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Movie Review: A nostalgia play, ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ is meant for old fans and not out to make new ones

‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Disney’ is meant to be a finale, a closing of the Indiana Jones storyline and character and director James Mangold has spoken about the project as a story about how time catches up with us and wishes to explore Indiana Jones as a “hero at sunset.” It would have been an interesting concept considering the way the current time views the practice of Western archeology and the way Indiana Jones’ usual mantra of “it belongs in a museum” carries with it imperialist connotations. It would have been very interesting to watch the final film in the franchise deal with an aging Harrison Ford and a reconciliation of the work that he’s been doing in the first four films.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm’s IJ5. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

But that’s not the movie that we get. In order to stay rooted to the soul and essence of the previous films of the franchise, ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ is just one grand adventure that gives us an aged Indiana Jones. He is now a relic and a grumpy old man, who fights with his younger neighbours who play their rock music really loud, or is retiring from his teaching position, where his classes are now filled with students who are asleep or uncaring of what he is teaching. It’s a far cry from the Indiana Jones of previous installments. Ford, who is very spritely for an 80 year old man, moves and feels like his age. At a 154 minutes, ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ is one big adventure reminiscent of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.’ It’s one big chase scene after another, one big fight scene after another big fight scene. It can be exhausting to watch and even with all the stuntmen and invasive John Williams music (complete with variations of the Indiana Jones theme for added effect) at full use, it’s hard to imagine Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones doing all the things he’s doing in this movie.

(L-R): Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

In fact, at some point, I began timing each fight scene and chase scene, and figured for every 15 to 20 minute action sequence, there’s about 3 to 5 minutes of story. ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ is relentless in its adventure plot. It refuses to slow down to work out the relationships between Indiana Jones and his god daughter, Helena Shaw (played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). It feels as if the movie is afraid that if it slows down, inertia will strike and Indiana Jones, at that age, may need to take a long break before the next big sequence. 

(L-R): Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) in Lucasfilm’s INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

And it’s a shame because Waller-Bridge’s Helena Shaw presents an interesting counter-point to Ford’s Indiana Jones. Helena is a darker character, with a questionable past and questionable motives and practices; but she is just as bright, brilliant, resourceful, and physically capable as Jones in his prime. Unlike Indiana Jones, she has no lofty ideals about what to do with her knowledge or skill sets. She even manages the only commentary I noticed in the whole movie about Western Imperialization. I wanted more of it and thought that to explore the relationship of the estranged godfather and goddaughter was a great space to really reconcile Indiana Jones in the modern world.

(Clockwise from right): Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann) and Doctor Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) in Lucasfilm’s IJ5. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

But that’s not the movie we get. We get an overblown adventure story that brings us from Nazi Germany in the 40s to New York and the Mediterranean during the time of the moon landing and then, because of the particular qualities of the supernatural relic, the eponymous Dial of Destiny, to some places in the past.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm’s IJ5. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The movie is less concerned with reconciliation for the concept surrounding Indiana Jones that it is to celebrate the character and to create a satisfying conclusion to the characte and, in essence, for the fans who love him and the movies of their youth. The film as a whole is about capitalizing on nostalgia. It doesn’t seem invested in contextualizing Indiana Jones for younger audiences or future generations. Much like a relic in a museum, it’s meant to be seen and enjoyed as it is, outside the context of the changing world around it. 

Indiana Jones is now just a product of its time and it eventually finds it story closed because it can no longer find its own place in the modern world.

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Buy your tickets here.

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