Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Movie Review: Harrison Ford Deserves a More Fitting Send-off Than This

Movie Review: Harrison Ford does his best in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, but there is so much beyond him to be desired that it ultimately feels worthless saying farewell to Indiana Jones in this manner. James Mangold crafts a few neat action sequences, but very little goes noticed past that.

Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny movie from Steven Spielberg and James Mangold
Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones is making his supposed final adventure in movie theaters with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. This is the latest movie by James Mangold as he attempts to spin the classic franchise championed by acclaimed filmmaker (and producer for this outing) Steven Spielberg, as well as legendary leading actor Harrison Ford. This is the fifth entry in the franchise, marking its first time back since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hit with a thud back in 2008.

Now to be fair heading into this review, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Indiana Jones movies. I’ll give them credit for being significant franchises in both blockbuster adventure filmmaking back in the 80s and 90s, as well as being a true staple in Spielberg’s filmography – but I’ve always struggled comparing them to the rest of the key movies in the catalogue of one of the best directors to ever live. If we’re talking about the pantheon of Steven Spielberg movies, I’ll take Jaws, Jurassic Park, E.T., and the other classics over the Indiana Jones movies. I’ve never found the latter to be nearly as significant in my own life as the others I just listed.

But when a new Indiana Jones feature hits theaters, it’s still a big deal. Especially considering that James Mangold is now taking over and that The Dial of Destiny consumes one of the pivotal weekend blockbuster spots in June. It has to be good, right? Well, not exactly, because the movie didn’t really catch fire at the Cannes Film Festival early this year, and the anticipation has died down ever since. It’s not just that critics felt underwhelmed by what they were shown, but that it’s also well over two hours. It’s a tough ask for general audiences to sit through a movie they’re already being told may not be all that successful.

So while I did go in a bit skeptical of what could possibly have driven away so many viewers who write about these movies for a living, I feel obligated to speak my truth and say I completely understand where they’re coming from having now seen the movie. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is quite a slog. The movie works at an incredibly slow, uninteresting pace that doesn’t inspire much adventure beyond seeing Harrison Ford back on the big screen.

There’s a lengthy cold open to The Dial of Destiny, where Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and fellow American spy Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) are captured by Nazi Germany as they attempt to retrieve old relics that they eventually deem as fake. A long chase ensues as Jones and Shaw take turns saving one another from the handful of enemies that don’t contain enough characterization to even warrant naming – although I feel I should at least mention Mads Mikkelsen’s Jürgen Voller just because he serves as the movie’s big bad without being all that menacing or dynamic (which sucks because Mikkelsen generally has big bad energy in everything).

From there, the movie skips forward to the present (1969 “present”) where Indiana Jones is preparing to retire from teaching, celebrating his final days on the job with office parties and reveling in the fact that a new era of adventurers is forming with the highly publicized and successful first trip to the Moon.

That is until he meets Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the daughter of Basil Shaw and the first major reason I found The Dial of Destiny to be frequently insufferable and largely ineffective. I didn’t just feel underwhelmed by the writing for her character, I despised it. She’s given the all-knowing, self-congratulatory and cocky dialogue that feels so inhuman. She’s completely and utterly unlikeable in the first half of The Dial of Destiny, that by the second half turn where you’re supposed to begin to root for her, it doesn’t feel earned.

This isn’t really a knock on Phoebe Waller-Bridge because I’m sure she’s a great actress (for context, won plenty of Emmys for Fleabag), but it’s going to take a few solid performances in other movies to wipe the slate clean following what she signed up for in this one.

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And then The Dial of Destiny just kind of postures. There are a few neat action sequences and set pieces here and there, but nothing that really moves the needle in terms of quality. Harrison Ford makes the most out of his final entry as Indiana Jones, but he doesn’t have nearly enough runway to turn this movie into a memorable sendoff. It becomes a lousier, dryer version of movies that came out decades before it – like, why did they make this??

If anything saves The Dial of Destiny, it’s an ending that I found to be slightly more admirable and interesting than the rest. Without going into too much detail, this movie heavily involves the idea of time travel and being able to rectify the past. In real time, I thought there was no way this movie would actually go to the lengths that they do to show historical events with our characters living through them. I thought it was a heavy switch-up that woke me up from the rest of the movie prior to it.

I’m not even sure that the end of The Dial of Destiny is entirely earned, or even successful, but at least it’s more daring than nearly everything that comes before it. Especially considering this was supposed to be a return for the franchise that supposedly saw a major dip in quality with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Perhaps Steven Spielberg and James Mangold were a bit too worried that making any significant waves this time around would’ve spoiled Harrison Ford’s sendoff, yet the opposite happened as a result – shockingly bad supporting characters and a lifeless plot that doesn’t stir up anything of value.

It certainly isn’t an unwatchable movie. In fact, I think diehard fans of Indiana Jones will enjoy seeing him on screen for the first time in fifteen years, but for a blockbuster movie that took nearly $300 million dollars to make, it’s a tragedy that The Dial of Destiny wasn’t more concise and punching – and certainly better.

Rating

Genre: Action, Adventure

Where to watch Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny: VOD

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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Film Cast and Credits

Indiana Jones Dial of Destiny cast and crew including Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and James Mangold

Cast:

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Helena Shaw

Ethann Isidore as Teddy

Toby Jones as Basil Shaw

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Jürgen Voller

Antonio Banderas as Renaldo

John Rhys-Davies as Sallah

Crew:

Director: James Mangold

Writers: James MangoldDavid KoeppJez ButterworthJohn-Henry Butterworth

Original Writers: George LucasPhilip Kaufman

Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael

Editors: Michael McCuskerDirk WesterveltAndrew Buckland

Composer: John Williams

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny movie on Letterboxd

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny movie on IMDb