Indiana Jones, as played by Harrison Ford, is as iconic as action characters get. Dial of Destiny brings the adventures of the globe-trotting archaeologist to an end after over 40 years. While it functions more as a flawed but entertaining epilogue than an essential part of Indy’s story, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has decent action and, more importantly, emotion to spare.
Believe it or not, it was all the way back in 1981 when Indiana Jones, with his trademark fedora and whip, entered popular culture in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He was fearless, intelligent, and overconfident. He may have been a professor in the 1930s but he felt modern. In Raiders, he raced to stop the Nazis from finding the Ark of the Covenant alongside former flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). He had other adventures with other love interests but he reunited with Marion– and met their son!– in 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. They even got married. But time goes by and iconic characters get older just like everyone else.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny sends everyone’s favorite archaeologist off into the sunset in diverting fashion. Though I wish some details were better, found a lot to enjoy in Indy’s final journey. All the far-off places and the faces, both new and old, capped off an overall story I won’t soon forget.
“It’s not so much what you believe, it’s how hard you believe it.”
Now in his seventies, Indy is retiring from a university in New York. It’s 1969 and the world is different than it was in his heyday. Indy’s goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) shows up and asks him to help her find the missing half of the Antikythera device, a mysterious ancient machine created by Archimedes. This is based on a fascinating real-life artifact, by the way.
The opening of the film is an extended sequence showing a younger Indy with Helena’s father discovering half of the device amid Nazi plunder during World War 2. It was accomplished with de-aging computer effects that are quite impressive though the technology still has a bit to go to be perfect. Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) was after the device but they managed to get away with it.
Now, Voller is still after the Antikythera but he wants all of it. Helena just wants to sell the half that Indy took back from her father because her father became obsessed with it. However, the stakes become too serious for Indy and Helena to be at odds. Voller wants to join the two halves of the device together to locate a fissure in time to go back and fix Hitler’s mistakes. He is ruthless and doesn’t care who he and his men kill to make that happen.
“Not all things move forward. Sometimes they go backward.”
The full impact of the final act of this film should be experienced without spoilers, but I will say that it was an affecting way of addressing Indy’s age and mortality. I know some viewers might think it stretches believability, but it was a memorable choice for me. And there’s a very emotional layer to it. Ford and Waller-Bridge’s performances really emphasize that, which is nice because Helena is an iffy character. She’s hard to like sometimes.
The same can not be said of the familiar faces we get to see. Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) pops up for a few scenes, which is just wonderful. He’s a fabulous supporting character, played by the perfect actor. Though he’s not a character we’ve seen before, Antonio Banderas is nice to see in his brief scenes. In fact, he feels surprisingly underused.
As for Marian, the story only requires one scene with Karen Allen. Marian and Indy separated in the aftermath of losing their son in Vietnam but this adventure has an effect on Indy and therefore on him and Marian together. It may only be one scene but, by God, they make it count. There may be better Indy stories than Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny but as a finale, it has a respectful sense of nostalgia for what came before.
4 stars out of 5
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is in theaters now.