Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

A mediocre adventure with a satisfying (3rd?) franchise conclusion - 5.5/10

by Jad Sammour

Watched on June 30th, 2023.

Well, a new Indiana Jones film, who would’ve thought? Oh yes, it’s Disney, they still have Indiana Jones to fumble (after Star Wars). But hey, it wasn’t close to how bad the rise of skywalker is (won’t even bother capitalizing the letters), in fact it is better and a satsifying conclusion to the franchise.

Harrison Ford returns as everyone’s favorite grave robber- I mean part-time academic in a new chapter in the Indiana Jones franchise, but without Spielberg and Lucas in creative positions, instead opting for James Mangold who puts his own tastes into the film and…. Why even phrase it this way?

James Mangold had a solid idea and concept to conclude Indy’s story and although I liked what he went with thematically and how he ended things off, the film was very lackluster and running on obligation rather than an emotionally involving and well-written adventure. The opening 20 minutes are a thrilling blast from the past that feel like they’re taken from a lost Indiana Jones film. The de-aged Harrison Ford was done well, maybe the best I’ve ever seen lest for the out-of-sync lips, his aged voice (which they did not bother to de-age like they did with Mark Hamill’s in The Book of Boba Fett), and an occasional trip into the uncanny valley (his face looks animated sometimes and a bit weird… mainly in shots with fast movement). The entire scene had a Spielbergian feel and it was a fun way to kickstart the film – despite the nighttime cinematography, some editing choices, and camera movement which made it hard to follow sometimes. After the opening scene, the film drops into a mundane, dull, and un-thrilling 2 hours that drag way longer than they should, yet intriguing enough to keep you invested. Harrison Ford excellently plays an aged Indiana Jones, and Phoebe-Waller Bridge’s Helena is very forgettable, borderline annoying, inconsistent and without a personality. They are assisted with a Short Round wannabe called Teddy who’s an unnecessary addition. I expected Sallah to play a bigger role here, but I am glad we got to see him. The villain is played by everyone’s favorite Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen. His character is very forgettable but Mads does well with the material that doesn’t give him much, and it is sad they did not utilize his talent.

The film’s screenplay was not good, in my opinion. It shoves in way too many prolonged action scenes that are all chases. They have the signature burlesque-ish humor and stunts but they do not live up to the old films’, especially given the fact that the background replacement is very obvious and everything has a digital and modern look and feel which do not work with the Indiana Jones franchise. The film goes through many sloggish moments and many scenes drag on, and simultaneously gives no room to properly develop its dramatic scenes, making the film both rushed and overly long. Additionally, the plot is full of lazy conveniences and coincidences that get annoying and feel stupid. The third act may not be everyone’s favorite and I could not totally get behind it but it’s unique to say the least. The ending does try to tie in the themes and find an emotionally rewarding way to end the film, and I do get what they were going with and I do like it on text, yet the way they tied it all together felt rushed, slapped on, and not organic.

The visuals were not good, which is a very bad thing when the film has a significant budget of 295 million dollars. This makes you wonder where did the budget go since the action is not impressive or big enough - for comparison, Dune: Part One (2021) had nearly half the budget of this movie. The score by John Williams was decent… the Raiders March is still one of the greatest themes ever composed.

My dad did like the film, though. It is not bad, I would say, but it was not convincing to justify its existence and did not add anything substantial to the franchise.

But I have to say that seeing your heroes age and in their twilight years is a reality check that one day you’ll grow old, out of time, losing yourself and your skills, the people you know slowly dying… it can be slightly depressing, but hey, it’s the truth! And we did not need an Indiana Jones film to tell us this, leave it for other, more capable films. 

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