Review: James Mangold’s Terrific ‘Indiana Jones & the Dial of Destiny’ |

Review: James Mangold’s Terrific ‘Indiana Jones & the Dial of Destiny’

by Alex Billington
June 28, 2023

Old man Dr. Jones is back to save the world… from Nazis!!… one last time. And we get to follow him on this grand adventure around the world. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the long-awaited Indiana Jones sequel following up the rather unexciting Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from 2008. The Last Crusade opened in 1989, then there was a 19 year wait between the sequels. After another 15 years, we finally have Dial of Destiny. I waited to watch this movie a second time to double check how I feel about it. I first caught Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in May, at a packed 8:30AM screening in the Grand Théâtre Lumière. This wasn’t the ideal way to watch, but I enjoyed it anyway, and have been defending it ever since. I finally saw it again at a local press screening on the biggest screen in my city and I loved it as much as I did the first time. There is one objective truth that I must state for the record: Dial of Destiny is absolutely better than Crystal Skull. There’s no debating or discussing this, it’s just a fact, and I don’t really get why so many others are so negative about this sequel. This movie rocks.

Maybe I do know why. Let’s just admit the obvious – nothing will ever top Steven Spielberg’s original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies. We can debate and argue about which of the original three are better, and which ones are perfect, and which aren’t. There are days where I think The Last Crusade is actually a better movie than Raiders of the Lost Ark, though others believe having this opinion is so crazy I should be kicked out of film criticism altogether. However you feel about them individually, these three are cinema all-timers and everyone knows this. Going into Dial of Destiny, the fifth Indiana Jones movie and the first (and only) one not directed by Steven Spielberg, I know it’s not going to be something that’ll be as perfect as what Spielberg pulled off in 1981 & 1984 & 1989. Director James Mangold has even admitted this himself in interviews, he knows that’s an impossible task. All I really want is an entertaining, authentic movie that doesn’t ruin Indy’s legacy. I don’t think anyone should be expecting this movie to be another Indy “masterpiece”, nor should anyone expect it to be so fresh and unique and clever that it will kick off a whole new Indy trilogy (this is kind of why Crystal Skull is a failure – introducing Mutt and teasing that he might continue on didn’t work).

Let’s get right into – I had a terrific time watching Dial of Destiny twice. Seriously. It looks great (way, way better than Crystal Skull’s oversaturated digital sheen), there are a handful of awesome action set pieces, a real sense of adventure and archeology. I actually love the MacGuffin in this one – more on that later… My favorite part about this movie (yes, that part at the end) seems to be the part others don’t like, which I find so strange. Why hate that? Most of the conversations I’ve had with others involve some sort of “but that’s not what I wanted to see or what I wanted to happen.” This is one of the most common mistakes anyone can make when criticizing a film – analyze it for what it is, not for what you wanted to happen. That’s not how things work. This is trying to be the actual final Indiana Jones movie, it just needs to wrap up his story, and that’s it. As everyone expected, James Mangold was the right choice to direct this sequel following what he did with Hugh Jackman as a tired, old Wolverine in Logan. This Indy (Harrison Ford at 80) is gruff, and old, and tired, with a “get off my lawn” attitude. This is right where he needs to be. Don’t try to spin it into something else, don’t pretend he’s still as buff now, though I do think we can all admit: he’s still got it.

The most obvious aspect of this Indiana Jones movie is that it’s formulaic – but that’s because Mangold (and screenwriter David Koepp) is following the iconic formula initially created by the one-and-only mastermind Steven Spielberg. The first three movies are masterpieces because they have a perfect sense of who & what Indiana Jones is and how these movies work as adventure stories about archeology, and fighting (literally) to get various rare objects from human history out of the hands of greedy bastards and/or evil Nazis and into museums, where “they belong.” Mangold and Koepp are not trying to reinvent or re-imagine Indiana Jones, they’re just hoping to take this Spielbergian cinematic formula and give it a modern spin and make a cinematically entertaining movie that wraps up his story with one final adventure into history and back. And they’ve absolutely pulled that off. It is entertaining, it is emotional and heartfelt, it is funny and kooky, it is campy and ridiculous, and yes, it is an awesome and satisfying conclusion to the Indy saga. Especially when it gets to where it’s going in the finale. Even if it follows a familiar formula, including with a young sidekick (Teddy played by Ethann Bergua-Isidore) and a nasty Nazi villain (Voller played by Mads Mikkelsen).

