When Harrison Ford began to play his iconic role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he was 39 years old. Now he's 80 and he's revisiting the character one final time for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
So, the big question is does this movie send the franchise off on a high note? Yes and no. It's certainly better than The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it's a far cry from the original trilogy, especially Raiders.
The movie opens in 1944 with a de-aged Indy teaming up with Oxford professor Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) as they are facing off against the Nazis for the Lance of Longinus that pierced Christ. However, they end up finding half of the Dial of Archimedes, which may or may not allow time travel of some kind. This leads to a chase on top of a train and this sequence sets the movie off in a positive direction because it delivers the same amount of energy and amazing lunacy this series is known for. However, there is some questionable CGI as it relates to Ford's de-aging and one shot in particular when he's running across the train.
Cut to 1969, Jones is living alone in an apartment having been separated from Marion Ravenwood and is now retired from his professor job. Indy is pretty much miserable and has nothing left in his life except when his goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) comes back. She explains that Indy has half of the Dial and she wants him to research it so they can find the other half.
Mads Mikkelsen is Jurgen Voller, a former Nazi scientist now working for NASA. He wants to find the Dial in order to use it for personal gain. When he and his men catch up with Indy, we get another chase sequence during the middle of a parade with Indy on horseback roaming through the streets and then making his way down a subway station. This sequence is another entertaining moment.
Indy continues on the journey with Helena while encountering Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and acquiring a new sidekick in the form of Teddy (Ethann Isidore). Fans of the series will no doubt be reminded of Short Round from The Temple of Doom, but this character's presence feels borderline inconsequential, except for one crucial moment toward the climax.
The Dial of Destiny has to be praised for one aspect that so many sequels these days are entirely guilty of and that is it doesn't blast the screen with chronic nostalgia overload. Sure, the movie does have moments that have callbacks to the previous installments here or there, but it tries to be more self-contained than other franchises are and with that, I have to give the movie admiration in that regard.
Spielberg, who directed the first four Indiana Jones, steps down to executive producer and handing the reins off to James Mangold who made Walk the Line, Logan and Ford v. Ferrari. Mangold is no stranger when it comes to crafting exhilarating thrill rides with Logan and Ford v. Ferrari and he somewhat attempts the same level of epic spectacle that at least the original trilogy was able to succeed at. However, he doesn't reach the level of pure extravaganza that Spielberg concocted. He's not trying to, which is both good and bad in this $300 million conclusion.
Ford once again owns this character and delivers just the right note to send Indy out in decent fashion. I enjoyed his performance but I don't think Indy 6 is necessary in any way, shape or form. How much more can Ford offer? Waller-Bridge is effective in most scenes and she's a completely acceptable and competent substitute for Shia LaBeouf.
There's only so much inspiration that can be found in the concept of Indiana Jones and I think both Spielberg and George Lucas caught lightning in a bottle thrice. These last two outings seem more superfluous and a desperation to milk this cash cow.
Still I can't deny that the movie is good enough to warrant a recommendation. The Dial of Destiny has a story to keep it running on all cylinders, the action sequences do offer some familiar fun and the final sequences comprise an emotional wallop.
Farewell, Dr. Jones.