Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is an action-packed farewell to the iconic Harrison Ford character and an absolute blast of a time.
There’s a universe where this isn’t just the farewell to Indiana Jones as a character but the final John Williams film score. However, Williams walked back his retirement comments during a conversation with Steven Spielberg in January. We’re all the better for it because John Williams is a master at his craft. He’s in fine form here, bringing back some of the most iconic cues in the series at the exact moment where you expect them. The maestro also pens a theme for Helena Shaw, which is one of the new stand-out themes. It’s one thing that I’m going to miss about not being able to see a new Indiana Jones movie because his scores tend to be the icing on the cake. Williams has written so many amazing scores but “Raiders March” is one of the best themes he has ever composed.
The fifth film in the franchise brings Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) into the 1960s. And with that, there’s a nice but small dose of pop music on the soundtrack. Yes, a few guys from Liverpool make their presence known with their “Magical Mystery Tour.” After teaching at New York’s Hunter College for over a decade, Dr. Jones is ready to call it a career. He’s seen things that nobody else has seen, let alone believed. From encounters with the divine all the way to extraterrestrials. Dr. Jones lives alone these days–Mangold comes through on explaining why and it makes perfect sense. The film really gets moving and starts driving the action when goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) comes back into his life. She wants the Archimedes Dial, which her father never stopped talking about. It can supposedly locate fissures in time.
Helena isn’t the only person who wants the dial. While she wants to auction it off, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a Nazi working for NASA, has his own agenda. If you’re not familiar, there was a program that brought Nazi scientists to the U.S. so that they could work for the U.S. government. As a result, Indiana Jones goes off for an exciting thrill ride. It would not be without an assist from Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), now driving cabs in New York City for a living.
Both Helena and Voller have their own sidekicks in the film. They both add to the action and drama. Klaber (Boyd Holbrook) is every bit the neo-Nazi that one would expect in 1969. One could certainly see Helena and Teddy (Ethann Isidore) being the focus of a spin-off should one happen.
This is a bonafide globe-trotting adventure with filming taking place at Morocco, Sicily, Scotland, and England. This is in addition to filming at Pinewood Studios. The practical sets and filming are a key ingredient for the franchise. It’s on full display here and filmmakers travel to the various countries. It gives the film a level of authenticity that you just do not get with green screens. Say what you will about The Volume but it’s no substitute for being practical. Production designer Adam Stockhausen certainly rises up to the challenge when it comes to designing the practical sets on the soundstage. A Manhattan subway stop is fully recreated on Pinewood’s 007 Stage and it’s just beautiful.
I never had any doubts about James Mangold as a filmmaker. I’ve enjoyed watching his work in recent years. However, it’s a challenging task with having to fill the shoes left behind with Steven Spielberg stepping down. It’s something that Colin Trevorrow knows all too well with helming two of three Jurassic World movies. And yet, Mangold gets the job done here. He really works the movie magic by giving us a dose of nostalgia to Harrison Ford’s younger days. While it still looks astonishing to see Ford as he appeared in the late 1980s, it’s a bit weird hearing his present-day voice during the opening sequence. It’s one of those things that can take someone out of the film but outside of that, the sequence works.
Mangold works with cinematographer Phedon Papamichael as they pay their homage to Douglas Slocombe. Slocombe’s lighting helped establish what an Indiana Jones film should look like. Papamichael’s work follows in Slocombe’s footsteps. There are other–grittier–moments in the film that owe a bit to the likes of Taxi Driver and The Conversation.
With this film, the the Archimedes Dial now joins a list that includes the Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail, Ark of the Covenant. Where those relics are religious in nature, this one deals with science. It was inspired by the Antikythera mechanism, a Greek mathematical device. Unlike the real one, they add some movie magic in a way that they can.
There are certain things that are necessary for an Indiana Jones adventure. The filmmakers know what they have to do in order to make this film a success. Bringing back the Nazis are a perplexing choice given Steven Spielberg’s earlier comments about using them as villains after making Schindler’s List. However, it’s a choice that works perfectly in the context of the film. Voller makes the character a perfect villain for the film. He never plays over-the-top and grounds his performance in reality, which is unfortunately still relevant right now. And again, it’s an absolute blast watching the film. I had fun while watching the film–that’s for sure. It’s a long one but I never looked at my watch once. For me, that says something about a film’s pacing.
To everyone that has helped bring the Indiana Jones franchise to the screen over the years, thank you. Along with Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, these films were a part of my childhood. I can’t imagine my childhood and my path towards a career in filmmaking (some bumps along the way) without them. Getting an opportunity to meet both Frank Marshall (SXSW 2019) and Kathleen Kennedy (Tribeca 2023) in recent years were moments that I never thought would happen in my lifetime. These two filmmakers –along with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas–played a pivotal role in shaping my love of cinema and I made sure to thank them for that. Without their films, Solzy at the Movies would not exist.
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
SCREENWRITERS: Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and David Koepp and James Mangold
CAST: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Olivier Richters, Ethann Isidore, and Mads Mikkelsen
Disney and Lucasfilm will release Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in theaters on June 30, 2023. Grade: 4.5/5
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