“The Dial of Destiny” is the fifth cinematic episode in the Indiana Jones saga, but it’s the first one not directed by SS.  James Mangold steps in to direct this final(?) Indy Adventure fully aware that the only reason for this movie to exist is to attempt giving the series a more palatable conclusion.  Every year we get more and more films that try to mine old IPs with sequels that are decades late.  It’s a near impossible task.  Too modern and you alienate the original fans.  Too old and there’s no way to hook younger audiences.  Often studios are in such a hurry to crank out a “blockbuster” that little thought is given to the core characters and what made the series beloved in the first place.   “The Crystal Skull” is a perfect example of how it should not be done.  Indy has always survived his adventures with a healthy mixture of ingenuity, determination, and sheer luck.  He was tough, but not invincible.  The opening sequence of “The Crystal Skull” made him practically invincible and what followed was 2 hours of bad writing, bad CGI, and goofy scenarios.  James Mangold knows the only way to make one of these types of movies is to dissect what made the older films great, take all those elements, cram them into a single movie, while still adding a bit of a twist to subvert expectations.   This Frankenstein approach is usually quite effective, but is it enough?

The cold open does its best to give us a classic Indy experience placing Dr. Jones (Harrison Ford) and fellow archeologist Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) in Europe at the end of WWII.  Ford has been digitally de-aged for this sequence, and although it’s not perfect, it’s the best I’ve seen on screen yet.  It works great until he opens his mouth and you see younger Indy speaking with older Ford’s extra gruff voice.  It’s a minor complaint that is quickly forgotten as the action kicks up a notch and Indy pursues his friend, the spear of destiny, and our new Nazi villain Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) on a train full of soldiers and artifacts.  Also on this train is an item known as the Antikythera mechanism, the MacGuffin that will drive the rest of the narrative.

The opening sequence is so much fun that it’s almost disappointing when the film jumps forward 24 years to July 1969.  Man has just walked on the moon for the first time, people care more about futurism than the past, and Indy is a grumpy, lonely, old man living alone.  To make matters worse, he just retired from teaching.  It’s difficult to see our hero like this, but eventually, we’ll come to understand what bled the spark from his life.  The movie is on the verge of stalling when the now adult daughter of Basil Shaw, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) appears and begins questioning Indy about the Antikythera mechanism.  Like her father before her, she too seems obsessed with the device.  Hot on her heels is Dr. Voller, now a NASA Scientist, and his small crew of goons.  The movie takes its time revealing the true motivations for each character pursuing the device, it wastes no time kicking up the action.

Some have complained that Indy takes a backseat to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but he is still absolutely instrumental to the story, similar to how Sean Connery’s character was instrumental in “The Last Crusade.”  It would be more of an issue if Phoebe Waller-Bridge wasn’t incredible in the role, instead, her character is a perfect foil to Indy.  The movie isn’t perfect, and if you spend some time, you can start to see the threads that hold all the parts together, but it gives us more of what most of us want in an Indy flick.  Globetrotting, tomb raiding, mysteries, ciphers, Nazis getting punched, and a lot of heart.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny