Review: Indiana Jones & The Dial of Destiny

What was the point of this exactly? In the tapestry of Indiana Jones, this one leaves you bemused.

A lost, lonely and befuddled Doctor Henry Jones hears the call to adventure once again when his goddaughter Helena reappears into his life, seeking the antikythera device, aka Archimedes’ Dial. However, dark forces from his past also search for the Dial…

Indy 5 is the first Indiana Jones movie that doesn’t directly involve original writer George Lucas or director Steven Spielberg. It is also the first of the franchise to be flying the Disney flag since LucasFilm’s purchase in 2012. Given the divisive nature of the Star Wars brand, having gone through the same transformation in recent years, this film has already come under fire from critics and fans alike. It cost around $500 million to make, with Disney expecting high returns…

It… probably won’t reach their expectations.

Director James Mangold is a good director. Logan, Le Mans ’66, 3:10 to Yuma are all excellent or at least above average movies for most audiences. He isn’t infallible, though: Knight & Day and The Wolverine were… very forgettable. But even the writing staff on Dial of Destiny are credible. So… why does it feel so… shallow?

Maybe it is the nine producer credits.

Maybe it is skill in which Ford can make money by simply living his truth.

So, where are we with this film and dear old curmudgeon Harrison Ford? We see the sharp-witted adventurer with nothing. Divorced. A lost son. A job which garners no respect. Stuck in a cramped little apartment. Things are dire for old Indy, despite how optimistic the previous film (Crystal Skull) ended.
This is only the beginning of the nitpicky issues. The film is too long, for a start. It clocks in at two hours and thirty minutes, which is on average thirty minutes longer than each of the previous instalments. It isn’t clear why it needs to be so long; action sequences go on far too long, at least. It may also be that the structure of the film is fairly repetitive, which only exacerbates the problem.
In this film, Indy is “accompanied” by Helena Shaw, his goddaughter, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge who plays an… obnoxious, lying, selfish woman who wants nothing more than to sell the priceless historic artefacts she finds to mobsters, and attempts to ditch Jones at a moment’s notice. She isn’t the antagonist, by the way. Your ultimate enjoyment of the film will be measured by your tolerance of this character and how far you dig into her apparent motivations and character arc (or lack thereof).

The writing should have been tweaked slightly, to make Helena overconfident in Indy’s abilities, in his legendary status. Then it would make sense she was so cavalier with his safety. Which would have made the ending (no spoilers) more emotionally valid. Instead, she just seems a little psychotic. Especially with some of the dialogue!
There wasn’t any real comedic scenes, or at least none that land. What is there feels forced. There’s no real chemistry between Indy and Helena either.

Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) with one of her many condescending expressions)

The actual antagonist is Dr. Voller, played by Mads Mikkelsen (because of course he is) and he is fine. If Mads failed to play a calculating evil Nazi without having fun with it, we would be truly lost here. He and his lackeys fail spectacularly, though. They wilfully kill innocents they don’t know, but when it comes to the lead characters (even before knowing who they are) suddenly they are cagey about killing people.

But, to try and claw back some worth here… The film has got some moments. Mangold does direct the stuffing out of the opening sequence. Even though it is too long, it does have some Spielbergian style and graininess to it. A sort of romanticism to the lighting and shot composition. When we finally get to some caves and tombs, the set dressing is wonderful and very evocative of the previous films. Although we do have CGI de-aged Harrison Ford… which… sort of works? Although the irony of that character saying the words: “It is a fake. A replication.” is not lost on us.

But ultimately… with villains that aren’t threatening, a companion who is extremely acidic, a finale that is… honestly more bonkers than that of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… It is hard to really recommend it. It isn’t offensive or headache inducing like The Flash or Ant-Man 3, but it really didn’t… excite or humour. Just a waste of 153 minutes.

Additional Marshmallows: John Rhys-Davies literally appears out of nowhere in this film. What the heck?

Additional, Additional Marshmallows: No matter how often you show the hat, it isn’t going to improve things.

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