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review

Warning: spoilers from here on. It’s hard to discuss this movie without delving into specifics, which will get into spoiler territory. One of the most compelling aspects of this story and this particular MacGuffin is the way it’s used as a reminder that one of the greatest mysteries, the greatest research we can do, is about humanity’s history. There’s still so many unanswered questions, still so much to explore. The movie sort of mocks the Moon landing, with Ford even saying in one scene that there’s nothing up there, it’s just a desert of nothingness. Whereas our history, and all of these artifacts he’s searching for, is more interesting – and worthy of our attention and appreciation. It’s all a nice nod to the idea that we don’t always need to obsess about space exploration as the final frontier, there’s still more to research on Earth. And it’s also a tribute to archeology, and why it’s still an important realm of scientific study. Unlike some of the MacGuffins in past Indiana Jones movies, this one exists. It’s real. And it’s as much of an intriguing unsolved mystery as this movie makes it out to be. The Antikythera “dial” really does exist, and it was really found by sponge divers in a shipwreck near an island in Greece. All of that is true. Does it point to temporal phenomena? Probably not, but you never know… There is something magical about its enduring mysteriousness in the real world.

This is why I love that this is the actual “rare object from human history” that Indy is chasing this time. As cheesy as the “Dial of Destiny” title is, the point is this dial will bring Indy to his destiny, to this incredible moment of history at the end. It’s such a relief to see. I’m so glad they made this choice. In a saga of stories about a man who is obsessed with history and studying it, it seems pretty much inevitable that at some point or another he has to go back to history to experience that history himself. This movie makes that leap in a bold yet wholesome way. It’s exhilarating to watch, and these scenes where Indy ends up in Ancient Greece are my favorite in the movie. The first time around, I almost held my breath the entire time with a “I can’t believe I’m actually watching this” glow in my eyes. I wanted him to stay there, just as he wanted. I got teary watching his reactions to everything going on around him. Again, this is a cinematically stunning reminder of how important archeology is. He couldn’t prove that the Greeks or Romans had this technology, though he knew it existed. And suddenly he was standing there, in the middle of all, able to see for himself that it’s true. “All of it” (to borrow a line from another Ford movie). This grand finale hit me harder than anything. Most of the finales in Indiana Jones aren’t realistic, this was a trip into real history and back. This is magic.

The other thing we can’t forget about Dial of Destiny is that it is a retirement movie, a final send-off for Dr. Jones and his adventures. After all he has been through (he even fought in WWII though we don’t ever see any of that), after all that has happened to him over all the years, why not let him finally get a taste of history itself? Staying true to the character of Indiana Jones means staying true to his love for archeology, his love for the past, his love for Marion (and for his friends), his love for making sure evil people don’t get away with destroying everything. This is not the movie for them to try to rethink what Indiana Jones means and how to make his legacy continue on into many other movies, this is a chance for them to wrap up his legacy. I was, admittedly, nervous that he might end up staying with Archimedes and thus his finale would be literally within history itself. But this would’ve been too far-fetched. And I’m glad that Helena is there to slap some sense into him, and to keep him from making this mistake… This is also an imporant theme in the movie – what has happened in the past is in the past, and it’s not “your time”, so don’t go mess up the times that aren’t yours. Indy’s time may up after this movie, but we can and will certainly look back and remember all of his adventures fondly and smile thinking of all the great experiences we’ve had watching these movies.

Finally, I can’t wrap up without mentioning Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the newcomer Helena Shaw. She’s fantastic, she really is. I can understand why some people will not like her or find her annoying, fair enough, but I enjoyed her immensely. I think she is a wonderful addition to the Indy franchise. She really does give this movie the “punch up” it needs, with a spunky, smart, sassy attitude that keeps Indy on his toes. She is both the voice of reason, and a voice of chaos, helping make sure they all stay on the right track while also tossing in her own twists into the mix. Without her this movie would’ve been so much more dull. The rest of the cast is fine, with the other standouts being Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, and Antonio Banderas. The fan service didn’t bother me (e.g with Sallah), because there’s not that much. Most of what I’ve heard some describe as fan service is actually them staying true to who and what Indiana Jones is. That’s the real adventure of this movie: providing audiences the enthusiastically entertaining, fearless, and warm-hearted Indy finale that he really deserves after first gracing big screens 42 years ago. He’s a part of history now, too.

Alex’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing

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The Flat Circle Of Republican Stupidity

Republicans long for a past that never was, and this inevitably leads them to sound like idiots as they twist themselves into pretzels trying to rationalize their calls for societal regression. Need examples? Let’s look at some in the Sunday shows!

We’re Not Book Burning, You’re the Book Burning!

