Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Year: 2023
Production Co: LucasFilm
Studio: Disney
Director: James Mangold
Producer: Kathy Kennedy/Frank Marshall
Writer: Jez Butterworth/John-Henry Butterworth/David Kopek/James Mangold
Cast: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Toby Jones, Antonio Banderas, Mads Mikkelsen, John Rhys-Davies, Karen Allen, Boyd Holbrook

After looking so old, tired and disinterested in being there during Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I couldn't imagine Harrison Ford had rustled up any more enthusiasm for this (supposedly final) instalment of the immortal franchise that cemented his stardom.

All that was left was to see if he seemed even more tired and disinterested than last time. I saw him putting more effort into promoting it during the publicity phase than I've seen him do in years, and he seems genuinely engaged on screen for at least some of the time.

By contrast (and possibly burnt after the reception to his 2008 go-around), Spielberg steered well clear, leaving it to James (Logan) Mangold to direct.

And while it's not terribly clear what there is in the script that would have benefited from the Spielberg magic, there's certainly no magic here. It doesn't even feel much like an Indiana Jones movie the whole time.

We start with another now-required de-ageing technology scene that retcons Indy's life and gives him yet another close friend from academia he's known for decades, Basil (Toby Jones). Jones is trying to retrieve a rare artifact from looted Nazi treasure in a scary castle in a rainy night in the closing days of World War II.

It turns out to be a fake, but his friend Basil has come across half of the Antikythera mechanism, the dial of the title (no, it wasn't a joke about how dial telephones are so old they're now legitimate archaeological artifacts) constructed by Archimedes himself to let the user travel through time.

Basil is in the Nazis clutches, but the pair get away with the dial in an action packed sequence with a fight on top of a speeding train, a plunge into a river far below and a lucky escape.

Fast forward a few decades and Jones is retiring from his job as a professor in his native New York in the space race/hippie era. Marion has left him after their son Mutt has died in Vietnam (a handy device to write Shia LeBeouf's character out – not that he'd ever touch this franchise again, or be invited to).

Jones is looking forward to getting crustier and crankier until his dotage, but he gets a visit from Basil's daughter/his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller Bridge), telling him she wants to find the other half of the Dial.

Helping her get it from the university archives, they're attacked by thugs working for the Nazi scientist from the train sequence in the beginning, Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a villain now working for under auspices of the CIA after the secret program that spirited the Nazis' brightest minds away to fight the Cold War.

But Helena herself double crosses Indy, turning out to be nothing more than a smuggler wanting to sell it on the black market in an underground Tangier art auction.

He follows her there, ending up in a protracted chase sequence with the bad guys (who also show up wanting the dial) in TukTuks as they bicker back and forth about the rightful place of the piece – in a museum or sold to a dodgy collector to make Helena rich.

They have little choice but to team up, and their travels take them to the wreck of a ship in the waters off Greece to find a device that will point them to the other half of the dial, the location of Archimedes' Tomb in Sicily and more.

It all comes to a head when Voller gets his hands on both halves of the dial and an incredible thing appears in the stormy sky nearby that I won't spoil, with Indy and the whole gang either captive or stowed away on board a cargo plane with the bad guys.

It feels like the story was written with Indiana Jones lore in mind, but – and I found this about The Crystal Skull too – the motifs the franchise made famous and which we all loved about it are just tired here, feeling like the writer (s) are flogging a dead horse and figuring we'll love it.

One is yet another crop of old friends Indy's had forever who owe him their lives and pop up to help him at opportune moments to help in his quest. In the original few films Sallah (who shows up here too) and Marcus (Denholm Elliott) filled those roles, but by the time Jim Broadbent showed up in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade it was feeling a bit cack handed.

Then we got Ray Winstone and John Hurt in Crystal Skull and now again with Toby Jones and Antonio Banderas as a Greek steamship captain. Just how much time did Indy have in his younger years to cultivate so many long, deep friendships?

We also loved the Indy universe sidekicks, with Sallah (John Rhys Davies) in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, even his father Henry (Sean Connery) from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade all charming parts of those respective movies.

Lebeouf as Mutt in Crystal Skull was okay, despite it being a fairly blatant attempt to pass the torch (complete with a final sequence gag involving the hat), but now we not only have another new sidekick in Helena, she has her own teenage helper in a street urchin she picked up in the Middle East. Yes, this time even the sidekick has a sidekick.

Look, it's okay fun, and he wears the hat and carries the whip during chase sequences, but this thing ran its course 15 years ago. It's truly time to hang it up, and as if the world agrees with me, Disney have shouldered a bit of a flop, audiences responding with a resounding 'meh'.

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