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Welcome, World Travelers! Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny….Eh, Dial Back Your Expectations!

by James Coulter

Real question: Was there a reason why we needed a fifth Indiana Jones movie? The original trilogy was good enough, and The Last Crusade ended the series on a perfect high note. That’s where the Indiana Jones franchise should have ended.

Unfortunately, in 2008, Paramount wanted to milk the Indiana Jones franchise for what it was worth. So, they made Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and that movie received mixed to negative reception. (Personally, I liked the film, but I understand why other people didn’t.) And, honestly, that’s where the Indiana Jones franchise should have ended.

Now it’s 2023 and Disney has released the fifth (and, hopefully, final) Indiana Jones movie—if for no other reason than they acquired the rights to the franchise when they purchased Lucasfilm and wanted to make an Indiana Jones movie of their own. So, now the question remains: did this movie deserve to be made, or should Disney have left well enough alone?

Dial of Destiny starts with a flashback World War II. Young Indiana Jones has infiltrated Nazi Germany to rescue a colleague and retrieve a stolen ancient artifact, the Spear of Destiny. However, that artifact proves to be a fake, and Jones instead uncovers a real artifact called Archimedes’ Dial.

Flash forward to 1969. Indiana Jones is living in New York City past the prime of his life and career. He’s retiring from a dead-end teaching career at a college. He’s divorced from Marion Ravenwood, and his son from the previous movie passed away during the war. Needless to say, Indiana’s best days are far behind him.

Inevitably, one last unexpected grand adventure arises when Helen, the daughter of the colleague he rescued from Nazi Germany, comes knocking at his door. She has uncovered the secret to the other half of the Dial of Destiny; unfortunately, so has a former Nazi who seeks the artifact with a diabolical plan to change the course of history. Will Indy defeat the Nazis and save the artifact? (This is an Indiana Jones movie, so what do you think?)

Let me start by saying something positive. This movie has plenty of the good things you’d expect from an Indiana Jones movie: death-defying stunts, adrenaline-pumping chase scenes, fist-throwing fight scenes, and a globe-trotting adventure to exotic locations via map-charting montages. The good parts of this movie are the good parts you’d come to expect from any Indiana Jones movie. So what you love about those films is what you’ll most likely love about this one.

However, while I loved parts of this movie, the overall whole left me wanting. The remainder of the movie drags on with languid pacing and trite character and plot beats. The only real interesting character in this movie is Indiana Jones himself—and part of that is due to the fact that, interestingly, Harrison Ford was able to reprise his iconic role even as he’s pushing 80. The fact he agreed to do this movie at his advanced age is a miracle in and of itself.

The other characters, however, leave much to be desired. I can’t really call them proper characters. They’re simply stock characters who exist in this movie because they need to exist in an Indiana Jones movie. The female side character is a female side character. The plucky young kid sidekick is a plucky young sidekick. And the evil villain and his lackeys are an evil villain and his lackeys.

Helen has somewhat of a potential for an interesting character arc, as she faces a crisis of conscience as someone who only wants to locate ancient artifacts to sell them to the highest bidder. Does the movie do anything interesting with her character outside of that? Unfortunately, not.

The first part of the movie is by far one of the more interesting, as it’s a flashback with Harrison Ford de-aged as a younger Indiana Jones. Honestly, it’s nice to see Young Indy on the big screen again, even if he’s evidently obscured by a digital facade. Otherwise, you’d almost swear it really was Harrison Ford 30 years younger.

The plot, of course, involves time travel. Throughout the movie, I was hanging on the edge of my seat awaiting when the Dial of Destiny would be used and how its time travel gimmick would be used. No spoilers, but let’s just say the plot twist involving it really is a unique and interesting twist on the time travel plot device.

Overall, the movie has a very flashy performance, but the substance behind it feels and tastes lacking. Imagine visiting a Japanese steakhouse where an energetic grill cook goes above and beyond to wow you with the preparation of your meal—juggling and flashing knives in the air, turning up the flames an extra notch, and ending the presentation with an onion volcano that gives off a spectacular fireworks-style display—only for the food to end up bland and flavorless. It’s the very definition of style over substance.

If you’re really eager to watch one last Indiana Jones movie, by all means, feel free to watch it. The good parts are still good, even if the whole leaves much to be desired. However, I’d highly recommend either watching a matinee showing or waiting until the film is released on streaming and home media.

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