After years of development and delays, Indiana Jones finally embarks on his supposed last adventure in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. The final entry in the series does not have Indy riding off into the sunset although it does provide a satisfying conclusion for a legendary character even if the final film leaves something to be discovered. As always, UrbanMatter reviews to contain spoilers!
The Dial of Destiny is set in 1969 as Indy has separated from his long-time love, Marion Ravenwood following the death of their son and is living alone in New York City while finishing up a long teaching career. On his final day in the classroom, he reconnects with his goddaughter, Helena Shaw, who is on the hunt for a dial created by mathematician Archimedes. He departs on one final globetrotting adventure to recover the Dial, fight Nazis and rediscover the spark of adventure that’s carried him through all of the years.
What Dial of Destiny excels at is something where Kingdom of the Crystal Skull decided to stray away from and that is going back to basics shown in the previous films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. The action is simple to follow onscreen and does not try to complicate the story with the inclusion of inter-dimensional beings but instead goes back to Nazis as the primary villain. This does make sense with the timeline of the story along with the backdrop of the Apollo 11 astronauts returning from landing on the Moon as formers Nazis were secretly recruited by NASA to build up the space program. Dial of Destiny does not seek to reinvent this franchise or put a fresh spin on the character. After over 40 years of Indy punching and whipping his way through all kinds of precarious situations, this movie very much plays it safe with the action and the story.
The opening action scene is fun complete with Nazi killing, motorcycle fisticuffs but the along with all of the other action sequences in the film, it goes on for about five minutes longer than it should. While the works of director James Mangold, Walk the Line and Ford vs Ferrari in particular, do not feel drawn out, Dial of Destiny really suffers from a long runtime and could have made better use of the three credited editors who worked on the film. Speaking of the opening prologue though, the overuse of deaging Harrison Ford is incredibly distracting and immediately noticeable. Many images from this nearly 25-minute scene were used in the marketing of the film but even in the final cut, it does not change the fact that audiences now Ford as an older man.
While Harrison Ford brings every tool in his arsenal to bear in The Dial of Destiny, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is equally as impressive as Indy’s goddaughter, Helena Shaw. Bridge brings her brilliant comedic timing and screen presence on display in this film and offers up one of Indy’s best sidekicks since Short Round in Temple of Doom. This is a film that should have been more about Helena and have Indy as the side character in her story rather than the other way around. If the filmmakers were hoping to reinvigorate the franchise and potentially set up a new direction with a new lead character, having Helena take the reins would have been the way to go.
The Dial of Destiny relies on all of the trademarks that are signature parts of the Indiana Jones franchise in that it is certainly a globetrotting adventure but it does not have the same grand scale or feeling that made Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade feel so much bigger. Much of The Dial of Destiny is centralized in one global region with scenes in Tangier, Sicily and Greece so it is not quite the sprawling adventure like Raiders that went to South America, Egypt and Crete or Last Crusade that saw Indy travel to Spain, Venice and the Middle East.
What cannot be ignored is the fact that this film is set to be Ford’s last time portraying the famed archaeologist and it is the only film in the series, with Crystal Skull not venturing into this territory at all, to embrace the fact that Ford is now in his 80’s and likely will not be playing the character ever again especially if it takes 15 years to make another one of these. The story places Indy in the middle of the action complete with punches and gunplay but it is a continuing trend for the aging Ford to portray characters who are struggling with their place in the world similar to Dr. Paul Rhoades in the Apple TV series Shrinking or Jacob Dutton in the Paramount+ series 1923. Here though, Indy plays a broken man who is struggling to view his place in history while grieving for his lost child and losing the love of his life. It is new character development that previous films in the series were not adventurous enough to take but seems well suited for a final entry in the series. While Indy initially wishes to become part of history, he is forced to return home and a heartwarming reconciliation between him and Marion unfolds and becomes the most emotion moment in the film as the two actors who started this grand adventure are the best ones to see it end.
While The Dial of Destiny does not rise above the superior films in this series, not you Crystal Skull, it does provide a fitting end for Ford’s time in the driver seat and while it is unlikely a new actor will step in to take over the role, we can all leave the theater feeling satisfied that Indy’s adventures have concluded and he is happy with the true treasure of his life.
VERDICT: 3.5 broken watches out of 5
Featured Image Credit: IMDb