A Review Of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (with spoilers)

Before going to see Dial of Destiny I had no preconceived ideas of what to expect. I didn’t get a chance to go and see it straight away so it was a month after it came out. I had read no reviews and I was one of the few people who enjoyed Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the last Indiana Jones’ adventure. To be completely honest the Crystal Skull had made me get more into Indiana Jones, I hadn’t been a massive fan but I enjoyed it so much I got all the other films on DVD and bought and watched all the Young Indiana Jones, which were released in 2008.

The morning after seeing Crystal Skull at the cinema I happened to see the sticker album for it in a newsagents’, and this was the only sticker album I have ever completed. Since this I have bought comics and many other Indiana Jones related books and items. For me Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a really good, fun Indiana Jones film.

All I knew about the new film is that it had a 25 minute opening sequence involving a de-aging of Harrison Ford by 40 years and it was something to do with time travel, set in 1969 during the moon landings. I didn’t want to read reviews that were going to influence me. I was excited to see it, this would be the second Indiana Jones film I would see at the cinema. It’s taken me a few weeks to write a review though, I actually had no intention of writing a review of it but after a few days I thought more and more about this film, how it made me feel. During it I enjoyed it but there is something sort of missing and I will try and explain what it is, and after a week I realised what it was and the feeling I was feeling.


The first disappointment is the start of the movie. The Paramount logo doesn’t dissolve into a mountain or something to bring you into the film. Instead it’s the Lucas film logo that loosely changes into a lock. You get a feeling straight away this is the downmarket version of Indiana Jones.

The film starts with the de-aging of Indy set in the 1940s during World War II. This is a 25 minute sequence, it was originally conceived by Spielberg as a 12 minute opener. Does 25 minutes add anything to it? Probably not. It is good to see a young Indy in what will be his final adventure from the 1940s. 

The de-aging is good, but at times it does look like a computer effect. I thought the de-aging in Captain Marvel was better and I completely forgot that Samuel L Jackson had been de-aged. In these opening scenes at times I could tell it was computer graphics, and Harrison Ford’s voice at times does sound old. But that doesn’t put you off this exciting start to the film, it fills you with a nostalgia for the previous films, and this is a problem I will come back to later.  

Toby Jones is great as Basil in this opening segment but doesn’t have much to do. Mad Milkelson is de-aged in the opening scene and this was better than the de-aging of Harrison. But all in all, the opening scenes are great and sets a very good tone for the rest of the film in more ways than one, in that it is a bit uneven.

The film then cuts to Indy in New York in 1969, living in a tiny apartment, Indy is asleep in a chair and is woken by The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour suddenly blasting out. He grabs a baseball bat and knocks on the next-door neighbours’ door and tells them to turn it down. This is interesting showing the 60s’ beatnik culture and the tune in, drop out mentality and Indy as a man out of time. Indy goes back to his apartment to have his breakfast and pours whisky on his cornflakes; he doesn’t really pour it on the cornflakes but in my mind he might as well have done. Because this isn’t Indy, this is the shadow of Indy. We then see a divorce paper for him and Marion that needs signing. I read after watching the film that Harrison Ford wanted Indy at rock bottom at the start of the film so they can build him back up.


In my opinion this is totally unnecessary. I don’t need to feel sorry for Indiana Jones because he is drinking whisky for breakfast, getting divorced, and mourning the death of his only child. Indiana Jones is not Popeye Doyle – he isn’t a character that is an antihero, he isn’t an alcoholic, he isn’t one to wallow in self-pity. Even though this movie is set on the cusp of this similar time frame, the end of the 60s and into the early 70s as The French Connection and other movies that involved more nuanced and darker/grittier characters of the era, the Indiana Jones movies and the character are at odds with these things.  His character is a more straightforward hero. He is often reactionary and goes from one adventure to another with very little reflection on what has happened before. He is a hopeful character that always wins against adversity. If this is what they were emulating, then they have failed.

The film next moves on to Indy taking an archelogy class, the contrast of this scene to similar ones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Last Crusade is palpable. Lots of uninterested people taking the college course, not one of them is interested in what he’s got to say.  I wondered if this would happen, and I don’t think it would. There are always people interested in history or why take the course? However, this is to hit home, that there is no place for Indy in this world now. The lecture finishes and Indy goes into the staffroom, and we find out it is his last day at Hunter College and he is retiring. He has been working at this college for 10 years. 

