Friday , June 21 2024
(L-R): Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) in Lucasfilm's INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Film Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ – A Rollicking and Fitting Series Ending

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a rollicking and fitting series ending for one of cinema’s greatest characters.

A Great Opening Sequence

The film starts off in 1944, with a de-aged Harrison Ford as Indy (this is the first time that I’ve seen Disney get the de-aging process right) once again wearing a German uniform trying to get an artifact that the Nazis have stolen. He is their prisoner, and they want to know why he’s there. If things feel familiar here, director James Mangold means for them to be. Indy gets punched by an angry German officer once again, and they are in a train carrying stolen works of art from all over the world.

The train also contains a significant item: the Antikythera, built supposedly by the great Archimedes, which one Dr. Vollmer (Mads Mikkelsen playing yet another antagonist with glee) does not necessarily want to make it to the Führer in Berlin. It’s a great opening sequence that reminds us of all the reasons Indy famously says, “I hate these guys” when referring to the Nazis in The Last Crusade

Indy in NYC

Then we flash forward to see a weary and weathered Indy living in New York City and teaching at Hunter College. It’s 1969 and students in the next-door apartment are partying early in the day as they celebrate the return of the Apollo 11 astronauts. Trading in his revolver for a baseball bat, Indy charges into the hallway and bangs on the door. This sort of sets the trajectory for the character, where he is pitted against younger and more powerful men – and women – throughout the rest of the film. 

An effervescent Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays Helena Shaw, Indy’s goddaughter and the daughter of his old friend Basil (Toby Jones) who was involved in the train incident with Indy long ago. She has come to retrieve half of the Antikythera, which Indy took from her father and promised to destroy – but she figures he wouldn’t have done that. 

The scene where she sits in on one of his lectures is in stark contrast to the ones of Indy teaching early in the series, when classes of mostly female students looked at him adoringly. In 1969 the students are popping bubblegum bubbles and falling asleep. Indy still shows a love and enthusiasm for the material that he is teaching but the students seem apathetic at best.

Helena proposes that they go to retrieve the second half of the Antikythera, which is under the Mediterranean Sea where it was lost on a Roman vessel two thousand years before. The story told is that crab divers retrieved the first half, but the second half is located in much deeper waters. While Indy and Basil differed over the power of the device, Helena seems more interested in it as Indy’s old self would have been – for fortune and glory.

A Nazi With an Evil Plan

Meanwhile, Vollmer, Indy’s old nemesis from the train incident, is in New York with a team of thugs that includes some people from the CIA. There are allusions to Vollmer helping get NASA to the moon, and that’s why the government is willing to help him find the device. His reasoning for wanting it is totally different than Indy’s and Helena’s – Vollmer wants to use the device to help him travel back in time to 1939, where he plans to kill Hitler whom he blames for Germany losing the war. He believes Germany under his leadership would win the war and rule the world.

The rest of the way is really spoiler territory; however, I can tell you that we get more of Indy and Helena going on an expedition – complete with a plane flying over red lines on maps that we know and love – in pursuit of the prize in an effort to stop Vollmer from changing history. 

Reminders of the Previous Films

There are echoes of the previous films fans will enjoy: a rickety bridge over water, tunnels and caves full of icky crawling creatures, skeletons aplenty, a grave with the skeleton of Archimedes wearing a wristwatch, and a shipwreck with eels that are akin to the snakes Indy hates so much. The path is difficult every step of the way for Indy, and he keeps letting us know that his body aches and pains are challenging him. 

Helena takes the place of the sidekick like Marion (Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Short Round (Ke Huy Quan, Temple of Doom), Henry Jones Senior (Sean Connery, The Last Crusade) and his son Mutt (Shia Le Beouf, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). There is also another kid named Teddy (a great Ethann Isidore) who flies planes like Short Round drove cars. And it is a pleasure to see Sallah (the hilarious John Rhys-Davies) back, driving an NYC yellow cab and living in an apartment with Americanized grandchildren. 

Some Extras for the Fans

It is also thrilling to hear John Williams’ amazing theme music at key moments where Indy is being Indy again, even if he is an older and slower version with the wrinkles, gray hair, and sagging skin as reminders that we have been on a 42-year thrill ride with the character. We also get the exotic locations that we have come to expect, like Tangier, Greece, and Sicily. There are bonus characters like Antonio Banderas’s Renaldo – every time he speaks in the film, an image of Puss and Boots pops into my head – and Rahim (Alaa Safi), Helena’s ex-boyfriend, who wants to love and kill her at the same time. 

The Verdict

While the opening sequence on the train and the closing sequence on a plane are the most exciting parts of the film, there is plenty to love in what comes between. I highly recommend Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny as a fitting final chapter to the tale of archaeologist, explorer, and adventurer Indiana Jones. Go get tickets, buy some popcorn, and enjoy!!

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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