Alas, the long-awaited final episode in the Indiana Jones annals is here. INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY, starring the venerable Harrison Ford as the beloved title character, is a classic sendoff. Though it’s not directed by the inimitable Steven Spielberg, it still boasts that glorious --- and instantly recognizable --- theme song by composer John Williams.
Director James Mangold’s movie opens with a prologue set in 1944 with Indy fighting off the Nazis for the Archimedes Dial, an instrument that can determine cracks in time. German Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann) has taken Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) and the Dial captive, so it’s up to Indy to free them both. Complicating his efforts is Dr. Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a Nazi scientist, who is also after the infamous Dial.
Fast forward to 1969 where Professor Jones is retiring from his position at Hunter College in New York City. He’s separated from his loving wife, Marion (Karen Allen), and leading a rather lonely existence. That is, until Shaw’s grown daughter, Indy’s goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), shows up and steals the Dial.
After a madcap chase around NYC, including Indy on horseback, Voller and his Nazi henchmen, plus representatives of the U.S. government, Helena escapes to Morocco. There, she and her young sidekick, Teddy (Ethann Isidore), plan to sell the valuable artifact to the highest bidder. Of course, Indy, decked out in his tattered brown fedora, leather jacket and whip, has followed and he --- along with Helena and Teddy --- does everything he can to keep the Dial from ending up in Voller’s hands.
INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY will be the height of adventure for some --- for others, not so much. David, for instance, was bored and struggled to stay awake. I know how he feels. When he and I are alone, I’m also bored and struggle to stay awake. But I digress --- Seriously, though, how does one fall asleep amidst all the action in this film?
Granted, there are a few slow sequences, and the story setup in New York in 1969 takes a tad too long. And speaking of too long --- INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY has an interminable running time. At two hours and 34 minutes, Mangold should have edited down to under two hours. Instead of tightening their scripts these days, directors and screenwriters seem to feel that all moviegoers prefer more time in the theater. I’m betting they do not.
But there is no denying that Ford has been the consummate Indiana Jones, a character which will live on way past this last endeavor. And though he was 79 years of age when INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY was filmed, he maintains that charm and charisma he’s been known for all these years. He has several noteworthy scenes; one with Antonio Banderas, who plays Renaldo, an old friend of Indy’s, and another with Allen, which closes out the movie.
Waller-Bridge and Ford share some fun moments --- their chemistry is fitting. Isidore is delightful as Helena’s boy wonder. He steals just about every scene he’s in. And Mikkelsen is simply the best villain --- thankfully never overplaying his nefarious role.
As one would expect in any Indiana Jones saga, the stunts, special effects (think GIANT bugs), production designs, photography, costumes and --- of course --- the musical score are all marvelous. If you’ve been a fan all these many years, INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY is an homage to all that has come before --- and a wonderful wrap up to the escapades of our favorite archaeologist.
Opinion: See It Now!
I suppose it would be sacrilegious to call an Indiana Jones film dull, but as Jeanne would say, “what does he know?” Maybe after a 15-year hiatus since the last picture, expectations were high, but --- to be clear --- INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY is not your father’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
It could be because James Mangold has taken the reins as director from Steven Spielberg, admittedly not an easy act to follow. On the other hand, Mangold has helmed some impressive films himself, such as LOGAN and FORD V FERRARI.
It could also be because Harrison Ford, now in his late 70’s, is no longer the swashbuckling adventurer of previous Indy films. Who can forget the Indy hero who waited a whole five seconds before he shot a villain who was threatening him with a knife?
In creating the opening sequence of Indy fighting Nazis, Industrial Light & Magic had to bridge the age gap of the younger Indy (37) vs. the current one (79). To do that they resorted to a new technique called “face replacement technology”. This allowed them to portray Indy as a 37-year-old as opposed to his current elderly status. And it works quite well as Indy gives the Nazis everything they can handle and more. Of course, when Ford doffs his shirt in another scene it is a stark reminder that Indiana Jones is no longer a spring chicken.
Some iconic parts of any Indiana Jones picture are the perils that he faces, like snakes. In INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY he and his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), are in a cave where they are accosted by Madagascar cockroaches that are approximately the size of small dogs. Waller-Bridge is a fine actress/comedienne but in this film her lines become tiresome. All that bluster about the Archimedes Dial is just plain boring.
The famed score by John Williams comes in at inappropriate times during the story as if filmmakers were wondering where to insert it. Based on what was being shown on the screen, it was not emotionally effective. And the casting of Mads Mikkelsen as the chief Nazi villain was not exactly a stroke of genius…perhaps a lesser-known actor might have been a better choice.
I haven’t read her review, but I understand my esteemed writing partner is not happy with my reaction to this movie. (What else is new?) The fact remains that she would call any film with Antonio Banderas worthwhile. Here he has a minor role as an old Indy acquaintance named Renaldo, a fisherman/diver in Greece whom Indy needs at this moment in time.
Ford has been asking for a long time if there would be one final episode for the iconic character he created in the 1980s. He is reportedly happy with the results.
Opinion: Wait for VOD