Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny: Around The World at 80 Years


Once Disney snapped up Lucasfilm, Indiana Jones’ return to the big screen seemed frankly inevitable. The likelihood of it being good, however, was a far more dubious notion. His last go-around, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, received a mixed response from fans. Once Spielberg abandoned the director’s chair to focus on The Fabelmans, and with star Harrison Ford approaching his eighties, things were looking even more dire for the thrill-seeking archaeologist.

Thankfully, director James Mangold is a smart choice to step into Spielberg’s shoes. With past films like Logan and Ford Vs Ferrari, Mangold proved he could handle iconic characters and deliver old-school thrills, providing a solid finale to the franchise.

Admittedly, things start off rather shakily with an opening flashback sequence set in World War 2, featuring a digitally de-aged Ford. While the effect is initially impressive, Ford’s voice sounds far too old to match, and there are times when his face looks distractingly smooth. Thankfully, once we jump to the late sixties, Mangold and the screenwriters fully embrace Ford’s age.

Having just retired from his modest university post, Indy is pulled back into adventure by his savvy goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to join her in a quest to find Archimedes’ Dial, an ancient artifact that could change the course of history.

The film’s smartest decision is to make this pretty much a two-hander between Ford and Waller-Bridge, with her youthful bravado being a perfect foil for his gruff weariness. Ford lets his natural grumpiness shine through and, despite his age, is still a very charismatic screen presence. It’s Waller-Bridge who is the real standout, bringing a spiky wit and a sparky chemistry with her legendary co-star.

Mads Mikkelsen, Hollywood’s current dial-a-baddie, is unfortunately less well-served. After all the deliciously hammy rogues that Spielberg served up, Mikkelsen’s Nazi Dr. Voller is disappointingly low-key. Just like his turn as Grindelwald in The Secret of Dumbledore, one gets the sense that Mads is getting bored of the villain thing.

What Indy 5 lacks most, however, is a real sense of fun. For all their stunts and supernatural MacGuffins, the previous installments were also hugely comedic, with a new gag waiting around every corner. Mangold lacks Spielberg’s playfulness,  and  his action sequences are nowhere near as elegantly composed. Nevertheless, he gives this a grounded, old-fashioned feel and takes the audience on a globe-trotting ride that is actually filmed in awe-inspiring locations…a refreshing thing to see in this age of greenscreen goop. 

Dial of Destiny may be the weakest of the series (For all its misgivings, Crystal Skull is still tremendous fun), but it is far from the face-melting disaster it could have been.  Indy can hang his hat up with his head held high… this is a fitting farewell to Hollywood’s greatest hero.

Sure, it falls far below the original trilogy, but Dial of Destiny still gives Indy a respectful and hugely enjoyable last hurrah.