Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review #2: A Childhood Hero Vanishes into the CGI Sunset

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Indiana Jones and the dial of fate it limps into the sunset like Harrison Ford’s swan song to the heroic archaeologist. The fifth and supposedly final installment in the franchise feels like a bloated greatest hits show. We get the requisite Nazi antagonist and the evil thugs of him chasing another ancient artifact with extraordinary powers. They search for a time travel device that can restore the Third Reich to supremacist glory. Classic sidekicks make an appearance, but play second fiddle to a wild goddaughter and her diminutive accomplice. There is no originality in a rote narrative with a particularly egregious flaw. Unfortunately, the de-aging technology used sparingly in other movies is front and center here.

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Indiana Jones and the dial of fate opens in 1944 Germany at the end of World War II. Indy (Ford) and British professor Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) infiltrate a castle to prevent the Nazis from looting the stolen works of art. SS Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann) barks orders while ignoring the pleas of scientist and mathematician Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen). The treasures collected for Hitler are useless trinkets. Somewhere in his pantry lies a prize that can change the course of history. They must find Antikythera. Needless to say, the Nazis are rudely interrupted.

25 years later, the United States is basking in the glory of the moon landing. Crowds gather in New York City for a parade celebrating the Apollo 11 astronauts. A gruff Indy couldn’t care less. He has classes to teach as a professor at Hunter College. An unknown student chirps answers while others stare through his lesson. Indy skips her own anniversary party thrown by doting colleagues. He prefers to drown his sorrows in a local watering hole.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Helena Shaw

Indiana Jones and the dial of fate
Walt Disney Studios

A student drops in next to him at the bar. Indy doesn’t recognize his goddaughter. She hasn’t seen Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) since the death of her beloved Basil. Her father became obsessed with finding Antikythera, which was split in two by her famous creator. Indy can’t believe Helena fell under the spell that drove her father crazy.

Meanwhile, at a nearby hotel, CIA officials watch the man secretly responsible for America’s lunar conquest. Voller has become an indispensable part of NASA’s rocket program. But he is not there to participate in the achievement of his hated adversary. Voller’s men have been following Helena. He believes that she holds the key to finding the two halves of Antikythera. Hitler lit a “fire that could have burned for thousands of years.” He will go back in time to make sure those embers don’t go out.

Related: Best New Indiana Jones Actors To Replace Harrison Ford

Ford looks vivacious at 80 years old. He thinks he’s got fuel in the tank for fedora-wearing, whip-lashing adventures with Helena, an arsonist. What is completely unreal is the CGI Indy starring in the opening act of WWII. Aging technology creates the younger Indy as he beats up Nazis in the castle and on a train. CGI Indy pushes suspension of disbelief off a cliff. He doesn’t look real interacting with the other characters. For comparison, consider the portrayal of Moff Tarkin in rogue one. Peter Cushing died in 1994, but the CGI double of him worked because he didn’t fight or have a physical confrontation. Aged CGI Indy brings the blockbuster action to a miss. It’s like watching a scene cut from the Unexplored video game series.

Mads Mikkelsen as Nazi Jürgen Voller

Doctor Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) in INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF FATE by Lucasfilm
Walt Disney Studios

Indiana Jones and the dial of fate It is the first in the franchise without Steven Spielberg at the helm and a George Lucas story. This script could have been written by an AI like ChatGPT. Devour the previous movies and create a fan service ending. Let me tread carefully because I respect and value James Mangold (Walk the line, Logan) as a filmmaker. Mangold, who is directing and co-writing, is going through the expected motions. There is not a second of surprise in a long run time. The characters chase each other back and forth like in a game of tag. The fun factor fades as the non-stop chases get boring.

Related: From Ant-Man to Captain Marvel: Why Anti-Aging Effects Can Be A Double-Edged Sword

A cast of talented supporting actors disappoints. Waller-Bridge absolutely brilliant on hit flea bag, is not a damsel in distress. Helena is arguably the toughest and most intriguing character in the entire movie. But you don’t support it. She’s kind of nasty. The same goes for the young thief partner of hers. Teddy (Ethann Isidore), his short-round hopeful, doesn’t have the same infectious personality as Ke Huy Quan from the temple of doom. Mikkelsen, another tremendous actor, is non-threatening like Voller. He needed Ronald Lacey’s snarling Nazi menace as Arnold Toht’s in search of the lost ark. There is also a huge plot hole regarding Voller that is never explained. The hero, sidekick, and Nazi just aren’t as good as previous iterations.

Indiana Jones and the dial of fate it ranks last in the franchise for another obvious reason. The older Indy reminded me of Luke Skywalker from the last jedi. The badass that many of us adored as kids has morphed into a grumpy, sad old man. That is pathetic and discouraging. Would it have been so bad to keep his incredible mojo intact? It’s okay to leave the heroes on his pedestal. They don’t have to be shot down.

Indiana Jones and the dial of fate is a Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Pictures production. It will have a theatrical release on June 30 from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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