Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Film Review

Dial of Destiny
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm's INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

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It all started with a sense of dread and hesitation. George Lucas fled to the tropical sands of Hawaii with his long-time friend and fellow visionary, Steven Spielberg, to wait out the box office failure that never was. Fully expecting his daring space opera to flop, Lucas was in desperate need of a distraction, and in so doing, set the stage for destiny itself to take hold, crafting the very moments that would alter the course of cinema forever. Alongside his friend, he would embark on an epic quest that would unfold over the course of 4 decades, creating one of the most beloved characters and franchises of all time. Now, 42 years later, the thrilling tale is about to come to a close with the fifth installment of the series, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Returning to the very roots of what makes this franchise so special, the new film is the adventure of a lifetime! Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny delivers on a promise made long ago that adventure has but one name, Indiana Jones! Filled with action, excitement, and heart, it’s a perfect way to honor the legacy Harrison Ford started all those years ago and remind fans of all ages why this franchise has such a deep connection with us all.

Dial of Destiny hits all the marks, bringing every single element of the classic adventure story front and center. Just like every Indiana Jones film that has come before, fans will get all the action and thrills they crave right out of the gate.

The mileage is also dialed back, pun intended, to put us right back into the thrilling roller coaster of Indy’s peak, getting our money’s worth of hard-hit punches treacherous traps, crazy chase scenes, and death-defying stunts that end in epic explosions and anticipation for what comes next. It’s all laced brilliantly with little nods to John Williams’ entire library of scores for the Indiana Jones saga, not skipping a single beat.

Dial of Destiny preview
(L-R): Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

When looking back at all four films, and yes, that includes Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for those less enthused fanboys in the back, the rhythm of narrative parallels you see in each adventure is sustained and preserved with loving care without relying too heavily on callbacks and fan service, instead fitting right in the matinee serial plot points that help craft the perfect adventure story.

James Mangold masterfully takes his queues from Spielberg and Lucas, not wasting any time with his first act and keeping the energy going as it shifts forward and beyond into the unknown territory of Indy’s most challenging adversary yet, disillusionment.

Entering the second act of the film, we are tossed into a world where Indy struggles to find relevance and one that is strikingly similar to our real-world connections to the franchise. Long gone are the days of the imminent archaeologist and rock star professor. No longer are students piling into the classroom wishing to learn about the wonders and awe of mythology and folklore.

The days of his adventurous exploits are long gone with Jones slowly fading away from the limelight, leaving the opportunity for Harrison Ford to unlock a completely undiscovered vein of Indy’s character.

This is where the real magic of this film shines through, unlocking a powerhouse performance by Ford, filled with pure joy, heartfelt moments, and raw emotion that rejuvenates our love for Indy and in no way diminishes the legend we’ve all built up over the years. In every way, Dial of Destiny pays its respects to the various mediums we have previously explored, while also giving Ford a chance to say goodbye in the most genuine way imaginable.

You can see this in every frame, as Ford really enjoys himself throughout the film, and that joy is infectious, giving fans all the more reason to root for Indy in this film. There is plenty left to say, with no hiding around the fact that Ford is no longer the daring world trekker we met in 1981. The mileage is embraced, and the years are that much more appreciated.

Dial of Destiny
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Indy isn’t alone on this outing, as a whole new generation of heroes and villains join the ranks of some of Indiana Jones’ most notable favorites such as the loyal and ever-so-charming, Sallah. This is no spoiler, as we see John Rhys-Davies in the credits of the film’s trailer, but there may be some other notable returns you will want to keep an eye out for!

Though I won’t ruin the surprises, I can safely say that every return serves its purpose, and cameos for the sake of cameos are not the driving force of this film. In a world where callbacks and reunions are all the rage, Dial of Destiny really keeps the narrative on the right track, veering into a more balanced blend of nostalgia takes and subtle winks.

It also gives plenty of room for our newest characters to share in the spotlight and flush out the world of Indiana Jones, with fans reaping the rewards.

Dial of Destiny
(L-R): Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge leads the way for the next generation and has an absolutely stellar performance as Indy’s goddaughter, Helena, bringing in the charm, the swagger, and the fierce tenacity that Karen Allen would be proud of. Her chemistry with Ford is endearing and genuine, really pulling on the heartstrings and making a real impact all the way to the very end.

She is joined by a phenomenal villain in Mads Mikkelsen as the calculating Nazi scientist, Dr. Voller, who really hearkens back to the classic Indy archetype: brilliant, misguided, and dangerous. Mikkelsen never ceases to amaze, always bringing forward iconic villain after villain. Voller is no exception to the rule. Our only wish is that he had more screen time, as it would have been an absolute treat to explore more of his character.

The rest of the supporting cast includes Ethann Isidore as the young and mischievous Teddy, Olivier Richters as the brutal Hauke, Shaunette Renée Wilson as the quick-thinking agent, Mason, as well as the legendary Antonio Banderas as Indy’s old companion, Renaldo. This ensemble is a treasure all its own, each giving their all in performances worthy of praise.

It all comes together in a beautiful finale that serves as a touching tribute to the fans, one that will draw tears as the credits roll. Growing up with these incredible films, nothing meant more than getting that opportunity to enjoy one last journey into the unknown mystery and getting another reminder of the real rewards that await us along the journey: the connections we make with the people that surround us! Though, that sentiment may not be shared by all.

In the modern world of the blockbuster, critics and moviegoers alike are hard to please. Long gone are golden days of ILM’s humble beginnings. The same awe and excitement that came from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, and Jurassic Park have washed away into a sense of skepticism, leaving a longing for nostalgia while at the same time harshly pushing back against it, wanting something fresh and new, while at the same time rejecting anything that doesn’t meld with our established expectations. The creative musings that have given us so many gifts become lost in the mass of unwavering challenges to find the purest of movie-going elements: fun.

This is where Dial of Destiny really takes the day; it makes movies fun again, defying expectations and giving Harrison Ford a chance to enjoy his time on screen, bringing forward a new generation of characters, ideas, and concepts that fit right in with the dog eared pages of our favorite “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, classic video games, and comics that have been the love letters to Indy and his adventures since the very beginning.

The six-year-old in me is beaming with a sense of pride, and I am sure I won’t be the only one. Thanks for the adventure, it’s been a wild ride!

Dial of Destiny
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm’s INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.