Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) Movie Review – An underwhelming swan song for the legendary hero

An underwhelming swan song for the legendary hero

After the disappointment of Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, which was a less-than-satisfying comeback for Indiana Jones, hopes were high that the fedora-wearing hero’s fifth and final entry in the adventure movie franchise, directed by James Mangold instead of Steven Spielberg, would be a return to form. Unfortunately, it’s my sad duty to report that it’s another misfire, although Ford gives his grizzled best and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who stars as Indy’s goddaughter, manages to elevate the movie with her bright and lively performance.

For the most part, this sequel is set in the late 1960s at a time when Jones is living in an apartment alone, having separated from his one-time lover Marion (Karen Allen). He’s a bit of a grouch, prone to scowling at his neighbours and telling them to turn the music down. The reason for his malcontent is because he has seemingly retired from the adventuring business which gave him his life’s purpose – a position that sits uncomfortably with our aged hero.

The movie doesn’t begin in the 60s though. The prologue takes place in 1944 where we are re-introduced to a younger Indiana as he once again tries to stop the Nazis from getting their grubby hands on an ancient artefact. The item in question is supposedly the spear that pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion but it’s not long before Indiana realizes it is a fake. However, this isn’t the only prized possession that is under the ownership of the German army. They also have one-half of Archimedes’s Antikythera mechanism, a legendary contraption that allegedly has the power to give its wielder control of time.

Indy manages to steal the device away from the Nazis resulting in a train top battle where he and a boo-hissable German scientist by the name of Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) square off against one another. Aiding Indy is the eccentric Professor Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), who is as keen to stop the Nazis from gaining control of the device as our favourite historian is.

We then fast forward to the present where we catch up with the older Indy who is woken from his slumber by his inconsiderate neighbours. Shortly after, we see him teaching his final lecture on the day of his retirement, but in stark contrast to a similar scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, these students are far from interested in him or his lessons, which might have more to do with his faded enthusiasm for teaching than their lack of passion in the subject of archaeology.

More interested is Basil’s daughter Helena (Waller-Bridge) who has somehow snuck her way into Indy’s classroom. After he receives his retirement gift from the faculty, she catches up with Indiana and they briefly reminisce about old times.

Her reasons for visiting are for more than just a friendly reunion, however. She wants him to locate the second half of the Antikythera device for reasons that soon become clear. He doesn’t believe the contraption works but a modern-day sect of the Nazis certainly do, and they turn up on the scene shortly after. The scene is then set for a globe-trotting adventure in which Indy and Helena search for the device before the last remnants of the German army (once again led by Voller) get hold of it to use it for their own nefarious purposes.

During the course of Indiana’s adventure, he meets up with his old friend Salah (John-Rhys Davies), drives a rickshaw during a crazy chase scene in Tangier, dives beneath the depths of the Aegean Sea in Greece, and explores a labyrinthine cavern wherein he finds the skeletal remains of famed mathematician Archimedes.  He also boards a plane for a journey of a lifetime but we won’t go into the details of his destination as that would reveal a huge spoiler that is best left hidden.

Unfortunately, the movie isn’t as exciting as the original trilogy and this is largely because of Ford’s age. At 80 years old, he is no longer the man of action that he used to be. The movie’s writers recognize this – at one point Indy complains about his aching joints while trying to climb a wall – but while there is novelty in seeing an older Indy, it’s also sad to see a once-great hero past his prime. He still packs a punch, however, and he ably rides a horse through a New York City subway system, but for the most part, he’s no longer the man we knew from the previous films.

Of course, the movie does give us flashbacks into Indy’s past where he is a much younger man and more like the person we remember him to be. Well, kind of! These scenes fall down because of one simple reason: the CGI effects used to de-age Harrison Ford don’t convince. It’s certainly Indy’s face that we see but something seems off about his eyes and facial expressions. As such, the first 20-30 minutes of the movie are hard to sit through – at least they were for me – as I was distracted by his digitally altered appearance when I should have been paying closer attention to the action and the story.

The movie has other problems too, most notably in terms of the action sequences that lack the thrill and spectacle we have come to expect from an Indiana Jones film. This might have something to do with the fast-paced editing or the fact that one particular action moment takes place in near-darkness, thus rendering it difficult to see. Or it might be because the movies in the Mission Impossible franchise (and certain others like them) have pushed the bar so far ahead in terms of what we expect from stuntwork that this entry in the Indiana Jones series just can’t match our high expectations.

Despite my misgivings about the movie, it’s not all bad. While the franchise should have ended after The Last Crusade, it’s still nice to see Indiana don his famous whip and hat again, even though he’s slower in motion than he used to be. Ford gives a fine performance for his character swan song and it’s one that should be treasured, considering this will be the last time we see him in the role. Waller-Bridge is very good too as is Mikkelson, although both suffer from muddled characterizations and mixed motivations.

Ultimately, this is an old-fashioned matinee adventure, the likes of which we don’t see very often any more. There is fun to be had due to the plot, which becomes increasingly outlandish (even more so than the last movie), the funny one-liners, and the acting talents of all involved. But this has to be where the Indiana Jones franchise comes to an end. A film entitled Indiana Jones and the Quest For The Lost Retirement Home Biscuits is not a movie any of us want to see!

Read More: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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