The Movie Waffler New to VOD - INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY | The Movie Waffler


A knackered Indy is coaxed into one last adventure.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: James Mangold

Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, John Rhys-Davies, Antonio Banderas, Shaunette Renee Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Oliver Richters, Ethann Isidore

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny poster

Danny Glover was 39 when he first uttered his Lethal Weapon catchphrase, "I'm getting too old for this shit." 39! 39!! 39!!! That makes him practically an infant compared to the stars of the 2023 summer blockbuster season. Pushing 60, Tom Cruise is riding a motorbike off a giant Norwegian cliff. A 70-year-old Michael Keaton is sucking in his stomach to squeeze into the leather batsuit one more time. And an almost octogenarian Harrison Ford is once again donning the hat and whip of one of his two signature roles.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review

15 years ago it seemed ridiculous that a sixty-something Ford could return to the role of Indiana Jones for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, yet here he is again. While he looks ridiculously good for his age, this movie wisely leans into the fact that his best days are behind him. Before that however we get to see a sprightly Jones courtesy of de-aging techniques. A 1944-set prologue sees Indy and his latest fusty British sidekick Basil (Toby Jones) battle Nazis on a speeding train to get their hands on one half of "The Dial of Destiny," an instrument devised by Archimedes that is said to have the power to manipulate time and space. This sees them up against Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a German scientist with a strong Danish accent.

25 years later, Indy is living in a cramped New York apartment teaching history to bored students, while Voller is living it up in the city's finest hotels, having been adopted by NASA and contributing heavily to putting a man on the moon (such ironic injustice reminded me of that scene in The French Connection where Roy Scheider's cop stands in the pouring rain watching Fernando Rey's mobster eat a meal in a plush restaurant). Voller isn't happy working for the Americans however and has devised a plan to get his grubby mitts on both pieces of the Dial of Destiny. In a clever spin on an oft-ruminated question around time travel, Voller plans to kill Hitler, not as a baby but in 1939, which he considers the point at which the Fuhrer began to make decisions that would ultimately lose the war for Germany.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review

This sees Indy team up with Basil's daughter (and Indy's goddaughter), Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge - wait, as the daughter of Toby Jones? Shh, just go with it!), who now uses the archaeological skills she inherited to make a living selling relics on the black market. Such an idea disgusts Indy of course, who believes such items should be on display in museums (museums in the first world that is, not the countries they're actually plundered from). There's something cheeky about teaming Indy up with a character who is essentially Han Solo, and Waller-Bridge brings a very British brand of roguish charisma to the part. Refreshingly in this era of sexless cinema, her Helena is a horndog with a cheeky Roger Moore Bond-esque remark for every hot guy she sets her eyes on. Unfortunately she's accompanied by a Short Round-esque Moroccan kid (Ethann Isidore), who while never quite as annoying as these characters usually tend to be, just gets in the way of the fun bickering between Ford and Waller-Bridge. Elsewhere the great Antonio Banderas is wasted as a salty sea-dog, Boyd Holbrook makes zero impact as Voller's lead henchman, John Rhys-Davies dons brownface to return to the role of Sallah, and Thomas Kretschmann plays, well he plays an evil German of course.

It might seem unfair to compare James Mangold's helming of action scenes here to those that have come before him, given how this is a series that boasts some of the most well-directed set-pieces in cinema history. But they really are poor. We know Mangold can pull off an action scene (witness the finale of his 3:10 to Yuma remake), but the sequences here get lost in a sea of digital sludge and incomprehensible geography. There's nothing as bad as the jungle chase from Crystal Skull, but a weightless chase through the streets of Morocco (or a warehouse in Burbank) gives it a run for its money. For my money, the series jumped the shark in the final act of The Last Crusade. I have a metric I like to call the Ordet scale, which measures how successfully a previously grounded movie can pull off a fantastical turn in its closing act. The first two Indy movies pull it off (Raiders of the Lost Ark spectacularly so), but every entry since has gone too far. The ghost knight of Last Crusade and the aliens of Crystal Skull might as well be out of a Ken Loach movie compared to where Dial of Destiny ends up in its climax.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review

You have to ask yourself what do you look for in an Indiana Jones movie? If your answer is adrenalin-pumping action then you're not going to get much from this instalment. But if you're happy to see one of Hollywood's great leading men return to an iconic role and embrace it in a manner the grumpy Ford rarely seems to embrace anything, you'll get something out of Mangold's film. Growing up in the '80s I was always much more of a Star Wars kid than an Indy kid, but when Ford returned to the role of Han Solo for The Force Awakens it just made me roll my eyes. Seeing him inhabit the role of Indiana Jones made my eyes a little damp however. Ford never seemed all that interested in playing Han Solo again, but throughout The Dial of Destiny you get the sense that he's truly relishing getting to play Indy one last time (surely). I suspect this may be down to Mangold having the directorial sense to latch onto something within Ford that Abrams was too naive to consider. Ford was an action figure in The Force Awakens, but he's a human here. This means something to him, and even if you're not an Indiana Jones fan it's hard not to be moved by seeing an actor say goodbye to a role he has a long relationship with. That's something AI will never be able to recreate. I had similar feelings watching Michael Keaton in The Flash, and I've never even seen his Batman movies. I guess there's just something moving about the idea of young people making an old person feel relevant again (for genuinely great examples of this, see Ed Wood and Round Midnight, and hell, even Xanadu!). The Dial of Destiny probably isn't going to be a crowd-pleaser, but it seems to have made one old man happy. That's good enough for me.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews