When you’ve been the personification of action and adventure for over forty years saying goodbye can be tough, even if you’re Indiana Jones.
Luckily the fans were spared an awkward and divisive farewell last night, when Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny made its public debut. Many fans, including myself ranged from cautiously optimistic, to unapologetically nihilistic when the announcement was made for the installment of a fifth Indiana Jones film. After Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull we were done. The expectation of this once great franchise being able to redeem itself was non-existent.
Fortunately, James Mangold rose to the occasion and gave us a movie that at least ends on a good note. That being said, the film was not without its flaws. Allow me to break this movie down by giving you the good, the bad, and the ugly of Indiana Jone’s last Hurrah.
The plot devised for Dial of Destiny went back to the roots of the franchise. You found Indy once again in a race against time against the Nazi Party to prevent the fate of the world from falling into evil hands. The opening sequence is action packed and relentlessly thrilling which sucks the viewer right in. The deep fake technology used to make Harrison Ford appear younger was flawless. You felt like you were watching an outtake from one of the original three films. The train sequence was humorous, fast paced and a great way to start the film.
I thought that the presence of Phoebe Waller-Bridge would be damning to this film. I am not particularly a fan of Ms. Bridge as a writer and I went into the theater thinking that a snarky Mary Sue would be chewing up the scenery. Surprisingly enough, Ms. Waller Bridge delivers a toned down, well executed performance and compliments Indiana Jones very well instead of belittling him and making him take a back seat in his own movie.
As always, Mads Mikelson turns in a fantastic performance as a villain. Mikelson plays the vengeful Jurgen Voller. A former Nazi scientist who was brought to America through Operation Paperclip. Mikelson approaches the role with a steely ruthlessness that chills the screen whenever he appears. You really believe that there is a chance that this guy can get the upper hand and actually successfully travel back in time and change the course of history.
The chemistry between the cast was very good and the tension was felt by the audience.
At times, it felt as if there were too many characters crammed into the story to keep track of. James Mangold seems to have had trouble explaining what the purpose or motivation behind some of these characters and it makes the audience not care.
- Shaunette Rene Wilson plays an undercover intelligence agent who is seemingly a reluctant handler of Voller. Her role seems unnecessary, and when her character exits the story, there is nothing that she provided for the audience to evoke any type of feeling.
- Boyd Holbrook does a well enough performance as Voller’s right hand man. He is trigger happy, psychopathic and arguably the most brutal villain in the film. Usually in an Indy film though, there is an explanation as to why an American would side with the villain. Whether it be money, power, or duress there is always a reason behind the treachery. No such reason was provided here.
- The character of Teddy was a miss. I can see what the writers and James Mangold were trying to do with the character. Teddy was supposed to be Helena Shaw’s answer to Shortround from Temple of Doom. It doesn’t work. Teddy does not have the charisma to carry that role, and the character felt forced at times.
- Antonio Banderas had a chance to become a beloved character in the series if he had only had a little bit more screen time. Playing the role of Renaldo, an expert diver who aids Indy and Helena in their quest. We receive no back story for Renaldo, and not enough mystery to give him the allure of a Boba Fett type character. It just seems like a wasted opportunity for the role, since Banderas himself is a fantastic actor who had the potential to elevate this movie.
The running theme in the movie’s flaws is character development. I never thought that I would say this about an Indiana Jones movie, but sometimes the movie should have called for a pause in the action for the sake of character progression, and allowing the audience to understand the story. After a while it became a ninety minute chase scene that ended up making me tired just watching it.
I will start by saying that the character of Sallah is criminally underused. This is supposed to be the final farewell for Dr. Jones and Sallah desperately wanted to take part in one last adventure with his friend. Indy brushes him off and Sallah is left out of the rest of the story. I think his inclusion would have been a nice touch.
At times the VFX were a little wonky. Given how stunning the effects were at the beginning of the film, it was kind of jarring to see substandard green screen effects at some points in this movie.
Lastly, and this was a big point of contention for me, but the portrayal of Indy as a sad old man after the opening was out of place and uncalled for. The movie opened with a huge bang that told us that Indy was back and ready to kick some butt. Then we see him sadly riding the subway to his mundane job where he quietly retires. In every other movie, he was a respected professor. This movie portrayed him as a run of the mill teacher who lost the will to live. Sure, there are allusions to marital problems with Marion Ravenwood, but the couple was always volatile from the beginning. That shouldn’t have been a reason to give us a depressed lump that did nothing but bring to mind the old adage that tells us not to meet our heroes.
This was a stylistic choice by James Mangold that I contested in an earlier article and I stand by my position on that.
What This Means For The Future Of The Franchise
It is hard to say what lies ahead for the franchise as a whole. It is clear that Shia Lebouf is not going to assume the mantle of Indiana Jones as was intended after the fourth installment. At times, the movie did have the feel of a backdoor pilot to test the waters for a project involving Waller-Bridge’s character Helena Shaw. I personally am not sure how that character would be received in large doses and without Indy to play off of. However, it is clear that Lucasfilm isn’t done with the franchise, especially after the comments that were made by Kathleen Kennedy in regards to the future of the franchise.
We will have to wait and see.
My Final Takeaway
It is bittersweet to write about this movie. As of now, it is the final chapter of a franchise that has defined my childhood and been a source of escapism, fantasy, and inspiration for millions of people. This character is larger than life and so very important to everybody who allowed him to grace their screens for the last four decades. Even if this was a bad review, I would still find it hard to say goodbye. So I will say thank you to:
- George Lucas, who created this wonderful world of fantasy for us to escape to.
- Lawrence Kasdan, who gave them life on paper.
- Steven Spielberg, For bringing them to life on screen
- Kathleen Kennedy for contributing greatly to the continuation of the series
- James Mangold, who despite some missteps treated the series with respect and gave Indy a proper sendoff
- Lastly, Harrison Ford who immortalized this iconic role and not only made it his own, but somehow made fedoras cool forever.
So long, Dr. Jones
Thank You for reading! When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frankie, and my loyal hound Marbles.