‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’: The Last Hurrah For An Icon


(Courtesy of Disney Enterprises)

By Graham Jones, Assistant Arts Editor


June has been a particularly personal month of movies for me. Not only did I get a masterpiece about a multiverse of my favorite superhero, but also the fifth entry in a series that began with my favorite film of all time, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

In early childhood, my parents owned a small TV with a VHS player built into it. The tape that was by far played the most was the original 1981 Indiana Jones film. I would rewatch the video over and over, idolizing the badass, Nazi-punching archaeologist. I even dressed up as the hero for Halloween when I was six. Eventually, that tape destroyed the VHS player, but my countless rewatches didn’t stop. I’ll still throw it on whenever I’m having a bad day or I just feel like giving it a watch. Over four decades after the original, Indiana Jones’s final adventure has been released with “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

The Exciting and Dull Adventures of the Dial

“Dial of Destiny” left me in a space I don’t think any other film ever has. It’s a strange feeling when something you’ve been waiting for since you were four years old is simultaneously what you wanted but also very flawed. Despite an uncannily de-aged Harrison Ford, the opening prologue of the film had me grinning ear to ear.

A 25-minute action-packed sequence set on a stormy Berlin night was filled with all the Nazi death and “close-call” stunts I could possibly want in an Indiana Jones film. Even though the action was less well-directed than what appears in the original three films, I was still giddy with excitement. This joy continued on as we follow a worn-out, depressed Indy out of his element in a 1969 environment. The 60s set dressing is immaculately detailed, feeling refreshingly different from what is in most blockbusters today.

Harrison Ford is fantastic in his last outing as the classic adventurer. Audiences receive the lovable quick-wit and cynicism we expect from the character but also a layer of melancholy. While watching Ford easily slip back into his iconic character is wonderful, it’s not all that astonishing. What is though is watching Ford play into the emotional side of Indiana as an old man. He reflects on a past full of just as many mistakes as there are achievements. I appreciated this new layer of depth that really isn’t seen in the rest of the franchise.

Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in ‘Dial of Destiny’ (Courtesy of Disney Enterprises)

From a chase through a “Moon Day” parade in New York to a shootout at a mobster auction in Tangier, Morocco, I was feeling like a giddy little kid throughout the first half of “Dial of Destiny.” Though the sequences were a bit more absurd and silly than what I’m used to, I still had an amazing time. The backdrops of each scene were interesting and the pairing of Ford with the newcomer Phoebe Waller-Bridge as his goddaughter, Helena, created a fun dynamic.

Halfway through the film, some things begin to become a bit less interesting. Though there is a somewhat entertaining scuba diving scene, it’s the push-off point for when the film decides it needs to explain its MacGuffin in the titular dial.

From here, the set pieces become visually dark environments for our characters to do puzzles and discuss what the dial is and the history behind it. It’s not horribly tedious, and it has some fun moments. Yet, it feels like a hard brake on the pacing. All of this is done to set up a finale that is a truly wild swing for the fences.

Once I figured out what the third act was going to be, I thought to myself, “If they play this right, it can work.” While it’s definitely a thematically fitting climax and I enjoyed certain elements, it also feels unnatural and a tad goofy. I found the final moments of the film touching, if not a bit fan-service-y. All in all, it is a solid resolution to the overall theme of the Indiana Jones franchise.

At The Heart of Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones has always been a man attempting to escape into the past. From “Raiders” to “Dial of Destiny,” Indiana is constantly avoiding his present reality, choosing to risk his life to chase ancient artifacts over peacefully existing as an ordinary archaeology professor.

In this final film, Indy has to face the strange new world he lives in — a place where the music is too loud and students are more interested in the moon landing than ancient Greek history. It’s a story many can relate to today. At times we all want to flee into the simpleness of the past to escape the often scary and unknown present we have to live in. While “Dial of Destiny” doesn’t flesh out its themes as much as I want it to, it made me feel closer to the character of Indiana Jones than I had ever felt before. As hard as it feels to live in the now and enjoy the world of today, we stick around for the folks that make the present worth living in.

(Courtesy of Disney Enterprises)

Despite “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” missing a few of its marks in the second half, the film offers enough thrills and perilous action to be satisfying, with a good dose of heart to keep you feeling connected to the characters. It’s leagues better than the mediocre “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and is a reminder of how fun classic adventure tales can be. While it won’t create any new fans, lifelong lovers of the Indiana Jones character and films will return to a feeling they have not felt for a while. See you around, Indy. It’s been the adventure of a lifetime.


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