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Review: "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" Says Goodbye to One of Film's Greatest Leads

"Hitler made mistakes. And with this, I will correct them all."

Professor by day, whip-wielding archeologist in his spare time. For over four decades, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has quipped and swung his way into action. Throughout five films, he's experienced his fair share of obstacles. Somehow, someway, he tends to fight Nazis, romance women, and save precious artifacts along the way. America's James Bond, so to speak.

"Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" is the iconic character's swan song. The first and only film in the franchise helmed by James Mangold and the only one directed by someone other than Steven Spielberg, it is a bookended tribute to a world-class hero who helped usher in the blockbuster with some help from Spielberg and George Lucas. Set mainly in 1969, Indy faces challenges from an old Nazi foe (Mads Mikkelsen) while reuniting with his now-adult goddaughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Mikkelsen's character is Jürgen Voller, a former Nazi who has inexplicably assisted the U.S.'s Apollo 11 space program. Voller and Indy have a shared past that includes attempts to locate a 2,000-year-old gadget that promises to alter the course of history.

The intentions of the fifth installment to the "Indiana Jones" franchise are all well and good: A formidable villain in Voller, an ancient artifact that might be used to travel through time, Helena and her father (Toby Jones) at the center of the action, and a nostalgia factor that cannot be denied. However, the film falls short of greatness, which the initial three movies in the series achieved in the 1980s. Overblown visual effects, chaotic attention to established plot points, and befuddling cameos don't greatly help the film's case. It's better than "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and much more entertaining than some other blockbusters this year, but that Spielberg magic has faded away from the franchise.

The film suffers from jumping-the-shark syndrome. The focus on Indy's retirement and age is a significant part of the story, which it should be when we are watching an 80-year-old man traveling the world and kicking ass. The issues with the movie stem primarily from the over-use of CGI, especially some scenes during World War II that de-age Ford, even though his current gravely voice is prominent in what should be a 30-something-year-old's body. The initial setup is contrived, and the present-day NASA focus is strange from a historical perspective.

The themes of "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" are also all over the place. Ancient Romans, Nazis (five movies in, and we are still fighting Nazis?), the moon landing, mercenaries, thieves, unrequited love: all in a day's work for a retired swashbuckling archaeologist. Waller-Bridge is just one of many invented characters that didn't exist nor were mentioned in any previous installments, in addition to Toby Jones as her late father and one of Indy's oldest friends. In a cameo role as another former partner of Indy's, Antonio Banderas's time onscreen is exceptionally short-lived. Throughout the film, it's hard to pinpoint if Helena is nefarious or has a heart of gold, and it becomes exhausting. Promises of onscreen reprisals of Karen Allen as Indy's longtime love interest, Marion Ravenwood, and John Rhys-Davies as Sallah are merely blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments. Many of these characters deserve better than what this film gave them.

However, there's a lot to like about this final entry to a much-appreciated franchise. For one, Harrison Ford is still as handsome and funny as ever, cheekily aware of the chaos surrounding him at all times. There are intense underwater scenes where our favorite fictional professor is confronted with fears he's never experienced before while simultaneously attempting to solve puzzles laid before him by a 2,000-year-old mathematician. Science and history are at the forefront of this epic tale, delivering a worthwhile quest for Mikkelsen and Ford to battle over for 2.5 hours of screen time.

It's not the greatest representation of Indiana Jones and everything he's worked towards during his time on Earth, but "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" is a worthwhile watch for fans of a once great franchise. Don't expect too much, and you won't be disappointed.

Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟


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