‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ Review: A Legacy-Celebrating Spectacle

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny official poster featuring Harrison Ford.
©Disney | Lucasfilm

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is imperfect, but it’s the kind of sendoff fans could hope for with a beloved character. While it’s not as great as the film that started it all, Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s a memorable, legacy-celebrating conclusion that effectively passes the torch. Some of the film’s major problems are in its visual effects and pacing, as it loses itself in the third act. Transitions in certain areas fall flat and are off-putting to anyone paying close attention, but the narrative is engaging, nevertheless, and the performances are even more compelling.

For viewers who grew up with Harrison Ford’s roguish professor and archeologist, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a whole lot of fun. In its means of often utilizing lore, the film relies on familiar antics to touch on nostalgia. The new characters feel fresh and exciting, blending into this world with a welcoming sharpness. If this truly is Ford hanging his hat and whip, then Phoebe Waller-Bridge is the perfect scene partner to do so with as his goddaughter in the film. And with its means of telling a largely predictable time-travel story, the fifth installment succeeds entirely because of its heart and the exploration of aging while living with grief.

(L-R): Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) in Lucasfilm's INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY.
©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

It’s never a stretch to say that two of Ford’s noteworthy roles, Indiana Jones and Star Wars’ Han Solo, have much in common. And in many ways, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny mirrors the heartaches we swerve into during The Force AwakensBoth films allow the actor’s character to grapple with the outcomes around him, making them human explorations that also feel deeply personal to the audience. His recollections become ours too. Helena Shaw’s means of harping on Indy’s age and, subsequently, his own comments allow for a quietly compassionate probe of what the concept feels like and why it matters.

Still, like all films in the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is all about the dynamics. Ford and Waller-Bridge’s sharp banter and bouts of muted vulnerability make them an inimitable pair. Helena Shaw might be the polar opposite of Indy, but Waller-Bridge layers her with an astounding range that Fleabag fans will recognize right from the start. She carries heartaches like a cross, hiding her pain through a nonchalant, only in it for the money, attitude. It makes the film that much more captivating to have a star like her holding her own brilliantly alongside Ford’s grandeur.  

(L-R): Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Teddy (Ethann Isidore) in Lucasfilm's INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY.
©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Whether viewers are in this for one last adventure or nostalgia, the film understands why both factors are significant to divulging a thoughtful narrative. It’s a story about legacies and the depths human beings are consistently willing to go through to deny their sorrows the time necessary to process. It finds quiet beats to show growth while it pushes beyond trenches and waves to dig up the uglier sides of people and, in true Indiana Jones fashion, history. This detail brings Mads Mikkelsen’s Nazi scientist Jürgen Vollerr to the forefront, giving him plenty of solid material to work with. Newcomer Ethann Isidore steals the show instantly as Teddy, making him an easily memorable character worth his salt.

Harrison Ford steps into the character as if no time and too much time have passed simultaneously. The astounding balance he brings to this exploration makes the film both extremely fun and a little sad. It might not be the best sendoff, but it feels right, nevertheless. There are never guarantees for how viewers will feel when it comes to the franchises with this much time and legacy under their belts; still, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a whole lot of fun. Audiences might not love every minute, but they’ll appreciate far more than they imagined. And at every turn, when John Williams’ familiar beats crescendo, a flurry of brilliant goosebumps (more welcoming than creepy crawlers) will rise instantaneously.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will be in theaters on June 30.


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