Now before I get into the action you have to have an invested interest in the character and the ordinary person, they have to be grounded in reality. To make the unreal real in the previous films you had to believe in the character. I think Indy working at another college after he has been at his previous workplace of Marshall College for 20 plus years is a little out of character. He’s worked there until he’s 60 and had been made Associate Dean at the end of Crystal Skull. So you expect me to believe that he gets to 60 and decides he doesn’t want to be Associate Dean and start somewhere else?? Now correct me if I’m wrong most people are thinking of retirement then - not starting again. I have to ask what did Jim Broadbent possibly do to Indy to make him leave?!

Tied into this what we find out later in the film is that within the last five years Mutt (Indy’s son played by Shia LaBeouf) died in the Vietnam war. This is meant to pull at the heart strings and director/co-writer James Mangold said it was for the plot. I think it is lazy plotting, this is when you cannot be bothered to think of any other reason for a character not to be in a film or even put him in it. You set a decent main character up in Crystal Skull and then kill him off screen for the next film. This was pointed out to me by my brother that it is exactly the same scenario as Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Han and Leia splitting up because of their son going bad, in this Indy and Marion split because their son died. Bring a Force ghost in of Marcus Brody and we would be well away! I believe there are two reasons for Mutt being killed though 1) A fraction of Indy fans didn’t like Mutt in the Indy franchise, obviously they are the vocal minority, and 2) Shia LaBeouf has been cancelled in Hollywood so there was no way Disney would have him in their family friendly films! I’m pretty sure that these were contributing factor in Mangold’s decision to purge the character. This is also just another main character death in a major film – BORING!

I think a far more interesting back story for the movie would be to have Indy happily married to Marion and to see what has happened to Mutt. Then the reaction they have when he’s 70 and retiring and going on another adventure. In my opinion if George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had been on this film that storyline within the film would never have happened. All three, Lucas, Spielberg and Ford, had to be in agreement with the storyline, I don’t think the lead actor would have dictated the story, I think this plot would never have happened with Lucas.


This is where the story falls foul to begin with. We don’t believe in the character in his reality. How can we believe in the impossible? So on to the impossible and the action of the film. The actual McGuffin I liked the idea, it is Archimedes’ Antikythera which they have half of it and have to find the other half of it. It is believed that time travel is possible through it. Was it any more ridiculous than the crystal skull? I actually think it was way more ridiculous, as I’ve said you need to have the character grounded in reality and I don’t believe the background of Indy on this story. So really you are left with the good will of the previous films because when they go back in time and meet Archimedes it is a step too far. Then out the blue Indy wants to stay in 200 something BC because he loves this period. At no point in the film as Indy ever said this is the history he loves and my question is: if it is why didn’t he try and find the other of the Antikythera before he’s 70? This is why the film makes no sense. Nice while you are watching it but once you start thinking about it too much, the conceit falls apart.

I have to say Harrison Ford looks great for 80. He plays a 70 year old and gets away with it because he doesn’t look 80. Do we really want a 70 year old Indy though? Not really and this is why we enjoy the de-aging scene at the start so much. In this case it is not the mileage, and it is the years because within the first hour or so there are three car chases and then later stealing a car. Harrison cannot do any running anymore, to be fair I can’t do any in my 40s! I’m not saying this is a drawback but it’s not very innovative having three car chases and one of which seems to go on forever in a tuk-tuk, and it’s not that clever. Ford said after Crystal Skull that George Lucas had an idea for another film and he would do it if it didn’t take another 20 years, luckily this one only took 15 years!


There is a lot more up-close killing in this film, more than any Indy film before it, I think the death count is the highest for people being shot. The most pointless characters are played by Antonio Banderas and Ethann Isidore. Banderas is in the film for all of 20 minutes before he’s shot and killed. A wasted character which they try and build up with emotion when Indy says afterwards “my friend just died”, but at this point he was in it so brief that you don’t care if he’s dead or alive. Banderas has been particularly bigged up as being in this movie – included on posters, teaser trailers etc. This seems to be part of a trend of using the track record of a loved actor to sell a movie as though they have a huge part and then it amounts to virtually nothing.

