Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Movie Review
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Movie Review Metadata
We knew there would be one more in the franchise, and here’s hoping Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) is the final chapter.
Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. is ready to hang up his overhead projector and retire into a bottle of whatever liquor is on sale. It’s 1969 in his final days at New York’s Hunter College, and he hasn’t been the whip-cracking Indiana Jones in a long time. His students are barely awake during his archeology courses. Marion is trying to finalize their divorce so he’s living alone and basically just waiting to die. When his goddaughter, Helen (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is seeking information about an artifact she knows he has part of, Indy reluctantly dons the old fedora to crisscross the globe hunting clues and deciphering dead languages. The Dial of Archimedes can locate fissures in time – if you halve both halves and know how to use it. Indy has one half, which is all Helen needs, but it’s the key to the location of the other half. Other people know he has it too, like old nemesis Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) former Nazi scientist, now physicist working on the US Space program. From New York to Morocco to the bottom of the Aegean Sea, the hunt for the complete dial is a race for possession from the greater evil. Helen’s motives are less than scrupulous, but Voller’s plans could change the course of history.
This a movie for the nostalgia-minded. Between the score and extensive de-aging of Harrison Ford from 79 years to 37, it’s as if we weren’t 42 years from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and we can almost feel like we’re watching installments filmed back to back. We’re not, here is where Dial of Destiny falls short Riding horses, fighting Nazis, and car chases (so many car chases), in lieu of a story that could span 120 minutes tops, Dial of Destiny is padded with chases for another 34 minutes more. By foot across rooftops, by horse, through a parade for returning astronauts, by tuk-tuks in Morocco, and by boat across the Aegean Sea, not a lot of dialogue is needed, but too much of a good thrilling thing becomes less thrilling the fourth time we see it.
This is not to say there isn’t still some of the old magic left. Harrison Ford is still charming as ever and reuniting with old friends like Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), we can almost pretend Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) never happened. Phoebe Waller-Bridge provides the reckless femme-fatale who’s almost on the side of right, even if her greed and debts make every interaction suspect. A lot of her character is driven by the friendship Indy had with her father, Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) so obsessed with the safety of the Dial it eventually drove him mad. Mads Mikkelsen as a physicist with dreams of how the Axis Powers should have run WWII, give the film a low-key villain who lets Chaos Theory bring him what he wants. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has all the parts for a successful installment complete with mysticism, world-scattered puzzle pieces, and the kind of nerdy brilliance that connects language, puns, and history to artifacts that should remain buried. It’s still the kind of movie that makes folks want to be become archeologists (or art thieves), even if the kind of research and recovery is considered looting by most international governing bodies.
It’s just a lot too long.
We have officially reached that dangerous tipping point where going to the well of a beloved property a few too many times in the hopes that the bucket brings up something that fizzes with a kick results in nothing but undrinkable sludge. We can be grateful the plethora of one-liners that replaced meaningful dialogue in Crystal Skull does not exist in Dial of Destiny, but there is too much action for a story that simply can’t support it.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny also walks that fine line between ageism and AI-creep as we can see the future of movies using computer-generated faces of beloved actors playing roles in films decades apart with little break in the continuity. The majority of Dial of Destiny wears Ford’s wonderfully wizened face, though it opens with a flashback to 1944 and a much younger Indy fights Germans on a loot-filled train. Exciting to see, yes. Kinda weird and unsettling, absolutely yes.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a worthy chapter to close the franchise, even if it’s not the one we deserve. We’re expecting a Spielbergian epic of conflict, humor, and magic and we certainly get that over time, but it wants to give viewers what it thinks they want and manages to get it wrong for half of the movie. It’s entertaining, just not as enjoyable as it could be. It’s just not as much fun as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and we really wanted another one of those.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) is rated PG-13 for Nazis, street-fighting, people getting shot, people getting stabbed, people getting drowned, people getting blown up, plane crashes, trebuchets, and smoking.