Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Review: Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny – “An enjoyable time at the cinema”

A new Indiana Jones film is with us. The fifth in the series and, like many of you, I had for a long time tried to ignore the fourth one after the crushing disappointment of the Crystal Skull.

When the new film was announced I was not really sure what to think. Harrison Ford seemed to be up for it and the rumours of it having flashback scenes did intrigue me. Then other plot rumours leaked (thankfully many were untrue), along with word of another old hero being mocked by new, younger characters and that weird name of The Dial of Destiny which all added up to leaving me feeling rather nonplussed about the whole thing.

Still, it was being directed by James Mangold whose very varied back catalogue has been most enjoyable. I also love the character of Indiana Jones and that whole pulp adventure aesthetic so I knew it was inevitable that I would be seeing it on the big screen. I just wasn’t expecting much.

So off I went yesterday to the cinema. The lights went down and the film began.

To cut a long story short, I enjoyed it. The film was not the best Indiana Jones movie, but it was also not the worst. Maybe my lowered expectations helped, but it was a good time at the cinema.

Some reviews have been saying it was absolutely dreadful, the worst movie ever and other rage-filled rants and non-sequiturs that are guaranteed to bring in clicks and views. In my opinion, it was a well-made film with some gorgeous cinematography, great acting from most of the cast, some wonderful action scenes, and some fun moments. It was let down by a mediocre script, an overlong running time, some dodgy CGI and some unlikeable characters. Yet on the whole it didn’t feel as forced and had more of the spirit of Indiana Jones than the last film did and didn’t feel as forced.

Let me break it down and I will try and keep it as spoiler free as possible, but there may be one or two minor spoilers in what follows.

The film opens back in the final moments of World War II. Indiana Jones has been captured by Nazis while trying to get hold of the Spear of Destiny. He has been helped by an old friend, Basil Shaw (Toby Jones). Meanwhile, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a Nazi Astrophysicist, is trying to get his superiors to instead focus on the Antikythera, or Archimedes Dial, which he feels could change the outcome of the war.

What follows is a rip-roaring 20 minutes of classic Indiana Jones action. Things explode, Nazis get punched, Indy gets captured, he escapes, there is a car chase, fighting on the roof of a train, cracking of whips and more. It was fantastic and really worked well. The rest of the film suffered from not being as good as this opening sequence.

The de-aging of Harrison Ford looked, on the whole, excellent. It was not as distracting as some had said, and definitely nothing like the dreadful moments of Robert De Niro in The Irishman. There were a couple of moments when Indy looked slightly off, but they were very blink-and-you-miss-them moments. However, what was distracting to me was hearing older Harrison Ford’s voice coming out of young Indiana Jones’ mouth. It wasn’t a deal breaker but just worth keeping in mind.

We then move to New York City in 1969. Indiana is now separated from Marion and he is having to retire from his university position. Some reviews have said this is destroying Indiana Jones and making him a lonely old man. Well, Indiana Jones is an old man in this and he is reminded of that often throughout the film, but the break up of his marriage did happen for a dreadful reason and sets up some emotional character beats throughout the film. Harrison Ford and the script of showing rather than telling us how all of this has affected Indy. His passion for history is still there, but he realises time rests for no-one and nothing can change that.

While he mulls over a glass of whisky, he is approached by his goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who is looking for Archimedes Dial. Now I quite like Waller-Bridge, and I initially liked the character of Helena. She comes across as very intelligent with a passion and knowledge of history that brings Indy around to help her and lights a spark in him. However, the script lets her down by making her incredibly unlikable for much of the film.

It goes that modern-day route of having a younger character repeatedly patronise and mock the older hero. I am still not sure why they do this. I think it is meant to make us feel the new character is better than the older one and introduce conflict, but it just makes them seem smarmy and rather stupid and always comes across as lazy writing. I would rather they show more positive aspects of a new character and how their abilities can work alongside and complement the aging hero, as it initially seemed to be doing with Helena’s introduction. There was one moment when the character was being very callous and uncaring, but was rightfully brought back down to earth by a comment from Indy. Thankfully, Helena does show some growth, and changes over the course of the film.

Waller-Bridge makes the most of what she can with the character but even the various quips she is given are well below par. The same goes for her side-kick Teddy Kumar (Ethann Isidore). He is obviously meant to be a Short Round character (even having a similar origin encounter with Helena), but being good at picking pockets does not make a character.

If there are plans for future stories with that due, they did a lousy job of making an audience want to see that.

As I said, the script does let them down, but all the actors involved do a great job with what they have.

Harrison Ford is excellent as Indy. He knows he is old and shouldn’t be doing these things, but he pushes on through sheer force of will and knowing that things need to be done. Mads Mikkelsen makes for a great villain, which is no surprise. I do wish he had a few more scenes and that the reveal of his plan was made a little earlier. It may have raised the stakes a little more, plus the scene of his evil monologue is deliberately noisy and distracting so parts of it could be missed.

Antonio Banderas and John Rhys-Davies are very underused, but I enjoyed seeing them both.

That is the thing, despite the script being poor in places, I did enjoy the story. I could overlook the flaws and the poor character choices as Indiana Jones takes us on one last adventure.

It is all beautifully shot and you get the sense of travelling around the globe, seeking treasure that was missing from Crystal Skull. The action sequences are great with a chase through the crowded streets of New York and then another in Tangier that were very well done.

Banderas’ small role gave us a wonderful underwater sequence that put me in mind of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. There was an old school adventure quality to many moments in the film, which really brought a smile to my face. The same thing happened every time I heard John Williams’ iconic theme.

Even the ending, which some may find a step too far, worked well for me. It showed Indy’s passion for history and I liked how, though physically old, his mind is still as sharp as ever when he realizes the flaw in the evil plan. While Indiana Jones can swing on a whip and fight the bad guys, he would be nothing without his knowledge and experience. It also showed the inevitability of time and growing old.

Our final moments with Indy are in keeping with the character and feature some lovely call backs. While I feel that Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was the best ending for the audience, I feel this one worked well for the character.

I do wish the script had been tighter and it could have done with having about 20 minutes shaved off the running time.

I don’t thing this film will be as universally panned as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but I can see it being divisive. Many people will dislike it, some of whom will probably do so even if they haven’t seen it, while others will love it. If you didn’t enjoy it then that is fine with me. I am not going to try and change your mind.

For me, I had an enjoyable time at the cinema and it was great seeing Indiana Jones on one last adventure.

Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny is in cinemas now.

Previous PostNext Post


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.