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INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY movie review

ByTaylor T Carlson

Jun 16, 2023

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY is directed by James Mangold. The film stars Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore,
Mads Mikkelsen, and Karen Allen. It’s the fifth and final film in the INDIANA JONES series.

In the 1940s, in World War II’s latter days, Indiana Jones and Basil Shaw sought a legendary spear believed to have pierced the body of Christ, which had fallen into the hands of the Nazis, The two of them ended up getting away, instead, with half of Archimedes’ Dial, believed to possess the power to detect fissures in time. In 1969, a much older Indy, disgruntled and separated from his wife, reluctantly finds himself on an adventure with Basil’s daughter, a woman apparently more concerned with money than preserving history. But Indy and company quickly find themselves in over their heads, as Jurgen Voller, a Nazi obsessed with the Dial, has his sights on the half in Indy’s possession, and he’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on it, believing he can use the Dial to time travel and reinvent the world as he sees fit.

It’s been a long and interesting ride for Henry Jones, Jr. Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg so expertly brought this character to life over four decades ago. What started as a pet project as an homage to Saturday matinee serials transformed into something so much more, with Indy becoming a pop culture icon, spawning TV series, collectibles, video games, and even rides at Disney parks. Seriously, is there anyone in the civilized world who doesn’t know who Indiana Jones is?

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY brings back Harrison Ford one last time to play one of his most iconic characters. And that’s something this cinephile had mixed feelings about. On one hand, getting to see Mr. Ford reprise this role is cause for celebration. Did I mention John Williams, now aged 91, once again composed the musical score? But on the other hand, the most recent installment of the franchise, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, didn’t exactly get the most positive reception from fans. Additionally, Stephen Spielberg isn’t in the director’s chair this time around, with the torch passed to James Mangold, who admittedly though, has a pretty solid filmography in his own right. It seems like there’s as much potential for things to go wrong as there is to go right. Initial reviews of the film from the Cannes Film Festival have been mixed. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see Indy don the fedora and whip one last time. How is the movie?

I’m pleased to say that, while it’s not an instant classic that tops of the classic trilogy of INDY films from the 1980s, DIAL OF DESTINY is a much better film than you’d believe from that rough initial press. Mangold proves a suitable fit for the franchise, and Mr. Ford’s performance is as good as ever. Some aspects don’t really add anything new to the series and may seem a bit redundant, and some familiar faces are relegated to glorified cameos, but the good outweighs the bad. This is classic INDIANA JONES in 2023, and for longtime fans, that should be enough.

I do need to get one bit of unpleasantness out of the way first. Many comments I’m seeing online refer to this film as being overly “woke” and trying to appease the overly sensitive modern world. Having actually seen the film, I can say that this is complete and utter nonsense. Why are people feeling this way? Because there’s a strong and sassy female lead who steals the lead in several scenes? Because there are characters of other ethnicities featured throughout the film in varying capacities? I’ve got news for you, people: These have been elements of literally every single INDIANA JONES film that’s come before! If this film is “woke,” so are the four that came before.

Harrison Ford is an American treasure, and he demonstrates it throughout DIAL OF DESTINY’s running time. The movie clocks in at two-and-a-half hours, but with Ford’s performance and Mangold’s superb direction, not to mention a solid and witty screenplay that delivers the action, drama, and humor fantastically, it doesn’t feel that way. I loved being able to see Indy later in his life in a different era, distraught and not in a fantastic place. We as an audience inevitably know he’ll be back on an adventure before long, and throughout it all we see the character go to some strange and unexpected places, both figuratively and literally. We see him with his neck in a noose (literally, this time around!), struggling to put together the pieces of his life, and going from being the angry neighbor sick of youngsters playing their music too loud to being back in the saddle where he belongs. An extended flashback in World War II’s latter days (with digital de-aging utilized, but done pretty well this time around thankfully) beautifully sets the tone of what’s to come and gets the audiences pumped. If this is the last time Ford takes on the role, this fan can live with that.

It wouldn’t be an INDIANA JONES movie without exotic landscapes and interesting characters. We get all of the above and more, from the bottom of the ocean to the stormy skies above Sicily, from a parade celebrating the Apollo 11 astronauts, to ancient crypts and tombs. Characters include the entertaining-as-hell Helena, played brilliantly by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas as an aging diver and old friend of Indy, and Mads Mikkelsen portraying the ex-Nazi villain with his sights set on world domination. It’s expertly cast, expertly shot, and a visual treat from start to finish no matter where it goes.

That said, I can’t quite give DIAL OF DESTINY full marks. Let’s get the biggest disappointment out of the way. Sallah and Marion Ravenwood are barely in the movie at all. Given Sallah gets a fantastic entrance scene (I saw this in a press-only screening, but I have no doubt this scene will get widespread applause from full move theaters), it seems disappointing not to follow it up with anything. Personally, as much as I love these characters, I would rather the film had depicted them as deceased than utilizing them as frustratingly little as it does here. Scenes of elements of the series like raiding and exploring tombs are fun, but one can’t help but have a sense of “been there, done that” throughout. I also have no doubt the climax of the film and where it takes the characters will be a divisive point, though I admittedly found it to be entertaining.

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY isn’t the instant classic its 80s predecessors were, but it’s not the “bad” or “woke” movie other media outlets claim it is. Seeing Indy do his thing one last time is worth the price of admission, and the final result ultimately rises above its flaws. Longtime fans of Indy should love this experience of getting to see the character in action once more. Recommended!

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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