Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Mangold , 2023)

Nazis, time travel and whips - just a standard day in the Jones household! 

Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Mangold , 2023)

There are very few characters in cinema history who gather universal love from audiences like Indiana Jones. Just about every part of his being is iconic, from the hat to the whip to Harrison Ford's roguish charm - the people can't get enough. But with this newest outing, one can't help but be reminded of Indy's most iconic quote, "It belongs in a museum!" Coming out fifteen years after the much-derided Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and without Spielberg at the helm, there was anticipation and worry from everyone. The question of can James Mangold pull it off and has Ford still got it ran through my mind before, during and after watching the film and I can safely answer, yes... sort of. 

The film kicks off with a literally explosive opening sequence taking place in 1944 at a German castle where the Nazis are desperately scrambling to find the Lance of Longinus, an ancient artefact that will help them turn the tide of the war in their favour. However, there's one man who won't let that happen and that man is a CGI de-aged Indiana Jones who is introduced by being pulled from the back of a van and tied to a chair as a Nazi prisoner in classic Indy fashion. Admittedly, the de-ageing is strong but not flawless with Indy's face looking like a video game at a few points and Ford's ageing voice coming out of his younger face proves to be more distracting. Indy of course escapes and we soon end up on a train where he has to save his friend and Oxford Professor, Baz (Toby Jones) from the evil Nazi commander, Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann). In the background however, is Dr. Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) - a Nazi scientist who believes the key to their winning the war lies not with the Lance but with Archimedes' Dial which can supposedly find and allow one to travel through fissures in time. It's classic stuff and is suitably pulpy, even if the fact that we're witnessing a time-travel story does present its own worries after the previous film's alien intervention. 

After this, we are transported to 1969 where Indy is now a grumpy old man, alone and ready to retire. When Baz's daughter and Indy's goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) shows up looking for the Dial, Indy dons the fedora once again to find the second half of the Dial before Dr. Voller, now one of the infamous Nazi scientists who put America on the moon, can get to it first and use it to change the outcome of the war. From this point, the film gets a lot more by the numbers and lacks the heart of the original trilogy but there are still some highlights such as the return of Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) whose small speech about longing for adventure once again did have a certain nostalgic heartache to it. There's also a very brief appearance by Antonio Banderas as a boat captain that helps Indy and crew, which was a nice surprise. Of course, there's some globetrotting and some action which is to be expected. Personally, I could've used more of Ford punching Nazis as the bulk of the action is chase scenes which start to get tiresome after a while. 

Waller-Bridge is an interesting addition to the franchise as a character who is basically a young, female and less noble Indiana Jones who would rather sell artefacts on the black market than have them in a museum. As a way to "modernise" the adventure hero it left a sour taste in my mouth, especially because she doesn't really grow that much or see the error of her ways. Perhaps a better way to have her (and by extension the franchise) be more up-to-date would be to have her goal be returning artefacts to their rightful owners/countries instead of filling up the British Museum. Also, she has her own Short Round-type sidekick and it just made me wish this was a film that featured a reunion between Ford and Ke Huy Quan, now a grown-up adventurer like his mentor. 

The final act of this outing is absolute silliness in its purest form and will certainly be divisive for years to come. I'm not even sure if I liked it myself, but it definitely gives the end of Crystal Skull a run for its money! In the end, this film reminded me of Top Gun: Maverick (Kosinski, 2022), in that they're both legacy sequels that question the need for this old-fashioned type of hero in a modern world and where Top Gun says yes, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny says to stick with the originals. 

Header Image Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm


Lewis Hoyle

Lewis Hoyle Voice Reviewer

Lewis Hoyle is a part-time librarian from Burnley, Lancashire. He enjoys watching films, reading comics, listening to music and gaming.

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  • Tom Inniss

    On 5 July 2023, 12:23 Tom Inniss Voice Team commented:

    Great review, very balanced take from the visceral dislike I had of the film. It felt like the greatest hits tour, but without an understanding of why the three originals were so good. I don't think the world is better off for this film existing so I do have to wonder whether they should have bothered making it at all...

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