Indiana Jones returns after 15 years of being absent from the big screen, taking on a new adventure to stop the Nazis from getting their hands on the mysterious Dial of Destiny. It’s not quite a return to the old glory days, with the whole film feeling a bit repetitive, but the lows of this film aren’t nearly as deep as those for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, making this a far better ending for the character.
Harrison Ford might be 80, but he proves that he still really cares for this character, mostly giving it his all in a role that accepts his age, but doesn’t
care about it. The action obviously takes a hit, with Ford relying on Waller-Bridge to some of the more involved scenes he used to do, but still gets stuck in where he can.
The de-aging technology is mostly convincing, and it never felt like the camera was needlessly avoiding Ford’s de-aged double so the effects time could have a rest. And thankfully it’s not used oppressively across the film.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Helena Shaw is a welcome addition to the Indiana Jones universe, who doesn’t overshadow Indy but is never in need of constant saving either. She’s able to hold her own,and proves her worth. The same unfortunately can’t be said for Teddy, a kid that tags along for the adventure, the requisite kid that’s both less useful than Shortround and less likeable.
Turning to the villains, director James Mangold brought back the franchise best, the Nazis. Indy is of course the premier Nazi puncher, so it makes sense they’d make a return somehow even if it is playing it safe.
But it’s done in such an inspired way, taking the real-life fact that former Nazis were recruited by the US to help beat the Soviets in the space race, and posing that some of them might want to return to the heyday of Nazi Germany.
Leading their effort is Mads Mikkelsen’s Jürgen Voller, an astrophysicist who wants to “correct” the mistakes Hitler made during the war. Mikkelsen gives Voller a deliciously evil dimension, making his character effortlessly punchable. He leads a squad of goons to get the dial, though none of them are interesting beyond the strong one, the trigger happy one and so on. They aren’t very interesting
The plot of the film struggles slightly, playing the tropes of Indiana Jones like a greatest hits list, the chase involving a vehicle change, the disgusting animal sequences and the artifact that’s actually a monkey’s paw. While it’s enjoyable to have the nostalgic feel to the film, and some fans want nothing more, these sequences never reach the heights of previous films.
One surprise about the film is that it gets more emotional than the trailers let on. While this is Indy’s last ride and so a bit of weepiness is to be expected, it’s a surprise for the heartstrings tugged as hard as they are. Indy isn’t a broken man, but some past trauma comes to haunt him, in a way that audiences might not see coming. It culminates in a cameo that’s a bit more predictable, but by no means less impactful.
For films not aimed at children, Hollywood has developed an intolerance for any film less than two hours long. This goes for the Dial Destiny, with it being about half an hour and one macguffin chase too long, risking audiences falling asleep after they realise that they have to find yet another item on the daisy chain quest for the Dial. If this film was a crisp two hours (just like every other Indiana Jones film), not only would the road to box office profitability be much shorter, but it would be that slightly easier to watch.
Another disappointment is that the music felt a bit flat and derivative. And saying that feels like blasphemy as of course the great John Williams returned to compose, thankfully though he’s confirmed that it won’t be for the last time. Instead of trying to give audiences memorable new tracks for the film, Williams over relies on old tracks and known beats, neither of which are used in places that ffeel quite right.
While this film is lacking in places, and at times is just going through the motions, trope checklist in hand, there is something to be found here. It’s not a revolutionary film, but ties up Indy’s story in a pleasant way.