Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
No Spielberg, no Lucas, still the same old Indy? In this new adventure, Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. gets involuntarily sucked into a conspiracy.
Genre: Action / Adventure
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Ethann Isidore, Boyd Holbrook, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Tobey Jones, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies & Karen Allen.
Run Time: 154 min.
US Release: 30 June 2023
UK Release: 28 June 2023
German Release: 29 June 2023
Here we finally are! The latest and final chapter of the Indiana Jones saga is finally out. In all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to this one. The trailers hadn’t convinced me. The fact that it took such a long time again had me worried, it is produced by Disney, plus with Spielberg missing I wasn’t sure if it would feel like an Indiana Jones film. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the end credits rolled, even though it comes no way close to the original trilogy. So, grab your whip, throw on your fedora and follow me into the depths of my review for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
In search of the infamous Archimedes dial, retired archaeology professor Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. and his goddaughter Helena, embark on one last adventure. As a familiar evil returns from the shadows, grasping for the dial that is said to locate cracks in time, Indy must rush to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
Plans for a concluding instalment, as part of the five-picture deal with Paramount, began during production of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ford himself confirmed that he would return, as long as it wouldn’t take another twenty years to make. Unfortunately, the development of the story stalled, as director Steven Spielberg and writer/producer George Lucas couldn’t see eye-to-eye on where to take the narrative.
With the acquisition of Lucasfilm by the Walt Disney Company in 2012, the rights of ownership shifted to the House of Mouse, focusing first on the Star Wars franchise. In 2016 it was announced that a fifth movie was in the works and planned for a 2019 release, with Spielberg returning as director. Of course, things didn't go as planned. By 2020, Spielberg stepped down as director, while David Koepp left as screenwriter. At the suggestion of Harrison Ford, James Mangold was hired as the new director.
Dial of Destiny is a definitive improvement to its predecessor, going back to the series’ roots, by bringing back old enemies in a plausible way, using the US government’s “Operation Paperclip” as inspiration. The opening sequence is probably among the best parts of the plot, capturing the essence of the original trilogy. The de-ageing is a different issue that I will address later on, but the introductory sequence was written amazingly!
The idea of using the ancient Greek Antikythera mechanism as the MacGuffin, as well as Archimedes as the object's backstory, did feel like something out of a classic Indy plot. The device’s ability to find fissures in time is no more abstract than anything that came before, however, the final act overcooked it a little too much, adding a convenient resolution.
The biggest offence, though, the screenplay commits is with the portrayal of Indy’s life since Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It isn’t enough that the hero of this saga reached an age at which he needs to retire, feeling obsolete, in a world he doesn’t recognise anymore. There needs to be more unneeded drama to break this character's spirit, frankly feeling like a rehash of what was done with Ford’s character of Han Solo in The Force Awakens.
The fourth chapter in the action-adventure franchise, gave the lead a nice send-off, as such it was a little infuriating to see all of that undone, just to create a very similar ending for this flick. It was simply unnecessary! Finally, the runtime is way too long, reflected in the story implementing unneeded chase sequences plus a few unnecessary one-to-one dialogues, which while masterfully written lead nowhere, as filler.
The production is filled with a lot of A-list actors, many that are wasted with limited appearances. Examples of these are John Rhy-Davies, making a minute cameo as Sallah, or the inclusion of Antonio Banderas for a roughly ten-minute segment.
Harrison Ford returns for the final time as the titular character of Indiana Jones, giving as always a fantastic rendition. The grouchiness, paired with the older age, gives Indy a natural “old-man” grumpiness. Nonetheless, the way the character is written is rather off-putting. He is mean-spirited, closed-off, as well as unsympathetic to those that get in harm's way. This is reflected in his dynamic with his god-daughter Helena, which feels artificial.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is an amazing British actress, but I still believe that she was miscast as Helen. Replacing the character of Mutt Williams as the possible heir to the fedora and whip, Helena is an incredibly irritating character, talking down at Indy when her life itself is an absolute mess. The final act tries to paint her more sympathetically, yet it simply feels insincere. Then there is Ethann Isidore as Teddy, who is a Short Round knock-off.
Mads Mikkelsen plays Jürgen Voller, one of the more intriguing villains in the whole saga. Voller is not simply a bad guy searching for power but his motivation is explored, making us understand why he is making certain choices, such as his obsession with the past preventing him from letting things go, reflecting in some sort of way, how Indy feels himself. This is captured beautifully by a great performance of Mikkelsen himself. Boyd Holbrook as Voller’s right-hand man Klaber, on the other hand, is a simple-minded goon following orders.
Cinematographically, Mangold manages to emulate the atmosphere of Spielberg, while adding his voice to the picture. The use of anamorphic lenses, gives the picture some of its grimy distorted imagery back, though there are still a few aggressively lit scenes. The action is largely well captured, apart from a couple of very messy chase sequences that used obvious CG and green-screen backgrounds. Finally, the colour palette is simply spot on, suiting the era it plays in.
Now let's talk about the elephant in the room… The de-ageing effects at the beginning are very hit-and-miss, nearly diminishing the whole prologue sequence. In shadow, it wasn’t very noticeable, yet when Ford’s face is in full light, it pulls audiences out of the experience. The production design of the 60s was well captured, with many settings shot on location.
John Williams returned to score the music one final time, delivering a strong and fun soundtrack, combining suspensefully eerie orchestral sounds, with sombre-sweet melodies.
Verdict: James Mangold takes over directing duties for Steven Spielberg in this final sequel of the adventure series, fifteen years after the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The writer/director manages to recapture the magic of the original trilogy, though not without a couple of issues. While the prologue segment is breathtakingly written and shot, the de-ageing effects nearly ruined the experience. The MacGuffin suits the franchise’s supernatural element, the final act is nonetheless over-bloated, adding a convenient resolution. The lead character is deconstructed to a mean-spirited old retiree, who has little chemistry with his unlikeable sidekick. The cinematography is superb, apart from a couple of convoluted chase scenes. It is better than its predecessor, yet the issue prevails that it is too long, including a lot of filler content. As such, I am starting to forget half of the narrative. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny gets a 6.5 out of 10.
Did you go see this final instalment in cinemas? What were your thoughts on it? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment below & thank you for reading!