top of page
  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 4, 2023


Starring Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Karen Allen, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Olivier Richters, Mark Killeen, Martin McDougall, Alaa Safi, Francis Chapman, Alfonso Rosario Mandia, Chase Brown, Nasser Memarzia and Anna Francolini.

Screenplay by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and David Koepp and James Mangold.

Directed by James Mangold.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 154 minutes. Rated PG-13.

“It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.”

A badly beaten-up Indiana Jones said that line to his love Marion Ravenwood on a steamer ship trying to escape the Nazis in the classic film Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first (and still by far the best) of the Indiana Jones adventures. Well, it’s been 42 years, four films and countless miles since then, and now for Indiana Jones it’s both the years and the mileage. After all Harrison Ford is 80 years old now. Can he still wear the fedora and the bullwhip and the mantle of action hero?

Particularly in the first film of the series which was not helmed by Steven Spielberg? (Spielberg and co-creator George Lucas are still on board as Executive Producers but had little to do with the actual filming of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.)

The answer to that question is – sort of. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is another one of the marginally good Indy sequels, holding a certain fun nostalgia before completely losing the plot with a ridiculous ending.

Dial of Destiny alternately feels like it’s trying too hard and yet not hard enough. It has a fascinating subtext – Indiana Jones reaching retirement age – that it touches upon but does not really explore in any depth. (Other than occasional jokes about aching bones, Indy still seems to be pretty functional as a superhero character.)

So, if you’re just going to glancingly look at the mortality of the character, is there any reason to bring him back 15 years after the last unsuccessful reboot Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? (Shia LeBeouf’s character from that film, Indy’s son who was teased as a new series hero before that film was a bit of a misfire – is explained away in this film pretty conclusively.)

Maybe not, but Harrison Ford still has a certain craggy charm in the character, and it’s always good to see him. And if Dial of Destiny is trying too hard – way too hard, honestly – to unsuccessfully recreate the magic of the first Raiders film, it still has enough fun (if slightly overcooked) action sequences and enough of a nostalgic rush to make it mostly worth seeing.

Not that you haven’t mostly seen it all before.

Now, this is not really Dial of Destiny’s fault, and yet it does show some of the lack of imagination going on here. By sheer coincidence, the night before I saw Dial of Destiny, I saw an advance screening of Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One and it turns out that three of the action sequences in Dial of Destiny were dead ringers for action sequences done in Dead Reckoning. For the record, these were a knife fight on top of a train, a car chase which includes both cars driving down long city staircases and another car chase in which the hero is stuck driving a beat-up older Citroen. And honestly, the sequences were managed better in Mission: Impossible.

Now, granted, none of those set pieces are all that unique in action films (although the specific quirk of both using a vintage Citroen as the car for a chase scene is kind of surprising), but is that ubiquity really a selling point for the movie?

Dial of Destiny mostly takes place in the late 1960s – with some flashbacks to WWII with Ford de-aged by CGI to play his younger self. (In general, the de-aging process is not quite as disorienting and unrealistic as it has been in previous attempts, but you can still see the CGI periodically, particularly in the action sequences.)

Also, unlike the previous films, the artifact which is being searched for is not a religious artifact, it is a scientific one – a mysterious dial created by ancient mathematician Archimedes which may be able to facilitate time travel.

Indy and his old ally Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) first ran across half of the dial (Archimedes apparently disassembled the device, realizing it was too dangerous for humanity) during WWII. Shaw spent the rest of his life obsessively searching for the other half.

Years later, long after Shaw’s death and Indy’s moving on, Shaw’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) tracks down Indy in search of the dial. Indy agrees to help her for his friend’s sake, but it turns out that Helena is much more duplicitous than Indy imagined, and soon there are Nazis and government officials hot on their trail as they try to track down the artifact.

Thus begins the globe-trotting adventure which imitates and even ramps up the constant motion of the original without quite recapturing the magic. Also, is it my imagination, or is Indy a bit more gratuitously violent in this film? In Raiders he was resigned to violence only as a last resort…

Original film cast members Jonathan Rhys-Davies and Karen Allen (as Sallah and Marion) show up for brief, nostalgic cameos, although neither is given all that much to do. Still, it’s great to see them. And Allen does get a nice opportunity to do a rueful echo of the classic Raiders scene quoted at the top of this review.

There is no real reason for Dial of Destiny to exist, but for the most part it was fun to see Indiana Jones one last time.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: June 30, 2023.


bottom of page