Then there is Isidore playing the kid, Teddy. This character is in the film for no reason at all. I can’t tell you why he was in it apart from being a Short Round character, but not as good. Short Round was in the plot for Temple of Doom because it was to do with child slavery in the Temple of Doom. Teddy’s just in it because they felt they should have a kid, tick that box, then near the end he gets kidnapped for no reason, it doesn’t make any difference to the plot and then he goes and kills an adult in a really vicious way. A kid kills the bad guy by drowning him, oh well. Start the murdering young.

The special effects are impressive. Mangold wanted more mechanical effects, that were physically happening on screen even if some were still digitally enhanced with CGI. Some scenes don’t hold up as well and this is due to overreliance on CGI - the entire underwater scene to mention one is quite obviously out of a computer and is the worse for it. In Crystal Skull even though there is a lot of computer effects I don’t think you can tell often where they are. The worst one was obviously the monkeys and Mutt swinging through the jungle. However, buildings in Crystal Skull look real even though they are CGI. I don’t think I realised this until watching the making of it on the DVD. Will they ever be as good as matte paintings? Probably not but it’s the nature of the beast and probably cheaper to do computer graphics than a matte painting.

The previous films are like the periods they are set in. The serial films of the 1930s, – such as Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Zorro’s fighting Legion, which are the basis for the first three films. Crystal Skull is based on the 1950s Science Fiction B-Movies such as the Thing From Another World, It Came From outer Space and Them! These are genres that the previous Indiana Jones films have adapted and then made their own. My feeling is that the new movie isn’t so much a genre of the 1930s or 50s but its own Indiana Jones genre. They have tried to put Indy in his own genre. What it should have been, has I alluded to earlier with French Connection, was to have him in the 1960s style films such as espionage or war. I think they missed a trick of doing something different with the franchise and I think Lucas always wanted to push that. I do think with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg it would have been a better, more coherent film. I don’t actually think Indiana Jones works without those on board, I think especially Lucas who understood the character.


Two months on from watching Indiana Jones how am I feeling? Am I chomping at the bit to buy Dial of Destiny on DVD? Am I looking forward to re-watching it in the comfort of my own home? Unfortunately, no. I’m feeling a little sad and feeling a little like something is missing. I’ve been listening to the soundtracks of the previous films and when I get chance I will watch the films again. But I think what I am feeling is grief for the old Indiana Jones. It’s grieving for the young Indy and the missed opportunities of making an Indiana Jones film 20 or 30 years ago. In today’s age of Hollywood blockbusters I’m not saying Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is bad. It just falls short of being an Indiana Jones film. If you want something better go and watch art house movies and avoid blockbusters. This new Indiana Jones is just what you expect from Hollywood today – bland, unimaginative, unfeeling, box-ticking, fan-serving and yet doing nothing to serve the real fans.

Sorry this review is a bit of a downer and I’m not shouting about how great this movie is but that’s exactly how the film will leave you - on a downer. Even the contrived ending with Marion returning to Indy and having a moment which is out of Raiders of the Lost Ark will not lift you up, it’s too little too late. The hat at the very end is like it should be in a different 1950s Doris Day Movie. One thing that is reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark (unintentionally?) is that if Indiana was in the story or was not in the story, the outcome would have been the same. I actually wish that Indy hadn’t turned up for this one.

American actor Harrison Ford and actress Karen Allen on the set of "Raiders of the Lost Ark". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

The future of Indiana Jones looks likely to be nothing for the foreseeable future. Harrison Ford has stated that this is the last and to be fair I can’t see him doing another at 95, Although he should come back and redo the interlinking parts of the Young Indiana Jones stories as Old Indy! I would actually like to see another series (at least, as two more were planned) of Young Indiana Jones. Particularly as the intention was to bring in Abner Ravenwood and Rene Belloq if it hadn’t been cancelled in the 90s. Would Disney consider this?  I doubt it as this would be the obvious thing to do to continue the characters we love and to lead into the film series. As with so much of Indiana Jones not having these final two seasons of Young Indy were a missed opportunity.

My final thoughts are that Dial of Destiny is an enjoyable film while you watch it but it will leave you wanting for something else.

Fortune and glory


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