Indiana Jones is back. The new action-adventure movie features an 80-year-old Harrison Ford donning the hat and whip for one last time in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. This movie marks 42 years since he first played the character in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It follows our iconic hero on one more adventure as he teams with his goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to find a mysterious dial that can alter the course of history. This is Ford’s first time playing the character since the critically mixed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008. Unfortunately, the new installment isn’t much better.

It brings me no pleasure to say that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a disappointing conclusion to Ford’s tenure as the legendary archaeologist. There are many moments in the film that are fun, especially one chase sequence through Tangier. However, the movie ultimately comes up short of recapturing the magic that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas created with the original trilogy in the 1980s. Those three films were the quintessential action-adventure, defining the genre with its blend of fights, humor, drama, and horror. Like most others in the genre that have come since, this movie feels like a knock-off of that.

The movie begins with a flashback to decades prior, where we see a young Indy not long after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The opening action sequence is excellent. It features a de-aged Indy, which is one of the better-looking uses of the technology. Although it’s noticeable, and there are times when the dialogue does not match up with the lip movement, it looks great. Getting to see a younger Indiana Jones ride a horse, fight people on trains, and crack his smile makes it a classic Indy adventure. The cinematography from Phedon Papamichael effectively recaptures the World War II feel of Spielberg’s work with Douglas Slocombe.

Dial of Destiny is directed by James Mangold, who has previously helmed a variety of films, such as Logan, Ford v. Ferrari, and Girl, Interrupted. With a filmography this diverse, he seems to be the perfect replacement for Spielberg, who stepped out of the director’s chair in 2020. He has a great sense for staging and editing action, as seen in the early train sequence, the Tangier chase, and a chase scene that sees Indy escaping the bad guys through a parade on a horse. However, despite looking much better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the movie still isn’t as visually stunning as that original trilogy. In a movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark, every scene feels like the best possible version of that scene. With this movie, every scene feels like 75% of the best possible version.

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Perhaps the weakest aspect of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the screenplay. This movie recycles a lot from the previous films, and not in a good way. Helena is the new Mutt Williams; she is a child figure for Indy, a sidekick who accompanies him on his mission, a part of the film’s inciting event, connected to someone from Indy’s past, just as likable and developed, and played by a relevant actor of the era (Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame, Shia LaBeouf of Transformers fame). They serve the same purpose in both movies.

One of the film’s most emotional scenes is one where Indy reflects on what has happened to his family since the events of the previous film. It is a beautifully written scene, but the issue is that it is mostly a standalone moment. His tragic backstory is not something that consistently haunts him throughout, nor is it relevant to the relationship between Indy and Helena. There is a surprising lack of emotional investment in Indy’s godfather relationship with Helena. While their backstories are established, it’s not nearly interesting enough to give the audience a reason to care about their relationship.

Another character who gets introduced in this movie is a child named Teddy Kumar (Ethann Isidore). One does not simply bring another child character into a franchise that has already established one of cinema’s cutest children in Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While it would have been great to see Academy Award winner Ke Huy Quan reprise his role, we get Teddy. Teddy’s backstory is exactly the same as Short Round’s; he attempted to pickpocket Helena, but when she caught him, they teamed up with each other. However, Teddy is a much less likable character than Short Round. While Short Round had a positive energy and saved Indy, Teddy doesn’t seem like he wants anything to do with this adventure for the whole movie.

Like most Hollywood movies, the film underutilizes Mads Mikkelsen as the villain, Jürgen Voller. Mikkelsen is an excellent actor who does a good job with his role, but his character’s motivation comes far too late for it to be interesting, and his performance doesn’t feel distinct from his other villainous franchise roles in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore or Doctor Strange. Speaking of underutilized actors, Antonio Banderas appears in the film for what ultimately may have been less than five minutes. It’s more of a cameo appearance than an actual role, but what a waste of another talented performer.

The finale is where the movie almost entirely falls apart. There is a fun motorcycle sequence, but Teddy pulls off an unbelievable feat that no child could realistically perform. When you think back to Indiana Jones finales, the original trilogy has some fantastic ones. Although Ford is 80 and cannot pull off the physicality he once did, the movie should have given him more to do than sit on a plane for nearly the entire finale. Indy does very little in the finale, both from an action standpoint and a character standpoint. Most of the action is performed by Helena, the new character who is not easy to root for. Although Waller-Bridge brings some charm to the character, she isn’t endearing enough for the audience to cheer her on.

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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny does not have enough of Indy’s classic charm, especially in the final act. While these movies are supposed to entertain, delight, and have you wince at the violence and cheer on the heroes, this film lacks all of it. It’s not delightful, violent, or exciting. I was more thrilled watching Extraction 2 on Netflix than I was watching this movie, which is shocking, to say the least. It takes a little too long for the movie to get to the classic dark corridors and creepy critters. The emotional moments in the film are ineffective, with Indy making a decision at the end that really does not work. Although the final act takes a huge swing with what we’ve seen from these movies, it ultimately ends up underwhelming.

The best thing about Ford’s swan song as Indiana Jones is, of course, Ford. He reprises the character to perfection. The movie does an excellent job of acknowledging his age, not pushing the believability of his action sequences too much. However, for a finale to the franchise and a farewell to the character, the emotional stakes do not feel as high as they should. Since Indy’s tragic backstory is so distant from the film’s story and the relationships depicted in the film, it doesn’t work. There are moments in the movie that may make you feel like a kid again, watching another classic Indiana Jones adventure. But Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny only proves that the series should have ended in 1989 with Indy, Henry, Marcus, and Sallah riding off into the sunset.

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SCORE: 5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.

Disclosure: ComingSoon attended a press screening for our Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review

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