I will say right out front, I am a huge fan of the “Indiana Jones” film franchise. Sure, there are moments throughout the 5-film saga that aren’t what one would call…good…but on the whole, it usually delivers exactly what it promises. It helps to remember the entire point of these films is to be pulpy and adventurous- taking cues and beats from the numerous paperbacks of the early 1930s. With that in mind, I can say I did enjoy “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”
[Yes, I even watched “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” the night before. And yes, some of it is still as bad as you remember. But surprisingly, it actually works a lot more than I thought it did. Mutt is not the weak part of the film, but the prairie dogs sure are.]
I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, but assume you HAVE seen the trailers the film.
James Mangold directs what star Harrison Ford himself has called his last outing as Indiana Jones. For all Ford’s quotes about wanting Indy to “look his age,” I have to say, no 80-year-old has any right to look as good. Yes, there is the notable de-aged Indy scene, and yes, it IS pretty impressive. While there is still room to progress when it comes to CGI-skinjobs (mostly around the mouth), the results in this case were miles ahead of what we saw in “Rogue One.” (Also my one nitpick is the voice used for the younger Indy is Harrison’s current age voice, which is a weird choice, and doesn’t really work.)
The addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge worked. She also has writer’s credits on the film. Her energy and character are a fine match for Ford, and Helena Shaw is an interesting character (with perhaps not fully realized motivations) I kind of wish we had met before now. Mads Mikkelson as well, is an okay character in a tried and true genre narrative. His motivations, as revealed towards the end, are more interesting than I was expecting.
As far as the Macguffin- the Dial of Destiny- the film does not spend a lot of time really explaining how it does what it does. Yes, there is a scene that sort of attempts to justify the object’s importance ahead of the third act, the script doesn’t bog audiences down with a lot of extraneous information. It kind of assumes we’ll ‘get it,’ and we do when it comes down to it, I guess. Aliens? No. Other things? Yes.
One big negative is Antonio Banderas is wasted. We were all so excited when he joined the cast, and just sort of…doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the film. It was great to see him alongside Ford, but, the part could have been played by pretty much anyone to the same effect. Same with some of the other secondary characters.
Maybe too much time is spent on chases and fight scenes. The train and tuttut scenes in particular seemed to go on far longer than they should have. I would argue more time could’ve been spent in the third act than on these. Not that they’re bad- they’re not. Perhaps just a little too long.
As far as cameos- yes, there are some. And yes, they’re pretty great. No, I don’t want to spoil it.
So, on the whole, I would say “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is worth seeing in theaters. While not a perfect worthy end to the Harrison Ford saga, it does live up to the promise of a real adventure.
“Dial of Destiny” opens in theaters today.