Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

It is archeology Professor Jones’ (Harrison Ford) last day at NYC’s Hunter College and the retiree, whose wife Marion (Karen Allen) is divorcing him, is down in the dumps.   After threading his way through the crowds gathering to celebrate the Apollo 11 astronauts, he settles into a bar only to be joined by a young woman we’ve just seen in his class.  He doesn’t recognize Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), his goddaughter, because he hasn’t seen her in years, but their shared interest in Archimedes’ Antikythera will give him purpose again in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Laura's Review: B+

Fie on all the ‘too many callbacks’ naysayers!  “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is a fitting tribute to both Harrison Ford and his favorite character, a perfect ending which embraces its beginnings while delivering one expertly mounted action sequence after another yet gracefully acknowledges the age of its hero.  Cowriter (with his “Ford v Ferrari” collaborators Jez & John-Henry Butterworth and “Crystal Skull’s” David Koepp)/director James Mangold has taken the reins from Steven Spielberg without missing a beat.

A prologue establishes both the titular dial (the antikythera) and Indy’s relationship with Helena’s dad, British professor Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), while pitting Indy against his most iconic villains – Nazis.  It is near the end of the war and the two professors are dogging Nazis intent on looting as many treasures as possible.  The non-stop twenty minute sequence features Indy escaping from a Nazi hanging as an American bomb literally hangs in the balance and evasions and battles both aboard and atop a train.  Ford has been seamlessly de-aged and it is a thrilling opening.

So it’s a shock when we cut to 1969 and see an old man in his underwear slumped in a chair being woken by ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ blaring from the apartment below.  It is equally jarring when the woman who opens neighbor Larry’s (Chase Brown) door to entertain Indy’s grumbling is the spitting image of a young Karen Allen.  Fast forward to that bar later in the day and we learn that Indy, concerned over his friend’s mounting obsession with Archimedes’ dial, took it from him and promised to destroy it.  But of course he has the precious relic hidden and it is only when he shows it to his goddaughter that he learns she’s become a black market con artist who then steals it from him with intent to sell to the highest bidder.  If that’s not bad enough, the Nazi who’d shown interest in it, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), is now known as the U.S. Space Program’s Dr. Schmidt (shades of Werner von Braun), is in New York and has his henchmen after both Shaw and Jones.

There are six main set pieces, only one of which verges on mediocre.  After that rousing flashback opening, we’re treated to a chase scene through the Apollo 11 parade with Indy mounting a police horse and escaping into the NYC subway system.  He catches up with Helena in Tangiers where he stops her auction and meets her teenaged sidekick Teddy (Ethann Bergua-Isidore), who’ll not only prove useful to them both but prove she still has a heart.  (In one of the film’s most endearing callbacks, Indy ends up on the other end of his “Raiders” sword fight – and has an age appropriate reaction.)  After Indy and Helena’s dual tuk tuks are chased through the streets by both Voller and Helena’s aggrieved (and obviously scammed) ex-fiancé Rahim (Alaa Safi, "The Mauritanian"), Indy leapfrogs ahead of them, figuring out that what they seek is in Sicily.  This leads to an underwater sequence that, while featuring a welcome turn from Antonio Banderas as Indy’s pal and expert Frogman Renaldo, seems too pat, their goal achieved too quickly, eels behaving like aggressive underwater snakes.  A fateful journey into the Cave of Dionysus contains a startling revelation, proving that Shaw’s theory that Archimedes’ dial could locate fissures in time wasn’t as fanciful as Indy had believed.  The two dates repeated in Shaw’s notebooks, 8/20/1939 and 8/20/1969, suddenly become very ominous indeed.

At 79, Ford steps right back into that battered fedora with the same insouciant defiance and derring do of over forty years ago and it is a pleasure to watch his performance, albeit one aided by more stuntmen than in years past.  Waller-Bridge is a slippery foil and her adversary/ally contradiction adds spark.  In the Short Round role, Bergua-Isidore displays street smarts while his age makes him vulnerable.  Mikkelsen is cool as a cucumber until he isn’t, ably supported by Boyd Holbrook’s rash Klaber, Olivier Richters as the tank-like Hauke and Shaunette Renée Wilson as CIA Agent Mason.  John Rhys-Davies’s Sallah returns as a NYC cabbie and Thomas Kretschmann is Nazi Colonel Weber.

Mangold, who uses classic travel transitions showing planes traversing old timey maps, shepherds a classy production, John Williams’ score weaving a new theme for Helena through his classic Indy swells, production designer Adam Stockhausen (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) recreating a NYC parade on the streets of Glasgow and building caves at Pinewood Studios (the apartment he’s created for Professor Jones is just the right mix of a well lived life and forlorn separation).

Hopefully the one-two punch of a finale will not be spoiled for anyone as it goes to some very unexpected places, and does so thrillingly and poignantly.  “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” says farewell to a classic movie hero in heartfelt style.

Robin's Review: B+

Late in WWII, Dr. Jones (Harrison Ford) foils the Nazis and helps his colleague, Basil Shaw (Tobey Jones), take from them the mysterious partial dial called the Antikythera. 25 years late, he is forced to retire and joins Shaw’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to find the remaining piece in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Way back when, “Star Wars,” the very first one titled “Episode IV: A New Hope (1977),” opened and began another kind of empire. Soon after, in 1981, Steven Spielberg began his own franchise project with “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.” As I look back at these two movies, I realize that I have two very different reactions.

For me, the original “Star Wars” was a hoot, but the following sequels (and spin-offs, TV series, etc.) were a case of diminishing returns. I quickly stopped paying attention to the franchise. (I think Lucas should have stopped after “Episode IV”.)

The “Indiana Jones” series, on the other hand, were always satisfying to the kid in me. So, now in 2023, 51 years after Indy made his debut, he is back and the result still appeals to the now much older kid in me.

The story begins, as I said, in 1944 and the Nazis are losing the war. Indy’s mission is to help his pal Basil find the Antikythera and ruin the Nazi plan on world domination. The extended flashback really reminds of the original “Raiders,” so much so that I thought the scene was restored from the first film – it was not.

The story parts from the first four films in that, when we come to his new present – 1969 – he is an old codger just marking his time at the university. Then, he is forced to retire from teaching. This is when he meets Basil’s daughter, Helena, and a new adventure begins.

I came to realize that whatever the object that catches the archaeologist’s attention – the Lost Ark, the Crystal Skull, the Temple of Doom, and, now, the Dial of Destiny – it is simply a hook to further the Adventures of Indiana Jones. Which, it turns out, is not a bad thing.
This story reprises the evil Nazis, this time with the fascist Dr. Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) seeking to get back the Antikythera and fulfill his dastardly scheme. I will leave it to the viewers to find out what this particular items does – just let it be known that world domination is once again in the cards.

We get the old as well as the new here. Indy, his old friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and his wife and fellow adventurer Marion (Karen Allen) have their reunion, of sorts, and the older fans, like me, appreciate the ties to the past episodes.

Of course, there is the new, too, with Helena and her sidekick, Teddy (Ethann Isidore) joining in the mission to get the Antikythera and unleash its securers. Kind of like the ark and the crystal skull and the rest. Whatever the “object” is, it is just a device to further the adventures of Indiana Jones. I think that, and the wall to wall action, is enough

Disney opens "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" in theaters on 6/30/23.