The Indiana Jones franchise has entertained fans for over four decades, and the latest addition, the Dial of Destiny, has been no exception. Many fans were eager to see how Harrison Ford would bring Indy, an aging protagonist, back to life and provide a satisfying conclusion to the beloved character’s adventure, surpassing the previous film, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While the Dial of Destiny may not quite measure up to the high standards set by the first three films, it does provide a fitting conclusion for both Ford and Indiana Jones. However, some may find it more enjoyable to watch as a streamed at-home movie rather than paying for it in theaters.
In 1944, Indiana Jones worked alongside his colleague Basil Shaw to thwart the efforts of the Nazis to obtain a valuable relic. In the process, they meet Jürgen Voller, who has the first half of a mysterious dial known as the Antikythera. After 25 years, Jones is troubled by the U.S. government’s decision to recruit former Nazis to gain an advantage over the Soviet Union in the space race. His opposition to this practice has put his teaching position in jeopardy. However, Jones finds unexpected support from Helena Shaw, Basil’s daughter and his Goddaughter, as they embark on a mission to protect the Antikythera. At the same time, Voller, now a member of NASA and a former Nazi involved in the Apollo Moon-landing program, has his agenda to shape the world according to his beliefs.
In the 1944 flashback scene, Harrison Ford’s appearance is altered to look younger through CGI. However, some viewers, including myself, found the CGI too noticeable, especially during the action scenes on the train where Indy and Basil try to escape the Nazis. Despite Ford’s resemblance to his younger self in the franchise’s earlier films, the use of CGI was unsettling. It’s unclear if there is a better alternative to introducing the plot through a flashback, so unfortunately, this is one of the film’s downsides that sets a negative tone for the rest of the film.
The Antikythera, also known as the Dial of Destiny, was an ancient Greek orrery operated manually. It is the first analog computer ever created to predict astronomical positions and eclipses years in advance. The Dial of Destiny uses a fictionalized version of the Antikythera, created by Archimedes, which contains the ability to forecast time rifts that allow its user to time travel.
Indiana Jones’ pursuit of the Antikythera as the latest artifact was a wise decision, given the movie’s focus on aging, nostalgia, and regrets. These are all experiences that Indiana Jones grapples with in Dial of Destiny, as does Voller with his desire to rectify the Nazis’ mistakes. Without revealing too much, I appreciate how Dial of Destiny remains true to scientific and archaeological principles in its treatment of time travel.
The Good Guys
The beloved Indiana Jones character makes a comeback, but this time he’s an older, more grizzled version of himself. In the Dial of Destiny, we see Indy is unhappy with the current state of the world and how his life has turned out. He’s stepping down from his role as a professor and is unsure about what to do with the rest of his life. However, his worries are momentarily put on hold when his goddaughter shows up and begins discussing her dad’s obsession with the Antikythera. Regrettably, she takes it intending to sell it to the highest bidder, but in the end, they team up to prevent the Nazis from using it to alter the course of history.
It is evident that Ford is thrilled to reprise his iconic role, and this enthusiasm is evident in his performance. He skillfully portrays his character’s complex and troubled life while delivering the charming wit that Indy is renowned for. Despite the significant use of CGI in the film and a reduction in spectacular stunts, Ford convincingly portrays a character’s physical prowess over a decade his junior.
One of the film’s highlights was Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s portrayal of Shaw because she impressively matches wits with Ford and matches Indy’s cleverness and toughness. I think a spin-off show or movie involving the hijinks of her character trying to obtain and then sell priceless artifacts to shady buyers would work well. On the other hand, Shaw’s companion, Teddy, played by Ethann Isidore, falls short and feels like a less impactful version of Short Round. His presence in the film neither adds nor detracts from the overall experience, and I thought his character could have been omitted altogether.
The Bad Guys
In the flashback scene, Jürgen Voller is introduced as the antagonist and reveals his fixation with the Antikythera. Returning to the present day, we discover that he has assumed a new identity and infiltrated NASA with a hidden agenda to exploit the Antikythera for malicious purposes. Voller’s cunning intellect allows him to manipulate his associates into doing his bidding while he employs his intelligence to execute his wicked plans. Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of the obsessed doctor is commendable, showcasing why he is frequently cast as villains such as Hannibal.
However, the movie takes a misstep with Voller’s henchmen, especially Boyd Holbrook’s character, Klaber. Klaber is portrayed as a reckless character who frequently relies on his gun to make impulsive decisions that cause problems for Voller and Indy, leading to a contrived plot. As the film progresses, Klaber’s behavior becomes tiresome, and his ineptitude makes him one of the franchise’s worst henchmen.
A New Director Takes the Helm
The directorial whip of the Indiana Jones franchise has been passed from Steven Spielberg to James Mangold, who took over in 2020. Spielberg said in an interview with Variety that he “wanted to pass along Indy’s whip to a new generation to bring their perspective to the story.” Mangold, known for his work on 3:10 to Yuma, Logan, and Ford v Ferrari, has experience with big-budget movies with A-List actors and long-standing franchises, so he wasn’t a surprising choice.
While his direction of Dial of Destiny is impressive, it doesn’t quite measure up to Spielberg’s standards, especially compared to the first three Indiana Jones films. The movie lacks the trademark excitement, spark, and over-the-top adventure Spielberg is renowned for in his works. Nevertheless, I believe Mangold’s direction was good enough to merit another opportunity, but only if the franchise decides to move forward without Ford. This will allow Mangold to whip his legacy into shape by directing new content free of Indy’s legacy influencing his every decision. Only time will reveal if history will be kind to him and Dial of Destiny.
The Verdict – The Franchise Hangs Up Its Hat
Unfortunately, the Dial of Destiny relies heavily on those fans’ nostalgia by featuring favorite characters and action scenes that may not be as effective as their original versions. However, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny does a great job exploring the challenges an aging hero faces and his place in a society that no longer needs him. Although the final film (at least with Ford as Indy) falls short of the high standards set by the franchise’s first three films, it provides an ironic lesson that not every adventure ends with a crack of the whip. This lesson is a fitting reflection of the beloved franchise and its titular archaeologist, Indiana Jones, whom we have adored for years.
- This article was updated on June 23rd, 2023