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‘Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny’ Debutant Already Splitting Opinion Straight Down The Middle

Despite nods to former glories, it’s time for the Indiana Jones franchise to punch out.

Indiana Jones
Image Source: Walt Disney Pictures

“Picture this, my friend: Cher belting out those famous words in ’89, the same year Indy’s last epic flick hit the screens. Talk about a blast from the past! Now, let’s wind back that clock, both literally and figuratively, because in Indy’s fifth and final adventure, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, we’re diving deep into the aging hero’s mind. Harrison Ford’s Dr. Jones is facing his mortality head-on, grappling with regrets and the weight of his life’s accomplishments.

Here’s the kicker, though: our good ol’ Indy is tempted by a mind-bending MacGuffin, cooked up by the genius Archimedes himself, that could rewrite history. Yeah, you heard me right. This contraption, split into three pieces like some twisted jigsaw puzzle, has the power to make Indy go all ‘time traveler extraordinaire.’

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Well, hold your fedora, partner. As much as that idea tickles our imagination, Indy 5—yeah, that’s what we’ll call it from now on—never fully explores its mind-boggling potential. Our grizzled hero, alongside his trusty sidekicks like the ever-lovable Sallah (John Rhys-Davies, making a quick wave at the audience) and the mysteriously popping-up goddaughter, Helena ‘Wombat’ Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), embarks on a wild goose chase to snatch the Dial of Destiny from the clutches of a surviving Nazi named Voller (a sleepwalking Mads Mikkelsen).

But let me tell you, dear reader, this adventure ain’t exactly a rollercoaster of excitement. Nah, Indy 5 turns out to be a snooze-fest, a bloated two-and-a-half-hour slog of a movie. It’s like someone trying to reignite a fire by blowing on its dying embers. The script and characters go through the same motions as before, lacking any real development. Unfortunately, the whole affair suffers from a painful lack of energy that not even the cast or director James Mangold (taking the reins from Steven Spielberg) can replicate.

We caught Indy 5 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, where they splashed it on the big screen in Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos sound. Gotta hand it to them, the sound was a shining star in this otherwise dim universe. The Atmos technology whisked us away into a fully immersive soundscape, while John Williams’ legendary score soared through the air with unprecedented clarity and scope.

And let me tell ya, the Dolby Vision image was crystal-clear, like peering through a freshly Windexed window. If only every theater could offer this kind of visual treat! But here’s the thing, my friend—much of this flick, including its never-ending 20-minute opener, relies heavily on CGI, even more so than the 2008 Crystal Skull adventure.

That opening sequence takes us back to ’44, with Indy and his Marcus Brody substitute, Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), on the hunt for the Lance of Longinus, that spear that gave Jesus a rather unfortunate poke. Naturally, the Nazis are involved, holding onto the lance along with other ill-gotten treasures. Enter Voller, the mastermind who’s stumbled upon the mighty Dial of Destiny, which is a hundred times more powerful. Indy, always in the wrong place at the wrong time, throws a wrench into the works. Cue the chaos, explosions, and a train taking a deadly plunge from a crumbling bridge—all quite the spectacle.

Now, here’s the kicker, my friend. In that controversial sequence, they de-aged Ford to make him look like his ’80s self. At first, it’s pretty damn impressive, but as the minutes tick by, the cracks start showing. And it doesn’t help that the rest of the scene feels overly glossy, like it was CGI’d into existence. That speeding train and the backdrop of the landscape? Yeah, you can practically smell the digital trickery.

Fast forward 25 years to ’69, and the counterculture is in full swing. Our beloved Indy is on the verge of retirement, a bitter and world-weary professor of archaeology at New York City’s Hunter College. Turns out his marriage to Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) hit the rocks after the events of Indy 4. It’s a real bummer, like when they offed Newt and Corporal Hicks at the start of Alien 3, undoing all the emotional growth from the previous flick—and it all happens offscreen!

But wait, there’s more! Enter Helena, rising from the shadows to claim her share of the Dial, saved by her late dad and Indy himself. She plans to sell it to the highest bidder in Tangiers. Indy, being Indy, chases after her, with Voller—now working for the U.S. government—and his goons hot on their trail. Indy convinces Helena (or so he thinks) that selling the Dial is a terrible idea, and they set off to find the remaining two pieces before Voller can get his grubby Nazi mitts on ’em.

And here’s where things get a bit wonky, my friend. Indy 5 settles into this stop-and-start rhythm, like a groggy bear waking from hibernation. We get hit with some exposition, usually dished out by Helena or some new character, and then it’s off to the races with chases and grand set pieces. But here’s the rub: everything feels perfunctory, like it’s there just because it’s an Indiana Jones movie and we’re supposed to see this stuff. Sure, we get glimpses of real locations like the desert or Sicily, but they’re offset by glaringly fake versions of New York City and those heavily digitized subway tunnel shenanigans.

Now, we’re introduced to a bunch of new faces, like Teddy Kumar (Ethann Isidore), a young lad working with Helena, meant to channel the spirit of Short Round; Klaber (Boyd Holbrook), Voller’s right-hand man, who’s got a sinister look nailed down to a T; Mason (Shaunette Renée Wilson), a CIA agent who’s set up to be important but then just fades into the background; and Renaldo, Indy’s old pal (who never got a mention in the previous four films) and a deep-sea diver. Oh, and let’s not forget that his sole purpose is to give Antonio Banderas a chance to say he was in an Indiana Jones movie. Talk about pulling a rabbit out of the hat!

Waller-Bridge does bring a bit of zest to the mix, injecting some fresh energy into the scenes. But let me tell ya, her character’s motivations flip-flop like a fish outta water, depending on what the script needs in that very moment. Still, she and Ford share some snappy banter that hits the mark. And speaking of the man himself, Ford hasn’t lost his charm or his physical presence. There are moments where he taps into a vulnerability we’ve never seen from Indy before, reminding us just how iconic this character—and the actor who plays him—truly is. But, I gotta admit, there are other times when he seems as disinterested as we were after the first act.

And now, my friend, we reach the grand finale—the third act. Brace yourself, because things take a turn for the ridiculous. It’s a wild, noisy, overstuffed affair that’s devoid of thrills, wonder, or any real joy. In fact, it’s so absurd that it manages to outdo Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in sheer ludicrousness. When one character knocks out another and the screen goes black, it almost feels like a relief. But wait, there’s a final scene that desperately wants to tug at our heartstrings, despite the fact that the previous two hours did absolutely nothing to earn it. Almost like a last-ditch effort to make us care, but by that point, we’re beyond the point of redemption.

So, my friend, by the time Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny grinds to a halt, all we’re left with are fleeting moments of nostalgia and a longing to turn back time—back to 1989, to be precise—and tell these folks to let well enough alone. It’s a crashing bore, a bloated and sluggishly paced film that fails to recapture the magic of the franchise’s past. The lackluster script and underdeveloped characters, coupled with a noticeable lack of energy, weigh the movie down. Even the technical achievements, like the outstanding sound and crisp visuals of the Dolby Theater, can’t save it from its own shortcomings.

So, my friend, if you’re looking for a grand Indy adventure or a heartfelt farewell to an iconic character, you might want to look elsewhere. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny misses the mark, leaving us yearning for the days when this franchise was at its prime.

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