Harrison Ford turns back the clock in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
One of the most unfortunate aspects of the franchise culture that has consumed the movie and TV industry is that no series can ever be considered truly finished. As long as studios want to make more money – which is always – then franchises will be brought back. The Indiana Jones series, which should have ended with 1989’s The Last Crusade, was seemingly dealt a death blow with 2008’s abysmal Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
And yet, here we are 15 years later with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, with a now 80-year-old Harrison Ford donning the fedora and wielding the whip once again. Beginning with an opening sequence set at the end of World War II – gotta have those Nazis in there – featuring a de-aged Indy, the film spends the bulk of its time in 1969, a year full of hippies and celebrations of the recent moon landing by Apollo 11.
Indy is roped into another adventure by his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who has become obsessed with the work of her late father, Basil (Toby Jones), who was trying to find the fabled title object, supposedly made by ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes. A device capable of immense power, details of which will not be revealed here, it is also coveted by – you guessed it – a former Nazi named Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen).
Directed by James Mangold and written by Mangold, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and David Koepp, the film aims to give fans echoes of the original trilogy while sending Indy – and Ford – off in style. While some adjustments to the character are made to account for the actor’s advanced age, there are fewer than you might expect, with Ford right there in the middle of action (with some obvious help from a stuntman).
The story is both simple – find Archimedes’ dial – and complex, with characters old and new working with or against Indy. Voller makes for a great new villain, especially with henchmen Klaber (Boyd Holbrook) and the mountainous Hauke (Olivier Richters) there to do the grunt work. Helena, who has a certain craftiness that calls to mind previous female leads in the series, is aided by the young Teddy (Ethann Isidore), who brings a youthful energy to the film.
Opinions will differ as to the effectiveness of a de-aged Ford, which happens in the opening sequence and another scene set at a later time. While the technology is still not flawless, it holds up pretty well given the amount of time spent with the younger versions. The CGI in general is hit-and-miss, with the filmmakers not always able to hide the seams.
The story gets a bit hard to follow as it stretches into a third hour, with the globe-trotting story going to a truly unexpected place. What holds it together are the performances, especially from Ford and Waller-Bridge. Ford still has the gruff charm needed to pull off the role, while Waller-Bridge complements him well in personifying her character’s mischievousness.
While wholly unnecessary, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny does leave fans with a better taste in their mouths than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Giving Ford one last chance to play one of his most iconic characters is fantastic, and the filmmakers make sure most of the rest of the film is worthy of him, too.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny opens in theaters on June 30.