Indiana Jones is an iconic film character that is beloved by generations of fans for his adventures that are timeless. Despite some mediocre projects related to the franchise that was less than stellar, the original three Indiana Jones films were the gold standard for action-adventure films. Unfortunately, the supposed “final” outing for Dr. Jones does not reach the bar set by its predecessors, thrusting the beloved character into a bad place. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is ultimately a film that feels unnecessary, and borderline harsh to the titular character that has earned his place in the pantheon of classic movie heroes. While there are some good ideas in this film, none of them are executed very well or expanded upon in ways that could uplift everything else around them.
What makes Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny such a disappointing story is how there is a foundation for something good to take shape. The concept of time travel and getting the famed professor of archeology back into his element are great starting points for a movie. But what ruins everything is how depressing the movie makes Indy as it takes him into the late 1960s, around the time of the space race and the Vietnam War. Things start off well with a beginning that has Indy fighting Nazis right at the end of World War II, where we get to see Indiana Jones do all of the things we love to see him doing on screen. Fighting off Nazis with his fists, sneaking into an enemy train to recover an artifact, and ultimately saving the day in a heroic fashion. It’s at this point when this prologue ends that the movie takes a very big nosedive into territory hardly anybody wanted to see in the franchise.
Indiana Jones at the start of this story is depressed, divorcing his beloved Miriam, and he’s forced into retirement at the university he works at. Even worse, Indy’s son Mutt is killed off after enlisting in the Army to fight in Vietnam. There’s so much heavy emotional weight thrown onto Indiana Jones in order to make the character a lot worse in comparison to previous movies. Taking out Indy’s son off-screen in an almost throwaway fashion seems mean-spirited and harsh for the character, only being done to make Indiana Jones become bitter and borderline unlikable. While it’s great to see Harrison Ford put back on the hat once again for another adventure, one can’t help but feel indifferent about his take on the character this time. There are some moments where Harrison displays a lot of great acting with some emotional scenes, but all of it feels unearned and very unnecessary for Indiana Jones to go through. The charm seems all but gone, or rather thrown away by this story.
While this is going on, Indiana Jones is reunited with his goddaughter Helena Shaw. She is the daughter of Basil Shaw, his ally during the train sequence, and a con artist that gets into a lot of trouble. As Helena goes on the run trying to sell off the Dial of Destiny for profit to shady characters, Indy is forced into pursuing the Dial of Destiny and saving Helena before a small group of Nazi remnants gets the dial for their own needs. The adventure takes them to many places around the world, where they follow the ancient clues left by Archimedes, the creator of the Dial of Destiny, culminating in a clash that takes Indiana Jones back in time.
If how bitter Indiana Jones feels on screen is one part of what makes the movie a tough watch, the other part of that is Phoebe Waller as Helena Shaw. She is not a very likable character, often doing things that really make it hard to get behind some of her better or heroic moments. She has a young sidekick that helps her out named Teddy, but both he and their relationship is very forgettable. It is definitely not as charming or interesting as the relationship that Indy and Short Round had in the second Indiana Jones film, no matter how hard the movie tries to present it as such.
Helena comes off as brash, selfish, rude, and obnoxious throughout most of the film. Towards the end of the story, she has some moments to be heroic and make the right decision, but the majority of her screen time is very hard to watch. She hardly learns anything from Indiana Jones, tries very hard to put on a tough act, and is constantly at odds with Indy but not in a good way throughout most of the movie.
Almost everyone else in the story is forgettable with the exception of Mads Mikkelson as Jürgen Voller, the Nazi official that clashes with Indiana Jones throughout the film. He is one of the better parts of the movie as the antagonist, with a great presence at the beginning prologue and a solid ending by the finale too. He’s menacing whenever he shows up, almost to a similar point that previous Indiana Jones movies had with their bad guys. But besides him, everyone else isn’t as impactful. Even Antonio Banderas as Renaldo during a few key scenes are wasted and forgettable, which is a real shame.
There are some characters from previous Indiana Jones films that appear for a quick moment, which gives a nice bit of fan service to everyone. But in the greater context of the story, they’re insignificant and glanced over just as easily as anything else. For a franchise with such a beloved legacy of stories, it’s a shame to see the movie not have as much reverence for this as much as it probably should. John Rhys-Davies as Sallah has a great short monologue that perfectly encompasses the same emotion and nostalgia that audiences wanted to see, but the movie never lives up to that.
The ending of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will be very divisive among viewers, with some liking it and others outright hating it. Part of this is due to an almost out-of-character moment by Indiana Hones towards the very end, which is ricocheted by Helena and pulls everything to the end. A lot of it also feels very rushed, especially when the idea of going back in time and witnessing history would be something a character like Indiana Jones would relish. But for as amazing as some of the action shots look during these sequences, much of it is overshadowed by what feels like a tacked-on ending as a race to the finish line. A small bit of fan service wraps up the movie, which is lighthearted and nice to see. It unfortunately isn’t enough to be a good enough payoff to everything that comes before, nor is it on the same level of conclusion that Indy’s previous adventures have given audiences over the years.
The sad truth is that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is not a great movie, nor is it a great finale to the legendary character. Going into darker territory and breaking down Indiana Jones, both the man and the character, was a decision that was made poorly. The charm of the adventure this series has feels all but depleted, resulting in a movie that is a dud when it could have been an exclamation point on a legacy. Audiences love Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, but this is not a story that showcases why they always have. The original Indiana Jones films belong in a museum, but this one does not.
What are your thoughts about Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny? What is your favorite Indiana Jones movie of all time? Let us know down below in the comment section!
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
While there are some great action sequences and moments scattered in the film, the story is not that good. Unlikable characters can be a big distraction and poor choices in the story will make some viewers disappointed. A solid beginning unfortunately doesn’t follow through to the end of the movie. Some fan service is good to see, but this is not a solid finale to the beloved Indiana Jones series.
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