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‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ (review)

Indiana Jones came into being thanks to George Lucas’ love of the movie serials of the 1930s and 1940s, and it would eventually be Steven Spielberg who would use his filmmaking expertise to bring his friend’s creation to the silver screen, making Harrison Ford’s Nazi-punching archeology professor an instant pop culture icon.

After the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, the franchise took a step back in time with 1984’s Temple of Doom, which was set before Indy’s arch enemies, the Nazis, came to power.

While Temple of Doom was unable to live up to the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lucas and Spielberg still went ahead with a third and, at the time, final entry into the series with 1989’s Last Crusade, which many fans still consider the true finale of the series.

Still, rumors persisted that a fourth film would be made, eventually resulting in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull being released in 2008, and not exactly receiving a warm welcome.

And here we are 15 years later with Dial of Destiny, which is set to be the swan song of Ford’s iconic role.

The opening sequence of the fifth and final Indy outing is a doozy – even if the de-aging is not the best – as it manages to capture the tone of Indy’s past skirmishes with the Nazis, not to mention that these first 20-odd minutes of Dial of Destiny feel like a finale set piece, and as the film goes on, one wishes this movie would have been about what lead to the film’s initial conflict.

Arguably being more grounded than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Dial of Destiny leaves room for Ford to deliver a solid final performance as Indy, just as Phoebe Waller-Bridge makes for a charming charlatan, while Mads Mikkelsen nibbles on the scenery.

However, as game as the stars are, the writing is simply lacking as Waller-Bridge’s character is difficult to emotionally invest in, and Mikkelsen’s villain seems underbaked with little motivation outside of Nazis naturally being bad.

Add to that that the humor overwhelmingly falls flat throughout the film and one wonders why the writers could not come up with something more compelling.

Furthermore, as fun as the opening sequence is, the majority of the film is unforgivably dull and lacking in urgency, and once the madcap finale unfolds, it is unfortunately too little, too late.

This is not to say that the film is lacking in action, as there are multiple set pieces throughout the film, but they are either not set up with sufficient urgency or peril, or they simply run too long and disengage the viewer as a result.

While James Mangold is a competent filmmaker in his own right – with impressive titles such as Logan and Le Mans ‘66 on his resume – Steven Spielberg he is not, and it sadly feels like Mangold has bitten off more than he can chew with Indy.

Similarly, much like the 2008 entry, Dial of Destiny also has an over-reliance on CGI, which effectively undersells the peril because it is more difficult to suspend one’s disbelief when something is clearly a digital effect rather than a stuntman with more guts than sense.

This is not to say that the original trilogy was the epitome of realism, as all entries concern fantastical MacGuffins and paranormal elements, but due to the overwhelmingly practical nature of filmmaking in the 1980s, Indiana Jones is a franchise that is particularly reliant on practical effects and stunt work to increase the audience’s suspension of disbelief.

The appeal of the world of Indiana Jones has always been its hijinks-filled hyper reality, but where the original trilogy found a balance that allowed audience’s to accept impossible scenarios, Dial of Destiny is simply just missing the magic of the original trilogy.

As Indy famously said, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage, and if it was not already evident from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Dial of Destiny cements that the idea of making Indiana Jones movies belongs in a museum.

Verdict: 4 out of 10.


*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Simon Emanuel
Written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp, James Mangold
Based on Characters by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas,
John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook,Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen

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