First, there was Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981; then Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989; and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008. Did I watch any or all of them? Maybe?
I wish I could say I went into the fifth and (allegedly) final chapter of the Indy franchise with a wealth of knowledge and context. Alas, I tackle this review with the caveat that my memories are as fuzzy as the creepy-crawlies that Indy might encounter in a deep, dark cave somewhere.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is Harrison Ford’s swan song to the character he’s played for about four decades—that of legendary, globe-trotting archaeologist and college professor Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. Some things are instantly familiar: the trademark hat and whip; composer John Williams’ iconic score; valuable artifacts landing in the wrong hands and needing to be retrieved; Indy/Ford’s smirk.
And some things are new, accounting for a somewhat different tone and feel: Director James Mangold (Logan, Ford v Ferrari, Walk the Line) takes the reins from Steven Spielberg (who opted to serve as an executive producer instead); the awesome Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag TV series) shares the screen as Indy’s con artist goddaughter Helena Shaw; and there’s a lot of CGI, including the de-aging of Harrison Ford to propel the plot from 1944 to 1969. That last part is a bit weird; you can’t help but look for signs of computer-generated manipulation in the face of Ford, who is turning 81 IRL (ask a GenZer).
In terms of the plot, well, it’s complicated. And preposterous. And somewhat secondary to the experience, especially if you see the film as intended, in IMAX (PSA: you may want to bring earplugs).
Here’s the gist, which I lay out merely so those like me don’t spend the first half-hour trying to decipher the archaeological who and what: A somewhat middle-aged Indy finds himself in a heap of danger during the Allied liberation of Europe in 1944 as he and a British colleague, Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), attempt to retrieve the Lance of Longinus. Forget the lance. Soon there’s another stolen artifact in play: half of Archimedes’ Dial, a powerful device that could (in theory) create fissures in time. (Just roll with it). Fast forward 25-years: Indy is going through a personal and professional rough patch; and a lot of folks are suddenly very interested in the aforementioned dial—including Helena Shaw, the CIA (maybe?), and the evil Nazi/astrophysicist Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) who apparently played some role in the moon landing.
The violence/body count felt needlessly over the top for an Indiana Jones movie but all-in-all, it’s an okay film with a solid cast, and it moves at a steady clip (buoyed by action sequences and that Williams score) despite an overly-long running time of two-and-a-half hours.
The true value of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny lies in the nostalgia factor. It’s a chance to go on one last big treasure hunt with Harrison Ford as Indy.
(When ‘everything hurts,’ it’s probably time to call it a day.)
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny opens exclusively in theaters on June 30.