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July 5, 2023


written by: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp &
James Mangold
produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Simon Emanuel
directed by: James Mangold
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action, language and smoking)
runtime: 154 min.
U.S. release date: June 30, 2023


After 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, what we needed was a paired down story with the titular hero as the main focus. That may seem odd since the title of the movies in this series would imply that the various adventures of a certain archeologist would be front and center, but the amount of characters in that last outing from director Steven Spielberg felt a bit too crowded. While I’m aware that many others feel that movie had loads of other problems, I did not. It had probably two too many supporting characters that took away from the time we spend with Harrison Ford‘s iconic whip-cracking “part time” teacher. Because of that, I was open to one more outing.

That last installment ended just fine (although so did 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”) with Indiana Jones marrying Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) in 1957 and our intrepid hero snatching his trademark fedora out of his son’s hands…as if to indicate he’s not ready to be put to pasture. Yet when we catch up with Dr. Henry Walton Jones Jr. in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”, for his latest (supposedly and hopefully his last) adventure he’s about to retire. So, what’s changed?



It’s 1969 and he’s now ready to say goodbye to the teaching job he’s had at Hunter College for the last ten years. He’s avoided signing the divorce papers he’s been served that can be found in his modest apartment in New York City. Later on, we’ll learn that his son, Mutt (I bet you forgot his son’s name too), died when he went off to serve in the Vietnam war, which most likely greatly contributed to the dissolution of his marriage to Marion. Just like in real life, life has happened to Dr. Jones and despite still showing a passion for history, the 70-year-old (Ford was nearing 80 during filming) teacher just isn’t getting the exuberant response from his students that he used to. Nevertheless, he manages to peel himself out of the reclining chair he falls asleep in, yell at the downstairs hippie neighbors for cranking The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” and pour himself an extra something in his morning coffee. While he still believes lessons can be learned from the past, everyone around Dr. Jones is more interested in (and excited about) either the Apollo 11 mission or anti-war sentiments, both of which can be found in a parade and demonstration that collide in the streets below his classroom.



Into his life comes Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Indy’s estranged goddaughter, someone who’s studied archeology, but doesn’t necessarily prescribe to the “It Belongs in a Museum” tenet that he’s followed for decades. Helena is more align with his previous “Fortune and Glory” creed, when it comes to rare antiquities.

She needs his help to retrieve the other half of the Antikythera, a device built by Greek mathematician Archimedes long ago, in the shape of a dial. Helena believes Indy has it from an adventure he had back in 1944 with her father, Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), an Oxford professor of archelogy. She’s not the only one apparently, since she’s been followed by Jürgen Voller (a game Mads Mikkelsen, who’s not giving enough to do), a former Nazi physicist who recently worked with NASA to assist in the lunar landing program. He’s getting assistance from a CIA agent (Shaunette Renée Wilson), one trigger-happy henchmen named Klaber (Boyd Holbrook) and a hulking brute (Olivier Richters) that’s built like a redwood. They will all pursue Indy and Helena, who inevitably pair up, along with her teen sidekick, Teddy (Ethann Isidore), as they travel from New York City to Tangier to Sicily and then some.

Much of what transpires in “Dial of Destiny” checks off the boxes one would expect from an Indiana Jones adventure. That’s not a complaint at all, but rather exactly how another sequel should fit alongside each one that came before it. Like the James Bond franchise, there are certain familiar elements that should line up in these movies. Each one has a cold open that will either offer audiences a different adventure for Indy other than the main one the movie will focus on or a flashback scene that delves into Indy’s past.



In this fourth sequel, we get an opening set during that aforementioned 1944 adventure of Indy’s that takes place at Nuremberg Castle, where Nazis are collected looted artwork and artifacts as Allied forces close in on them. Led by Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann), they have kidnapped Indy, who’s disguised as a German soldier and is searching for the Lance of Longinus (the spear that pierced Christ), when he and Basil come across half of Archimedes dial on a train that comes under attack by the good guys. It’s an action-packed sequence where Indy first meets Voller, who also seeks the titular dial and one in which he and Basil must make it out alive.

This opening is also the much-talked-about part of the movie that heavily incorporates de-aging Ford to look like the Indiana Jones we know from “Raiders” and the big question is whether or not it works. Well, it mostly does and that’s not good enough. Surprisingly, some of the close up shots of Indy work better than any of the medium shots or moments that involve action (and much of it does). One would think that viewers would detect a semblance of uncanny valley up close, but it’s just about every other seen of CGI Indy feels like we’re watching a transition scene in a video game. Granted Ford did act these scenes on a physical set and his face was de-aged later on in extensive (and expensive) post-production, yet they screwed up by not de-aging Ford’s voice as well. So, we get a septuagenarian’s gravely voice in a late thirties Ford and it’s jarring. Granted, it may only be noticeable to Ford devotees, but that should’ve been considered when setting out on such an endeavor. Regardless, it just doesn’t feel right to watch Indy run, jump, and punch (and get punched) in such a sequence that’s so heavily reliant on visual effects. During this opening, I was also reminded how ridiculous it is that Indy’s fedora never leaves his head. Yes, this is always how it has been, but it’s most noticeable in the scenes that resemble something we’d see in a Playstation game.

