t meet him halfway. It seems that all the elements that made the original films work (actor/story/director) were just never able to realign. The franchise’s only dependable constant has been John Williams’ unmistakable score. And when Indy’s theme ramps up, you can’t help but smile.
Unfortunately, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny just doesn’t come close to measuring up against its predecessors or standing on its own as a compelling action film. It has its share of interesting concepts and tender moments, but, overall, it’s often uninspired and yawn-inducing, or “dull as ditchwater” as Helena puts it.
And just like the Star Wars sequel trilogy and other properties attempting to mine our childhood nostalgia, the film feels like a pointless exercise that completely misses the mark and lacks rewatchability. While it’s an admittedly impossible task to recapture the magic of a beloved 80s property, it can be done. Just look at Cobra Kai or Top Gun: Maverick.
You would think executive producer Steven Spielberg would have stepped in and cracked the whip on a lackluster script from director James Mangold and company that was meant to be a final triumph that sends the legendary archaeologist out with a bang. But, alas, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny concludes on a subdued, but sweetly sentimental, note that somewhat left me wishing I could turn back the dial. 2.5/5
Rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny opens in theaters on June 30, 2023.