Friday 30 June 2023

REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) - Starring Harrison Ford

Review by Jon Donnis
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is back in his fifth and final film, nearly 15 years after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, seems crazy to think it has been that long, and nearly as long as between Crystal Skull and The Last Crusade before that.

Now the main worry about this film is that this is a Disney film as opposed to a Paramount film, and the worry there comes from the fact that Disney has a very bad reputation in recent years for ruining great franchises by making everything woke. Well, I can happily say that this is not the case in Dial of Destiny, yes there are a few "Disney Moments", an attack on capitalism, which is hilarious when you consider how Disney make their money, the odd diversity hire here and there. Other than that, the film felt relatively straight forward like a normal Indy film. But that doesn't mean it is good, to find that out you will have to read on.

The film starts off during the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II in 1944, Indiana Jones (CGI Harrison Ford) and his fellow archaeologist Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) from Oxford find themselves in the clutches of Nazi captors. Their mission to retrieve the Lance of Longinus is interrupted by their capture. At the same time, astrophysicist Jürgen Voller (CGI Mads Mikkelsen) reports to his superiors that the Lance they possess is a counterfeit, but he has discovered a significant artifact: half of Archimedes' Dial. This remarkable device, invented by the Syracusan mathematician Archimedes, has the power to detect temporal fractures (wormholes through time).

Jones manages to escape and boards a train loaded with stolen antiquities headed for Berlin, where he successfully rescues Shaw. Realizing that the spear they sought is a fake, Jones and Shaw seize the Dial's half, and just in the nick of time, they jump from the train moments before it derails on a bridge destroyed by Allied bombers.

Fast forward to 1969, Jones (no longer CGI) finds himself estranged from his wife, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), following the tragic loss of their son Mutt during the Vietnam War. Retirement at Hunter College is looming over him, but his life takes an unexpected turn when he is approached by Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Basil's daughter and Jones's godchild. Helena, an archaeology student and treasure hunter herself, informs Jones that the Dial was split into two parts and that her late father's relentless pursuit of its secrets drove him to the brink of madness. Jones had made a promise to Basil to destroy the Dial, but he had yet to fulfil that commitment.

Together, Jones and Helena embark on a quest to retrieve the first piece of the Dial, which is kept in a storeroom at the college. They face an attack from Voller's henchmen, as Voller, now working for NASA under an assumed identity, seeks to claim the Dial for himself. The CIA, led by Agent Mason (Shaunette Renée Wilson), assists Voller in his pursuit. Aware that Voller's men are after her, Helena escapes with the Dial, revealing her true intention to sell it at an illicit auction. Jones, on the run, cleverly disguises himself in a parade celebrating the Apollo 11 astronauts before seeking refuge in the New York City Subway and turning to his old friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), who now works as an immigrant cab driver, for assistance.

The rest of the film is pretty much a cat and mouse chase, with the eventual goal being to find the second half of the dial, and to unlock its secrets.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Helena Shaw is terribly miscast, the character is just not likeable, she is taller than Harrison Ford, looks awkward, and I hate to say it, but she should not have been cast as Indy's goddaughter. This character needed to be played by a smaller actress, someone who would appear more of an underdog, and someone wo wants to emulate Indy, not talk down to him. Think a young Salma Hayek and you get the idea. This is the one big mistake of the film. The rest of the cast is decent, even Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen playing a Nazi is ok, although I have always struggled to understand him when he talks English.

One fear I had in this film would be that Indy would take a backseat, and that the film would just be used as a vehicle to push the next Indiana Jones franchise film with a woman taking the lead, perhaps that was the original idea, but I would like to think Harrison Ford put a stop to that, he is still the main star of the film, and despite being talked down to a few times by the Helena character, he still comes out on top as the main hero. He gets the best lines, the best scenes, and the best comedy moments.

There are a few scenes which give a nod to older films, for example in one scene Indy is surrounded by henchmen, so he gets his whip out and waves it about to warn them, and they all just pull guns on him and start shooting as he hits the grounds. An obvious nod to the famous sword scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark with the bad guy waving a sword around and then Indy just pulls his gun out and shoots him. I liked that, and there are a few moments like that throughout the film to watch out for.

Considering Harrison Ford is 80 years old, and playing a 70-year-old in the film, he looks great, he is convincing as the aging hero, and this is a nice final film for the character he is most famous for.

This is by far the longest film in the franchise, a bit too long at over 2 hours and 25 minutes. Keep in mind Raiders and Temple of Doom were both less than 2 hours, and Last Crusade was just over.

The Good
A classic Indy type plot, great action scenes, everything you would expect from an Indiana Jones film is in there, the comedy moments, the fight scenes, the near-death escapes. You name it, it is all in there.

The Bad
Way too long, this did not need to be over 2 hours. The casting of Helena Shaw was a big mistake, just not a likeable character at all. The start of the film which is set in 1944 relies on the de-aging CGI of Ford, and although at times it looks realistic, in some scenes it is laughably bad, and a huge reminder you are looking at CGI. This is another example of big studios refusing to pay enough money and give enough time to the visual effects people to make something look good. In some respects, it seems like CGI of the mid 90s is better than what we get today, and that can only be put down to allowing companies time to make stuff look good!

I am a big Indiana Jones fan, and although I would probably prefer, they never revisited the franchise after the 3rd film, I understand that when there is money to be made, studios will give almost anything a sequel.

As a stand-alone action film, this is pretty good, as the 5th film in a legendary franchise it is always going to struggle when compared to previous films. With that said I did enjoy the film, it was nowhere near as woke as I feared it would be, and although I would have liked to have seen some more time travel aspects used in the plot, what we did get at the end was damned cool.

The ending I found a little flat and sentimental, I really wished that they would have given the Indy character a full-on action-packed final scene, but I understand why they did what they did. But come on, the character literally asks for it and they don't give it him.

This is a fun film, I enjoyed it and although perhaps not the send off I would have written, it was still a good way to end the franchise.

Please NO MORE films now, we don't need a female Indy, just let the franchise be now, I am begging you Disney.

I score Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny a solid 8/10

Out Now in Cinemas.