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Review: Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny

After the much-criticized last outing with the beloved adventure character Indiana Jones, you may be wondering what inspired Harrison Ford and director James Mangold to craft another outing. The answer is sadly not much. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny never quite proves its existence but it also isn't without some bright moments here and there, assuming you can make out what is happening in the often muddled action sequences. Still, the power of the whip, the hat, and that John Williams score remains. So while this new outing may not be very good, it's also not very bad making it the very definition of a so-so film.

The nostalgic excitement of one last adventure with our favorite archaeologist should be enough to get butts in the theater. There is a curiosity to see if Ford and company still have it. Dial of Destiny tries to get there from its opening scene, a twenty-minute prologue that utilizes some dodgy de-aging to show us a younger Harrison Ford. Indy is on a train full of Nazis on a mission to recover an artifact with his colleague Basil Shaw (Toby Jones). Turns out the artifact they were after is a fake, the dagger used to piece Jesus on the cross. While on the train they learn that Archimedes' Antikythera, a clock-like device that may have time-traveling capabilities, is on board. Dr. Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Nazi mathematician who wants the device for himself.

All the touchstones of Indiana Jones are here, the hat, the whip, Nazis. However, the scene is so CGI-laden that it doesn't feel like what the series is known for. Mangold is now Spielberg and instead of real locations and beautifully creative staging, he cuts the film to shreds and shoots most of it on a green screen. It's a shame to lose the sense of awe and location. After the opening stage setting scene, we jump to present-day 1969 where we find Indy a sad sack yelling at his neighbors to turn the music down. Marion (Karen Allen) has filed for divorce, his son has died in the war, and no one wants to hear him teach anymore. It is a depressing way to characterize our hero and the film never really recovers from it. His sad-sack demeanor removes a lot of the wit that Indy has in the best outings of this series.

Enter Shaw's daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who is a whip-smart opportunist looking for the Antikythera for her own monetary gain. Voller is also back, in disguise, and working for NASA. The two converge on Jones and soon he running for his life down the New York streets during a parade welcoming the moon-landing astronauts home. Then it is off to Tangier and other locales in search of the other half of the Antikythera before the Nazis get it.

Along the way are some big set pieces. Sadly they aren't particularly memorable. Part of this is due to Jones being sidelined at times during them. Ford isn't a young man anymore and the limits of his physicality limit the action. Waller-Bridge takes the lead for a good chunk of the film and while her performance is good, the character is hard to root for. She's just so self-interested.

Dial of Destiny struggles to capture the sense of adventure. This again is largely due to the lackluster action and the lack of real location shooting. The clunky script sidelines Jones and removes a lot of his wit. The third act reveal is bonkers and the film comes close to the silliness of The Crystal Skull, the last Indiana Jones film. Some heroes are best left retired.



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