Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny

In Films by Alex Moss Editor

And so the great adventurer returns. Despite being now 80 years old it seems you cannot keep Harrison Ford down. For some a fifth outing for Indiana Jones, especially after the lackluster Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, might be a quest too far but in an age where established intellectual property reigns at the box office it was always inevitable.

As World War 2 comes to an end Indiana Jones (Ford) finds himself racing Nazis led by Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) to find the Dial of Destiny, a device that can grant access to a different time. Years later his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) leads Indiana back on his ancient quest pursued by his old enemy across the globe.

The original three Indiana Jones films were Spielberg and Lucas’ way of revisiting the serials they grew up loving but executed with a David Lean epic aesthetic. Unfortunately, no matter how hard modern cinema tries to recapture that lightning in a bottle, it just cannot do it with the same tangible gravity that the 1980s could. Modern computer generated visual effects, which are used here to sometimes impressive effect, just cannot reproduce actually being on set, actually performing breathtaking stunts and actually seeing our hero in peril.

That is not to say Dial of Destiny is not fun. It is, and if you’re looking for an entertaining couple of hours in the cinema in the company of a character you’ve probably loved for many years then you won’t be disappointed. If you worship at the altar of Ford and Spielberg without the modern pitfalls of modern cinema then you might be left feeling a little flat.

When it works this is enjoyable. The globe-trotting adventure is very much present and correct. The action sequences are kinetic with a good dollop of fun without ever feeling too perilous. At times it takes itself a little too seriously which makes Waller-Bridge’s Helena a welcome comic relief. Her Fleabag levels of sarcasm bring some much needed levity to things while also offering Indiana’s ideologist a great mercenary foil.

But as always the Indiana Jones franchise lives and dies by Harrison Ford. Even when Crystal Skull was at its most ‘meh’, Ford carried it. And Dial of Destiny is no exception. Here we get an older Indiana, one looking back at his life and wishing he’d done things differently, the passing of time has taken its toll on Jones, and Ford sells this in a way that perhaps only he can, with a typically curmudgeonly grump. It’s that world weary eye-roll that Ford has made his own over the years and here it resonates with a level of emotional heft that is much needed.

Taking over directing duties from Spielberg is James Mangold and there are echoes of what he did with Hugh Jackman in Logan present here. A character out of step with the world evolving around him, but still the man the world turns to in order to get things done. He handles everything well but lacks the organic wit and charm Spielberg injected into all his early Indiana adventures. Those films took matters right up to crossing over into the realms of fantasy, and sometimes stepped just into it before pulling right back. Both Destiny and Skulls crossed that line and kept on going. As such, it makes Indiana’s cynicism feel a little misguided.

By no means the perfect farewell to this cinematic icon, but Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is still a strap yourself in adventure that entertains in a superficial way.