03rd Jul2023

‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ Review

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Mads Mikkelsen | Written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp | Directed by James Mangold

Indiana Jones is back. This time around he’s back to fight nazis and chase down another McGuffin. It’s a fun entry into the Indy series that you can’t help but think could have been so much more…

There’s a rhythm missing to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and a beat that it doesn’t quite hit. It’s like all the elements are there, just not quite ticking at the right speed, like the beat is just off and it’s knocking the rest of the dance off-rhythm. I think that the missing beat is Spielberg, he is the one who is the missing piece here. It’s like you assembled all the pieces, got all the ingredients, and then forgot to invite the chef. His camera movement and storytelling set such a pace for the previous films that you always felt like you were reading a pulp comic or Stephen King novel, where the pages were turning faster and faster. This time the film slows itself down too much and takes too many breaths, it breaks the rhythm and turns the film into something it’s not. I do think that the runtime also causes issues with this. The previous four films all just hit the 2-hour mark, but this instalment blows past that mark, hitting a series high of 2 hours 34 minutes. It’s no slight on James Mangold who is a great director and has done some brilliant work. There just seems to have been an established visual language within the series that you notice is no longer there. The visuals no longer align with the character and world, and you always get the sense something isn’t right. You miss out on a key element that always elevated these films to something more, and I would love to have seen this with Spielberg behind the camera.

Of course, there is magic and fun to be found throughout the film. As expected Harrison Ford is great and so too are the rest of the cast. The opening scene is especially a highlight, capturing some of that Indy magic from years before. The real magic though is Indy himself. Something about seeing that iconic character back on the big screen changes everything about your thoughts on the film. Maybe it’s been ingrained since childhood but the silhouette alone is burnt into the fabric of cinema. The sound is unforgettable and everlasting, from the score to that sound of an Indiana Jones punch, there’s no sound in all of cinema quite like it. There’s something throughout the history of these films, that no matter what’s happening with the plot, the acting, the CGI, or the change in directors, there’s still a magic there, a wonder, a sense of adventure waiting to whisk us away. It’s like a promise that was made to us at a young age, a promise that Indiana Jones embodies and for some reason, some magical reason that can only be explained by the movies, he’ll always make us feel like we’re going on the grandest adventure. It makes us believe in that inner child, believe that anything is possible and once again wonder and dream about the adventures that are possible. The character is a testament to the star power of Harrison Ford, who has breathed life into some of cinema’s most iconic characters, but truly none stand as tall as Indiana Jones.

With that adventure and that character comes the music, which is truly the real ‘dial of destiny’. The music can turn back time and make you forget you’re in 2023 and make you feel 7 years old again. As soon as that John Williams score hits you are transported to far-off lands, to the furthest desert and the deepest ocean, you feel like you are right there next to Indy as he punches his way through another adventure. And that’s what it all captures, the character and the music, it captures adventure. Even though the film feels off-beat and off-pace to the usual standard it still manages to capture a lot of what we have come to love from the character and from these stories. The plot is overstuffed and there are subplots that come and go for no reason. There are some strange character moments and a ropey third act, but all of that gets washed away by the character and the music.

In some ways, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny feels like a great magic trick, an illusion. The film is just a trick, it uses the character we love and care for and the music to transport us through time to create the illusion of a grand adventure. In the end, the trick might not be as good as before and this time we all might realise it’s a trick, but deep down we want to be fooled. We want Indy to have another grand adventure because he is perhaps the greatest hero we’ve ever seen, ever likely to see, and he will be missed.

***½  3.5/5

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is in cinemas now.


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