Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
- Directed by: James Mangold
- Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen
- Action/Adventure | PG-13 | 2 hr 34 min
By Reed Ripley
It’s difficult to walk out of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and not try to desperately talk yourself into liking the film. For crying out loud, it’s 2023, and septuagenarian Harrison Ford is out here traversing the globe, solving puzzles, and punching Nazis. However, that’s exactly the problem—the film doesn’t offer up anything to care about outside Ford’s Indy, and that sinks it.
The whole thing feels creaky and dated, and not just because of Ford’s age. Indiana Jones is based off pulp magazines that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas read as kids and brought to life on the big screen in their own fantastical way. Couple their vision and ingenuity with the prime of one of the most charismatic stars in film history, and you’ve got a hit franchise.
But the original Indiana Jones trilogy captured a certain vein of escapism that simply doesn’t work anymore, and its blend of cheesiness and hyperviolence just doesn’t hit the same way. Indiana Jones is in desperate need of a reset much like the James Bond franchise after the Brosnan films. I’m not saying Indiana Jones needs to get gritty and real because that runs the risk of losing the pulpy feel that’s so integral, but it needs to do something to update the character for a different audience.
To be fair, these overarching concerns about the franchise may well have more to do with the quality of the story and script than any underlying terminal issue. Again, there’s very little here to care about, and that’s not the actors’ fault. On paper, the casting is excellent—Mads Mikkelsen is an obvious but excellent choice for an Indiana Jones Nazi, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is charming and capable and provides a nice contrast to Ford’s Indy, and Toby Jones is perfect for a likable, neurotic Oxford professor.
However, the film simply doesn’t give any of them much to do, and when it does, there’s not enough buildup for it to matter. The film launches right away into a flashback chase sequence that culminates in a train crash, and from that point on, the film jumps from chase sequence to chase sequence, with lip service to character development in between. Coupled with clear CGI injections that take away from the practical effects that made the original trilogy so gripping, it creates a detachment between the film and its audience that never falls away.
Surprisingly, the film’s final stretch actually worked quite well, and it prevented the final product from being a total bore. Once Indy gets into the final stretch of puzzle-solving and adventure, the old serotonin boost clicks in, and away you go. It takes nearly two hours to get there, though, and it’s a big ask for an audience to hang around that long to see something engaging.
Frustratingly, there’s still a lane for this type of character and story to work. The likes of James Bond and Ethan Hunt aren’t laced with pure adventure and wonder like Indy, and there’s something inherently inspiring in that type of hero. Clearly, it’s just time for Ford to hang up his hat and whip and for Disney to go another direction.
Indeed, there’s a moment late in Dial of Destiny where it looks like Ford’s Indy is gone for good, and a pang of guilt shot through me for thinking that might be for the best. To be clear, seeing Ford do his thing as Indy is still wonderful. By no means is he bad in the film, and often he’s quite good. His story, along with Indy’s has simply been told—the world still needs Indiana Jones, but not this version.