Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Neither as good as I'd hoped nor as bad as I'd feared.

Remember how, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Henry Jones was crowded by adoring students, one girl in the front row closing her eyes so that he can see she's written "Love You" on her eyelids? Dial of Destiny finds an elderly Jones teaching disinterested students at Hunter College. New York City's about to celebrate the men who walked on the moon. He's talking about the past, and his students are excited about the future, a time in which he has no part. Things change.

I love these early scenes. I love seeing a lonely Indiana Jones living in a cramped apartment, getting a drink alone in a bar.

As villain Jürgen Voller, Mads Mikkelsen is terrific, recalling the cold, calculating evil of Raiders' sinister Toht. He, too, is obsessed with the past. A Nazi mathematician who has since helped the United States with its space program, he seeks the antikythera, a device created by Archimedes that he believes will allow him to go back in time and prevent the Nazis from losing the war. Indy, we learn, has his own reasons for maybe wishing he could turn back time.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't look great, and the action scenes lack the remarkable clarity of Spielberg's. With all the obvious CGI, I often found myself wishing that the film's action were more reliant on practical effects. For my money, the 40-year-old Raiders is a much better-looking film, content to keep its spectacles a little less large-scale, but far more involving and memorable. Still, there are beautiful moments to be found in Dial's globehopping adventure. I particularly loved the deep blue skies and fleeting feeling of camaraderie in one scene when Indy and friends are on a a boat out at sea.

The film's climax goes places I did not expect, and I applaud it for doing something so wild. And yet, I felt it could have gone farther still, doing something perhaps more surreal, more metaphysical, that might have more movingly foregrounded the themes, danced around but never fully grappled with, of this iconic hero who now feels he has nowhere to really look but backwards. There's an amazing line in Raiders where Indy's rival, Belloq, says of the Ark, "Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This, this *is* history." In its climax, Dial of Destiny grasps for the weight of this line, for what it means, in the end, to have lived a life obsessed with the past, but fumbles it a bit. And trotting out Karen Allen's Marion in the end as less a character than a symbol of domesticity and order? I don't love that. But Harrison Ford is great. I think his face has gotten so interesting as he's gotten older, and he does real character work here, trying to inhabit this man who feels out of time. I'm glad this film exists, and I think we'll come to treasure Ford's work here more in the years to come.

Block or Report