We’re in an era of nostalgia tours for our old heroes. Batman, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, The Terminator, and the list goes on. Those old heroes coming back for one last adventure all really have one problem, they never learn anything or show that their previous wounds have caught up to them. It’s a problem that pervades our culture to this day, and when you can’t show that your experiences have changed you in some way, there’s no real point besides nostalgia. Luckily for us, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny gives us a multi-faceted version of our aging hero, Indy.
That’s not the only thing that the movie gives us; we also get plenty of action, some archaeological hijinks, and a bit of an issue with having a soul. For those uninitiated, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny features one last adventure for Indiana Jones. This time, he’s searching for an ancient dial made by Archimedes that can make a man into God. He’s joined by his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who also has an affinity for the mystical dial. Outside of her, Jurgen Voller (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is also after the dial for more nefarious means.
They’re joined by Teddy (played by Ethann Isidore), who’s a youth that found Helena by joining her thieving escapades. Outside of them, there are also appearances by Indy’s friends Basil Shaw (played by Toby Jones), Renaldo (played by Antonio Banderas), and Jurgen’s henchmen Klaber (played by Boyd Holbrook). Outside of that and some timely appearances by other franchise characters, it’s quite a small cast.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a grand adventure; it just feels like something is missing.
Soulless? No, But There’s Definitely A Hole In The Heart Of Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has all the makings of an Indiana Jones movie. It has globe-trotting adventures, somewhat science fiction/historical inspired vibes with the ancient relic that Indy is chasing after, it’s got that trademark humor from Indy, and finally, he still really really hates Nazis.
It has everything you’d want to see, but through it all, it lacks that bit of magic or a spirit that goes through the film. Raiders of the Lost Ark had that new, wide-eyed feeling of adventure, Temple of Doom had the horror elements and Short-Round, and The Last Crusade had the aura and mystique of Sean Connery’s performance as Henry Sr. However, here, that’s just missing. Besides Harrison Ford as Indy, it doesn’t feel as big or important.
That feeling does go away a bit in the third act, where you get not only an emotional moment from Indiana Jones witnessing something that really makes him gawk but a fantastic and poignant ending for the series, character, and movie. That third act makes up for much of the dragging in the rest of the film. It’s awe-inspiring and just plain fun to see.
Still A Damn Good Time, And Yes, ‘He-Man Woman Haters”, Phoebe Waller-Bridge Is Good
Phoebe Waller-Bridge gets the extraordinarily hard job of trying to keep up with Indiana Jones while not upstaging Harrison Ford. She does a fantastic job in the film and doesn’t ever verge into “exposition machine” territory. She’s a flawed character with some childhood wounds that have made her into the scoundrel she is today. But she undergoes a nice change over the course of the film.
It’s a testament to the screenwriters Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp, and James Mangold that she stands out as much as she does. Some of the best action scenes in the film are centered around her, and she gets to make the most important choice of the movie in the third act. This is no Shia LeBeouf taking the reigns in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull moment, so don’t worry. It’s still Indy’s story.
The theme of the movie throughout is time passing us all by as we get older. There’s never enough time, time will go, and we all follow. For all of us, we can relate to that, and as we get older, we can feel the same that Indiana Jones does in this film. It’s a well-worn thread, but even the villain, Jurgen, goes through this. It’s a fantastic wrinkle to the film.
What About The De-Aging?
A lot of press was made about the de-aging that Harrison Ford underwent for scenes in this movie. I can safely say that besides Tron: Legacy (where Jeff Bridges looking like a robot fits incredibly well), this movie has some of the best de-aging out there. It’s not horrifying like Luke Skywalker in recent Star Wars projects, and it at least captures the movement, shape, and emotions of Harrison Ford’s face well.
The scenes in question are only in the film’s first act, and by the time you get to the third act, that won’t be on your mind. Without casting a “young Indiana Jones” as they did in The Last Crusade, these scenes wouldn’t have been possible, and the World War II-set scenes help with the story of the film.
If you like Indiana Jones movies and globe-trotting adventures, you’re going to like this one. There are no embarrassing set-pieces with digitized monkeys; they even make a little joke about the ‘nuke the fridge’ bit. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has a perfect title. It’s about the titular destiny, but it’s also about the call of destiny that comes for all of us. It argues that everyone is in the place they’re supposed to be because of the passage of time. It’s beautiful.
James Mangold crafts some beautiful visuals to go along with it. It might be the most colorful and vibrant Indiana Jones movie since Temple of Doom. It’s a superb directing job to step in for Steven Spielberg and give us an Indiana Jones movie that fits in with the rest of the series. It might be missing some of that heart and soul of the first three films, but Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is still well worth a watch.
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