Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on June 29, 2023 in / No Comments

 

MPA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, language, action and smoking. Running time: 154 minutes. Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Lucasfilm in association with Paramount Pictures.

This review is for Rey, Tessie, Cristina, and Mireya Pasa – my parents and sisters – who had to put up with me whipping a jump rope like a bullwhip around our house and into the tree in our front yard. I love you so much.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Disney, Paramount Pictures, LucasfilmWhat an honor it is of my life to review the final film in the Indiana Jones series. From when my parents took my sisters and me to Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was four years old (and many of its theater revivals) to a rainy Saturday afternoon viewing of Temple of Doom at Springfield Mall in Virginia to buying Last Crusade on an official Hi-8 videocassette at a Tower Records in D.C. (and later on laserdisc) to seeing Kingdom of the Crystal Skull twice in 11 hours on its opening day… I’ve been a huge fan.

So when I say that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a different beast than the others, it’s coming from a place of reverence, love, and respect for the canon so arduously laid between 1981 and 2008. It’s different because it must be, as time has caught up with both our hero, Indiana Jones, and the man who has worn his hat for 42 years, Harrison Ford. Through their aging, we are finally treated to one of the most realistic portrayals of the character, surrounded by living history that some viewers will no doubt have witnessed.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Disney, Paramount Pictures, LucasfilmTrue, the villainous Nazis in Raiders were less than 40 years separated from the actual end of World War II, and 51 years separated Nevada test site activity from Crystal Skull. But there’s something more at play here in the script written by writer/director James Mangold and brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. There are inclusions of divisive American history – Operation Paperclip, the Vietnam War, the Apollo 11 landing, the CIA’s recruitment of Black people to spy on the Black Panther Party, and others – in this film’s milieu of 1969, the year my parents got married and only seven years away from my own birth year.

Using these pinpoints gives Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny a more immediate, tangible feel than the fantasy of hunting for religious artifacts or lost cities. It serves to ground us in an almost real-time adventure adorned by the usual action/treasure-hunting cinematic exaggerations. As with the electric Ford v Ferrari – also directed by Mangold and written by the Butterworth brothers (and Jason Keller) – Mangold eschews the soft focus, lens-flared frames and goes for more workmanlike substance while trying to keep a retirement-aged Indiana Jones in what could possibly be the game of his life.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Disney, Paramount Pictures, LucasfilmThanks to this more grounded approach, we’re also given the toll Indy’s paid over the years. He’s already lost his friend Marcus Brody (RIP Denholm Elliott), and he’s a far cry from his comfortable home and associate deanship at Marshall College. We find him in a noise-filled apartment in a single bed, with a petition of divorce from longtime love Marion (Karen Allen) waiting for him on his kitchen counter. He pours a generous slug of alcohol into his morning coffee before he shuffles off to his ten-year professorship at a local inner-city college, surrounded by students who couldn’t care less about learning of Archimedes and his wartime heat rays.

He knows he’s at the end of his usefulness, and he’s succumbing to it, second by second. That is, until goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) turns up, asking about the artifact Indy and her father Basil (Toby Jones) chased down near the end of WWII, the Antikythera – the titular Dial of Destiny. Proclaiming it to hold the secret to time itself, Basil went mad – we’re talking Eddie Walenski from Dark City “mad” – trying to figure out its operations. However, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), from whom Indy and Basil took the Antikythera, has come back for it, using his position as the man behind the Apollo 11 moon landing to further his exploits.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Disney, Paramount Pictures, LucasfilmThis is a more emotional turn for Indiana Jones, reckoning with what time has taken and continues to take from him. He’s out of his depth and outgunned, but that won’t stop him from doing what’s right. At times, this feels like the only thing of his no one can steal – not time, not Nazis, not impending divorces, not his wayward goddaughter, and certainly not the man who wants to use the Antikythera for his evil purposes. Throughout each reveal of everyone’s motives, the one thing that stays true is Indiana Jones; in that, we find the film’s spring, its raison d’etre.

Even at a whopping 154 minutes, Mangold’s entry into the Indiana Jones canon feels spare and film runs at a lively pace, bouncing us from location to location without grabbing too much of a handhold in any one place. Attachments aren’t formed in this film, another nod to the fleeting nature of Indy’s life; his only objective is to save the world from Voller’s machinations, and he’s not stopping at anything to achieve this goal. In place of his many love interests is his one remaining attachment to the world he knows, and even she’s not totally on the up-and-up.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Disney, Paramount Pictures, LucasfilmAlso hitting longtime fans is wave after wave of nostalgia. References to past adventures pop up at random (anyone up for bugs and slithery things?); even the way Helena relates the story of how she meets sidekick Teddy (Ethann Isidore) is almost a word-for-word recitation of how Indy met Short Round in Temple of Doom. Callbacks like this may float your boat, and certain absurdities are pointed out and made even more nonsensical, like being chased on horseback by automobiles and motorcycles. Also, in a weird Lucas/Spielberg crossover kind of way, what’s with enemy fire that never seems to find its mark? The Nazis are just as bad as the stormtroopers in George Lucas’ Star Wars mythology.

One of the film’s near-unforgivable exaggerations is the easy overuse of CGI, from motorcycle chases to whole cityscapes (particularly in the finale) to notably de-aging Harrison Ford in the opening prologue and a flashback scene. We’re definitely beyond seeing Jeff Bridges de-aged in Tron: Legacy, but we’re not quite at the point where human facial pulls and tics can be matched with computers. It’s a technology that approaches “there,” but not quite; thankfully, these scenes are dealt with quickly and dismissed for present-day Harrison Ford, whose performances at any of his ages in the film can be counted on to define a more starkly emotional hero rather than the whip-‘em-and-move-on guy of his younger years.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Disney, Paramount Pictures, LucasfilmKnocking on doors of the past is exactly what got Indiana Jones interested in archaeology in the first place, so it seems rather fitting that this film’s MacGuffin is the Antikythera, a dial said to locate fissures in time through which one could travel and perhaps change history. One of Indy’s final decisions seems very in-character, but it also betrays a certain cowardice, the only moment in which the movie falters. But it doesn’t take long until sense is knocked into him, forcing him to face his own demons and mortality. Everything before it is a celebration of the man Indiana Jones once was and the wisdom of years and loss that have made him the man he is here. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny finds a more thoughtful hero at the reins, proving once again that “It ain’t the years, honey; it’s the mileage.”

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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