Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny unfortunately sidles in alongside the recent surfeit of reboots, sequels, and/or hybrids of the two. It’s a nostalgia-baiting slog showing a lack of inspiration and no understanding at what made the original tick in the first place. While James Mangold is a competent enough director that the film doesn’t exclusively dip into the nostalgia well, he can’t avoid the sense that chunks of this film were made by committee.
In a Logan-esque turn, Dial of Destiny sees an older, world-weary Indiana Jones. It’s 1969 and the world is moving into a space age. Jones is retiring from his post as a professor and seems to have little left to live for. While avoiding spoilers, Dial of Destiny seems to undo the happy ending that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gave him. Time is a recurring motif, and the opening credits feature a ticking clock sound in the background.
Alas, the film’s attempts at themes and character development are scarce and shallow. There is little attempt to actually develop any idea past a surface-level mention. The heavy lifting on the theme of aging is done by Harrison Ford, who understandably does a good job looking tired and harried. Ford always has an inherent charm, but aside from one scene in the middle of the film, there’s not much here for him to chew on.
To that end, the film is entirely too long. Clocking in at nearly three hours, the use of screentime is not efficient. The film’s structure is repetitive and predictable. There are few twists and turns. Characters go from scene to scene accomplishing exactly what they set out to do. Extended action sequences take up much of the time, but even they play out in a very rote manner and lose their energy before they end. As screenplays of late continually do, this one presents the most contrived and arbitrary situations that test credulity due to either laziness or an inability to think through a scene. The opening action sequence features another instance of a bomb exploding that rivals, in ridiculousness, the infamous nuclear fridge scene from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. One character asks another to fly a plane despite acknowledging that character has no experience flying. Another character is shot in the shoulder in a manner that looks fairly fatal, and then proceeds to get up and run around until the film is ready to use the bullet wound for dramatic effect. Along the way, characters are introduced just to be gotten rid of.
Despite the runtime, the ending manages to feel rushed. It’s a hallmark of the movie’s odd and confused editing that it forgets where its characters are and places story beats haphazardly on top of each other. Mads Mikkelsen is a waste; this great performer is handed a nothing character. Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s character has about one speed for most of the film, namely, obnoxiously pleased with herself. More characterization comes too late. There’s also a kid sidekick in the vein of Short Round, but he feels likewise pointless due to being underwritten.
The film isn’t entirely irredeemable. Dial of Destiny has nice moments here and there. A few of the action sequences work, and the ending is so schlocky that it almost works. This is probably less of a complete mess than other nostalgia reboots/sequels, but so much feels so wasted. There’s no real sense of fun or adventure. None of the action sequences feel inspired by a desire to tell a fun story. It straddles an awkward line of trying to repeat the beats of the older films while also trying to do something different. Muddled and bland is the highest complement one can pay the result. While not as numbingly awful as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it still makes you wonder why they even bothered.