INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY
Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Boyd Holbrook, John Rhys-Davies, Ethann Bergua-Isidore, Toby Jones, and Antonio Banderas
Director: James Mangold
I’ll answer the biggest question first: The Dial of Destiny is drastically better than The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford returns, continuing his current streak of being fully committed in his roles; Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Helena fits like a glove; and director James Mangold understood the assignment by creating a film true to the iconic franchise. The reliance on de-aging technology lets the film down a little - the technology just isn't there yet – but it’s mainly only used in an otherwise terrific prologue. Overall, though, this is how the story should end: a fun adventure that’s a fitting farewell to Dr. Henry Jones Jr (Ford).
It’s with a heavy heart that I have to say I found The Dial of Destiny dull. Don’t get me wrong, the fun adventure is there, but beyond the first 20 minutes (easily the best part), it’s lifeless, partly due to James Mangold’s direction feeling like the bare minimum. Harrison Ford isn’t phoning it in, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a welcome addition to the franchise, but Mads Mikkelsen makes for a fairly boring villain. Plus, even by Indiana Jones‘ standards, the final act is way too silly. It’s not a bad movie, but it is a disappointing one.
The Dial of Destiny is a nice return to form for the Indiana Jones franchise. James Mangold directs some dynamic action set pieces, and John Williams’ score moves the plot forward much more excitingly than the history-laden dialogue. Old Man Indy is just as angry as the real-life Harrison Ford, so the actor’s grouchy disposition works well, especially when pitted against an enigmatic Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Helena) and a menacing Mads Mikkelsen (Voller). Although 20 minutes too long, Dial will put a smile on your face as the adventure injects a freshness to the once thought-to-be-dead franchise.
While The Dial of Destiny recaptures the classic Indy vibe, that’s mostly because it plays like an homage to director James Mangold’s favorite parts of the franchise (fan service included). Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) would be right at home in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Teddy (Ethann Bergua-Isidore) is the new Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), and the “tomb diving” is very reminiscent of The Last Crusade. It’s perfectly entertaining, but since it all feels done before, it lacks that special spark. Overall, it ranks fourth in the series; leaps and bounds better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but not as good as Temple of Doom.
Although The Dial of Destiny may not measure up to Steven Spielberg’s original trilogy, director James Mangold does manage to maintain the spirit and thrilling action beats with this new and bold installment. It’s an exhilarating epic and a proper final entry to this franchise. Hats off to Harrison Ford for delivering a great last run as the iconic character, but it’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge who steals the show this time around. That said, while it’s certainly an entertaining sendoff for the beloved adventurer, the film is far from perfect, most notably having a long and sluggish runtime.
As Indiana Jones movies go, The Dial of Destiny is hardly the worst of them, but its elevated status above Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn’t go quite high enough to register it as genuinely good. Between a series of overly repetitive chases and bouts of exposition, the flat digital photography fails to capture the magic of Spielberg’s original trilogy by making things look as if they’ve slowed to a crawl amid subpar VFX. Even Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge giving it a genuine go in their performances can’t save the adventure from being little more than an average fan-service romp.