The Dial of Destiny (2023)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

directed by James Mangold


It’s been 15 years since Indy swung across the big screen, and that last outing left a bad taste in a lot of fans’ mouths. After Disney’s polarizing entries into the Star Wars franchise (most of which I’ve actually enjoyed), there was an understandable amount of trepidation when a fifth Indiana Jones film was announced, especially when it was revealed that mainstay director Steven Spielberg would only be serving as executive producer, and series creator George Lucas would not be involved at all. Add to that the unavoidable time period shift (Harrison Ford has aged significantly since the series’ heyday in the 1980s, as has the world around his character), and a new young companion with familial connections (a goddaughter this time instead of his estranged son), and you have a formula that could either be a rousing success or a colossal failure.

Dial of Destiny is neither, really. It won’t dethrone Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade as most fans’ favorite entry in the franchise, but it’s nowhere near as controversial as the dark and disgusting Temple of Doom or the cringe-inducing Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s a solid entry that rests comfortably in the middle — a pleasure to watch, but easy to ignore. Most importantly, however, is that it respectfully recreates the feel of the classic ’80s Indiana Jones trilogy, visually and thematically, as well as in its tone and pacing.

Dial of Destiny begins, as all other Indiana Jones films do, with a prologue, which introduces us to the major players and components of the plot. Set in 1944, six years after The Last Crusade and a quarter-century before the main story, this opening utilizes the latest in de-aging CGI to make Indy look like he’s still in his 40s. This effect almost works, with the caveat that Ford did most of the on-set capture, and middle-aged Indy inherits the actor’s late-life hunched gait and partial facial paralysis.

The rest of Dial of Destiny is set in 1969, amongst then-current social and political unrest, wherein a lonely, retirement-age Indiana Jones is reintroduced to a long-estranged goddaughter who’s seeking his help in finishing her father’s work to find the rest of an ancient artifact that, it turns out, is also being sought by another person from Indy’s past. Plenty of unexpected plot twists and exciting action sequences keep the 2½-hour-long movie from feeling too long.

Ford may show his age, but he is still convincing as the globe-trekking adventurer. Perennial villain-actor Mads Mikkelsen knew the assignment and executed it perfectly. Up-and-comer Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a perfect match of wit, snark, and physicality for Indy. Along the way, we’ll see several cameos and franchise-familiar faces. We even learn what happened to Indy and Marion’s son Henry “Mutt” Jones Ⅲ, who is absent from this entry, despite being a major character in the previous Indiana Jones film.

Altogether, Dial of Destiny sends Indiana Jones off on a suitably high note. It may not be as iconic as our heroes literally riding off into the sunset at the end of Last Crusade, but it’s a touching epilogue that washes away a lot of the bitterness left by Crystal Skull.