For as popular as the original Indiana Jones trilogy is it’s surprising that Hollywood has only produced two sequels in over 30 years. And one of those is The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Suffice to say, the bar has been set pretty low. Harrison Ford is back for a fifth and presumably final installment in the franchise with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and gives the character he has become synonymous with a fitting sendoff. While The Dial of Destiny doesn’t exactly capture the exact same magic that made the original trilogy so thrilling, there is enough nostalgia to delight the majority of Indy fans.
In 1969, a now old Dr. Jones is finally pushing towards retirement from teaching at university but an unexpected visit from his goddaughter Helena Shaw thrusts him into one last globe-trotting adventure. Helena is following in her father and Indy’s former partner’s footsteps and believes she has deciphered the clues leading to Archimedes’ Antikythera, an ancient device rumored to be able to alter history itself. Also on the hunt for the dial are a bunch of Nazi’s led by Jürgen Voller who want to retrieve it for their own nefarious purposes. Once again, Indy finds himself in a race to unearthing another long lost treasure that could decide the fate of the world.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny does start off on rocky footing as it opens with a 25 minute flashback featuring a de-aged Harrison Ford first discovering part of the dial on one of his previous adventures before it was lost. I’ll be honest, the de-aging technology still isn’t up to snuff yet. Young Indy looks waxy and unnaturally smooth, giving off very uncanny valley vibes throughout the sequence. What ever happened to casting someone else to play a younger version of a character? Makeup can go a long way, and I am more able to suspend my disbelieve with practical effects than be subjected to a creepy AI overlay just so the studio can say, “Hey, it’s still Harrison Ford!” Maybe one day the technology will get there, but clearly there is still a lot of work to be done.
Flashforward to the present Indiana Jones timeline and it’s a pretty straight-forward Indy adventure. Indy and Helena jump from one exotic location to another with Jürgen constantly just a few steps behind. There are car chases, shootouts, cryptic puzzles, and hidden tombs; everything the Indiana Jones franchise is known for. Much of it is entertaining, but all of it feels like it’s trying to capture the same magic of the original trilogy. Helena has a young sidekick named Teddy who acts like a substitute for Short Round. There’s an underwater sequence where snakes are replaced by eels. Some of the things the film does live up to its predecessors, but none actually surpass them. They’re fun, but I often found myself nostalgic for the good old days.
The third act is probably where Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will make it or break it for fans. There has always been a magical/supernatural element to all of the Indiana Jones films and The Dial of Destiny is no different. It doesn’t get as crazy as aliens like in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it does come close. I found the film’s handling of the dial to be more entertaining once they finally clarify what it actually does and why everyone is so obsessed with finding it. One of my biggest issues with the film is how long it takes to establish everyone’s motives. The third act is very out there, but I found it to be a very fitting end for the franchise.
Overall, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny does a decent enough job at giving Indiana Jones the retirement sendoff he deserves. It doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set by the original films, but is miles ahead of what Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did. Grab your hats and your whips, and get ready for one last exciting adventure.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and gives Indy a fitting sendoff. While The Dial of Destiny doesn’t exactly capture the exact same magic that made the original trilogy so thrilling, there is enough nostalgia to delight the majority of Indy fans.