Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) – review

I can’t remember the last time I saw a new release on opening day (maybe Zoolander), but due to circumstances beyond our control, my partner and I were seated at 10am to see Indian Jones and Dial of Destiny, feeling a little trepidatious being the school holiday, but as it turned out, it was almost a private screening.

In this final adventure, at least for Harrison Ford anyway, Henry Jones Jr. is back fighting humanity’s go-to bad guys, for possession of a device invented by Archimedes that could potentially change the course of history if in the wrong hands.

Opening during the dying days of WWII, Indy’s skirmish with a trainload of fleeing Nazis is exciting and action-packed, which gave me my fill as a long-time fan. Ford’s de-aging wasn’t the distraction I had feared, although, it’s a little rubbery in places. Considering Disney’s propensity for exclusive content, I think this sequence would have made for a perfect “Indy Short”, for the studio’s digital platform, but that’s pure fantasy.

As for the rest of this 150-minute sequel, it really drags, which is ironic for a franchise often billed as the ultimate in adventure. However, there’s a hectic amount going on, mainly overly long and overly digitalized chase scenes that have little to no impact on the story. It’s all quite vapid. Things do, however, pick up during the film’s climax, which will no doubt divide opinions, but in a fun way it reminded me of certain Twilight Zone episodes, and it leans into the old 1930s serials of which Indiana Jones draws much of its inspiration.

Harrison Ford certainly isn’t phoning it in and is still reason enough alone to buy a ticket. His age is addressed in a meaningful way as opposed to being played for laughs in the previous instalment. Jones’ female counterpart, Helena, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, does not come across as intended. She’s quite arrogant at times and not particularly likable. Mads Mikkelsen, though, is fantastic as the government-employed Nazi, Dr. Voller, exhibiting a slightly repulsive quality much like Ronald Lacey as the Gestapo flunky, Toht, in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s the type of actor whose performances are immune to poor filmmaking, as is Toby Jones, as Indy’s colleague and one-time sidekick, Basil Shaw.

Crystal Skull left me disappointed, as it did for many, granted it had a much happier ending, whereas Dial of Destiny left me feeling deflated, which was the last thing one would expect after watching Indiana Jones. I walked out of my local theatre with the realization that I’m truly at odds with today’s style of action-adventure cinema.

(2023, director: James Mangold)




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