Granted, there was also CGI utilized throughout “Crystal Skull”, but it just doesn’t seem as obvious when it’s employed here. These stories take place in the past, where there should barely be any trace of any technological assistance and certainly no ripcord moments for the audience.

There are other moments where the visuals just don’t work well in “Dial of Destiny”, such as an underwater excursion in the Aegean Sea. Indy and Helena receive assistance from Reynaldo (Antonio Banderas, exciting to be here in a cameo appearance), an old friend of Indy’s who’s apparently Spain’s best frogman, as they set out to retrieve an ancient tablet in a sunken ship. It’s odd to see Old Man Indy in a diving suit, yet we go with it anyway. Once we get to the underwater action, it’s unfortunately too murky to discern the action, especially when a swarm of eels surround our hero. No doubt it was filmed in a water tank, but it could’ve at least been lit better so viewers can follow what’s happening.



This brings to mind the biggest difference between “Dial of Destiny” and the four sequels that came before it, which is that it wasn’t directed by Spielberg. He serves as executive producer here (along with George Lucas), but Disney and Lucasfilm have given directing duties to James Mangold (“Logan”), which is no small task, but also quite fitting considering his filmography.  He’s proven he’s good at genre movies, while focusing on character and story over spectacle.  Mangold reunites with his “3:10 to Yuma” and “Ford v Ferrari” cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael, here and for the most part they do a good job at trying to capture the look and feel of “Raiders”, but there’s no chase or peril that feels memorable or comical here. Most action in “Dial of Destiny” feels requisite, with some quippy banter between Ford and Waller-Bridge, but there’s this sense that more is needed here.

Mangold also serves as a writer on “Dial of Destiny”, alongside English brothers Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, and “Crystal Skull” co-writer David Koepp, and they are incorporating a lot for viewers to take in here. Some may not like the journey or where it goes, but these endeavors can be appreciated, especially as Mangold includes the trademark red-line travel montages (but, he missed an opportunity to include the Paramount logo dissolve at the beginning). It’s not really until the third act that the writers provide us with something new for an Indiana Jones movie, and the more I think about all of that the more I like it. Yes, I’m being nebulous about the ending, since some things are best left to experience on your own.

Where the writers and Ford hit the mark are during the smaller character-fueled moments in the movie. Both the overall story and the legendary actor play directly to where the character (and the actor) are at in life in tender and emotional exchanges, whether Indy is briefly talking with his old friend, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) or sharing a vulnerable moment with Helena on a fishing vessel where he shares what he would change if he had the ability to go back in time. Ford delivers his best work in the movie in these scenes. Sure, he has some fun comic interplay with Waller-Bridge’s Helena, but he carries an understandable fatigue and emotional weight to the role that is welcome. Waller Bridges is fine in “Dial of Destiny”, but a subplot involving her ex-fiance just feels like a tacked on antagonist was needed for a chase sequence rather than offering anything new or different to the story.



“Dial of Destiny” could’ve used another editorial run, with the de-aged opening going on way too long. This results in the longest “Indiana Jones” installment yet at 154 minutes, not to mention the most expensive. It wouldn’t be right without the welcome return of composer John Williams, but he’s not offering anything distinctive or memorable like he did the last three installments, even the theme for Helena Shaw. Mangold does a fine job at giving Indy another adventure, but what’s missing is Spielberg’s shot construction and enthusiastic visual flow. No doubt, it’s an entertaining entry, but it struggles under all the technology it relies on.

There’s no way Indiana Jones should or will be recast for future adventures since the character doesn’t exist without Ford. He’s turning 81 this month and although he’s in great shape, the guy cannot do any more of these movies…especially with the way this one ends. There’s also no way we will see Waller Bridges again in any further adventures of Helena Shaw. The character just doesn’t have the draw and this movie offered more than enough of her. Her snarkiness is a nice compliment to Indy and keeps Ford on his toes, but he’s already in fine form here, reminding us it is indeed the mileage not the age.





One Comment leave one →
  1. Martinez S permalink
    July 6, 2023 4:08 pm

    I saw it on July 4th here in the UK, I read so much press about it & almost to the point of overkill esp as I try to avoid spoilers & really avoid all forms of press, mainstream media.

    Being 23yrs of age I remember the 4th one in 2008, which I enjoyed but really missed certain parts of the first 3.

    So really have to say I loved it, I’m hard to please, I’m not keen on marvel film or political bais in films or woke stuff or moral messages.
    I did not find that here much, it had the energy of the temple of doom easily, parts of it came close to the first & third films, the dark humor went over a lot of peoples heads me & my mate noticed, interesting to note that.

    I’m shocked of how much “bais” has worked against this film, its clear to me as a young adult that the mainstream wants things like mission impossible & barbie to suceed but not this, I’m keeping tabs on how well it performs in places such as south america, the US, the UK etc…

    But for me its 9 outta 10, cool de ageing, loved the morocco parts, the opening with the hanging was kinda “dark” but really dope, the end…..why so many people dissing the end I mean if the first few had supernatural elements then why not time travle??? only real complaint was the pg13 rating was not pushed like I read the temple of doom created the pg13 rating, I was hoping for some pratical effects laden voller death at the end but maybe parts were cut to “appease” the masses. big mistake – I hope with films like this in the future they say sod the masses & go full throttle with it.
    I put money on an indy 6 with ford as the “father” figure in a few years time & hoping the ark is back as the story.

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