We’re sharing our review of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the fifth film in the Indiana Jones franchise.
Legacy sequels are all the rage as of late. With nostalgic references as a primary marketing tool and audience preferences leaning toward the warm and familiar, many popular franchises have been able to explore the ways in which their characters and stories span generations. How, then, do you quantify the legacy of Indiana Jones, the iconic globe-trotting archeologist who changed movies forever? The brainchild of writer-producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg, Dr. Henry Jones Jr. made his big screen debut in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and, after several sequels (and decades), has become one of Hollywood’s seminal heroes. Unlike similar characters, there have been no reboots or re-castings. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, and here Indy is given one final adventure in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, but is it a worthy end?
Indiana Jones in a Rapidly Changing World
The year is 1969, and Indiana Jones is nearing retirement in a rapidly changing world. He has settled into a quiet life until his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) comes to him asking questions about an artifact Indy had acquired a piece of with her father back in World War II, Archimedes’ Dial. She is not the only one in search of it, as Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a former Nazi scientist, wants to use it for his own nefarious purposes. So, Indy and Helena take off to complete the Dial and discover the extent of its true power.
Dial of Destiny is the first Indy film not to be directed by Steven Spielberg, nor have any story involvement from George Lucas (though the two are credited as executive producers). Enter James Mangold, a competent genre filmmaker best known for his Wolverine movies and the Oscar-winning sports drama Ford v Ferrari, no doubt stepping into the biggest shoes imaginable. He handles the action well with several exciting chases and fights sequences that fit nicely within the greater Indy canon. The film also provides an unexpectedly touching emotional throughline for our hero.
An Overreliance on Digital Effects
All the ingredients are there in theory: the triumphant musical score from John Williams, the snarky humor and character interplay between Indy and the impressive supporting cast, and the crisp punching sound effects are as impactful as ever. However, the overreliance on digital effects and certain story choices holds Dial of Destiny back from reaching the heights of past entries.
At the beginning of the film, there is an extended prologue set in 1944 with a de-aged Harrison Ford at the center of the sequence. The way the camera holds on to him for extended periods can be slightly off-putting and uncanny and lacks some visual tangibility right off the bat. The story, the central artifact, and the inciting action, while classic Indy, plays it safe and feels beholden to what has come before with a need to capture Spielberg’s signature magic and ends up covering a lot of the same ground. The exception is a mind-blowing sequence in the third act (that I would not dare spoil here), but it makes the aliens in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seem grounded in comparison.
Harrison Ford Delivers a Standout Performance
Harrison Ford is pitch-perfect as Indiana Jones, and this adventure further cements this as his most iconic and enduring role. (Sorry, Han Solo fans!). The reverence with which he talks about the series and the emotional response he has had to the release of this final film permeates every frame, every line, and every set piece. A labor of love between actor and character. One of the great joys of the later Indy movies is seeing the character age alongside Ford, maintaining his adventurous spirit well into his life and career. This is a dynamic not often seen in the lead role of a Hollywood adventure film. At the end of the day, he hangs up his fedora with pride and delivers another standout performance as the character.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny decidedly marks the end of an era. As the final film in the Indiana Jones series, it is a culmination of over 40 years of storytelling and incredible movie moments shared over generations. This is the last time Harrison Ford will portray this character on screen and the last time audiences will see him ride off into the sunset. While it fails to reach the heights of the classic adventures that made him a household name in the first place, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is an adventure worthy of the legacy. After all, as the poster for Temple of Doom said, “If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones.” That still holds up.