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel was on “Fox News Sunday,” and while discussing the party’s post 2022 debrief report, she said a few things that were surprisingly truthful.

MCDANIEL: […] biggest takeaway we are taking is independents did not break our way, which has to happen if we’re going to win in 2024, which usually that’s what causes that red wave. And abortion was a big issue in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvanian. […] Republicans are migrating. They are migrating to red states. […] But it means the White House electorally isn’t available to us unless we go through a purple or blue state. And those states are getting bluer, because red voters are moving to the red states. […] the path to the White House runs not just through independents, but every single Republican getting on board.

It’s pretty shocking to hear anyone in the RNC, much less its chairperson, point out an objective reality. So what different actions or rhetoric do they plan to use to better their chances in 2024? Like, for example, abortion:

MCDANIEL: […] What abortion is a bad idea to Democrats? Ninth month, eighth month, seventh month? They can’t even articulate an abortion that’s a bad idea. Gender selection, if it’s a girl, you get to abort it. Tax-funded abortions for people where it’s against their religious conscience. […]

Nothing, then. They plan on changing nothing and expecting different results. If only there was a phrase for that.

Actually, correction, they do have another political strategy: The ole’ “we’re rubber, you’re glue”!

When asked about Republican attacks on trans people, which are politically unpopular, McDaniel attempted some very strained whataboutism.

MCDANIEL: […] the Democrats are using this word book banning. […] That’s a lie. There isn’t book banning. What Republicans are doing are protecting our children and parental rights […] But it’s good to know the Democrats playbook and we’re going to push on that, especially coming from the Democrat party that is banning freedom of speech, that is canceling people, that is destroying your life if you don’t think with their orthodoxy. This is the Democrat Party who is saying if you think outside of the box and everything, we are dictating to you, you will make you lose your job, we will destroy you.

Republicans have literally been fighting Disney because it dared exercised free speech, made book banning much easier, extended Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bigotry, and threatened to separate children from parents who are not bigoted toward their trans kids. But, sure, it’s the Democrats who are “destroying anyone who doesn’t conform to orthodoxy and taking their jobs while threatening to destroy them.”

Speaking of, how’s that dirt file on fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson?

Let’s Default Our National Debt!

House Republican Whip Tom Emmer appeared on CNN’s “State of The Union” and wouldn’t directly state that his party won’t force a default on the nation’s debt.

Host Dana Bash tried pointing out specifically how the cuts they want would hurt his constituents, but Emmer made it clear he will ignore them or just blame Nancy Pelosi when the reality doesn’t match his delusions.

GOP’s Vanity Tech Douche Candidate Returns

NBC’s “Meet The Press” had on Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Although considering his polling, calling him a candidate is a bit too generous, but nonetheless, we are all subjected to his stupidity on TV and expected to take him seriously. So fresh from giving Don Lemon his last good journalistic moment on CNN, Ramaswamy made Chuck Todd look like Walter Cronkite.

When Ramaswamy brings up an example of a person who says their gender doesn’t align with their biological sex, he seems to know the difference between sex and gender. But when Todd questions his stance on gender being binary, Ramaswamy then perhaps deliberately conflates biological sex with gender.

RAMASWAMY: Well, there’s, there’s two X chromosomes if you’re a woman. An X and a Y, that means you’re a man.

TODD: There’s a lot of scientific research out there –

RAMASWAMY: There’s a biological basis for this —

TODD: There’s a lot of scientific research out there that says gender is a spectrum.

RAMASWAMY: Chuck, I respectfully disagree.

Funny how these transphobic clowns want to bring biology into this UNTIL scientific research disputes their transphobia and then they fall back on what they “feel” or disagree just because.

Ramaswamy also equates abortion with murder but says it’s a “states’ right issue.” That’s not how “states’ rights” work, even if a Republican nominee barely polling above skim milk says so.

Asa Hutchinson’s Decimal Points

Speaking of polling, Asa Hutchinson announced he was running for president almost exactly a month ago. He appeared on CNN’s “State Of the Union” this week to call for going back to a Republican Party that died long before Trump came down an escalator in 2015. So how are Republican voters embracing this? We’ll let this picture summarize it.

Can this change for Hutchinson? Likely not when he is polling lower than the fictional Conor Roy in “Succession,” who we actually compared to Hutchinson too optimistically.

Phrasing, Steve Scalise!

When asked about any possible tension between himself and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on ABC’s “This Week,” Steve Scalise chose an odd way to describe their closeness yet trust.

Could be worse: Scalise could have kept misunderstanding what “raw dog” is.

Have a week

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