The Return of Harrison Ford – The Hollywood Reporter
There was a genuine curiosity for many of us when James Mangold was confirmed as the director on the Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the fifth and final entry in the beloved franchise that began with a bang in 1981 when Steven Spielberg and George Lucas reimagined the Saturday adventure series they grew up with for a new generation that just can’t get enough. After all, Mangold was the man who not only revived an exhausted Wolverine, but gave the character a truly moving farewell that was thoughtful, touching, and deep in 2017. Logan.
Perhaps the Indiana Jones movies, with their compelling mix of laughs and razor-sharp thrills built around a tough, quick-thinking archaeologist in a fedora and leather jacket, weren’t quite right for this kind of gritty treatment. But it seemed fair to hope for at least some sort of new experience beyond the rinse-and-repeat formula of chases and gunfights huddled together in various locations around the world — or even just a refreshing course correction from a post-polarized back-to-basics. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
What the new film delivers — written by Jez Butterworth, John Henry Butterworth, David Koepp and Mangold, with the feel of something a commission wrote — is a lovely explosion of pure nostalgia in the closing scene, and a welcome debut with a couple of early visual clues. This encouraging return was also suggested at the moment when Harrison Ford’s Dr. Jones, coming out of retirement after 10 years of teaching at New York’s Hunter College, stopped reflecting on the mistakes of his personal past. It’s pretty much the first time the movie has stopped for a breath, coming after an hour and 20 minutes of a bloated two-and-a-half hour runtime.
This non-stop pacing may sound ideal, but it’s often an exhausting process. when Destiny asked It gives an explicit nod to previous episodes – Indy remembers drinking the Blood of Kali, enduring voodoo torture or being shot nine times; Or he and his new buddies zip through a narrow stone passage and discover halfway through that it’s alive with the creepy crawlies – it’s a reminder of how fun those early movies were. And it still is, despite some surprisingly racist caricatures of a simpler, less culturally sensitive time.
Part of what makes this closing chapter less enjoyable is how blatantly fake a lot of it feels. Ford is digitally – and convincingly – aged in an opening sequence that finds him again among the Nazis at the end of World War II. Hitler has already fled to his bunker, and the Gestapo gold diggers are preparing for defeat by loading a loot train full of priceless relics and various stolen loot.
Rushing to save himself and fellow British Professor Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), Indy ends up in a death match with a heavy Third Reich on top of the train as it speeds through a long mountain pass. But any adrenaline rush the extended set might have generated is eliminated by the ugly distraction of some truly terrible CG backgrounds. The underpinnings of the series lie Spielberg’s overgrown children’s playfulness with practical effects. The more films rely on their digital paintbrushes, the less exciting their adventures become.
Another problem here is the tendency to overcomplicate everything. It begins with the red herring of the opening scenes, the Lance of Longinus said to have pierced the side of Christ on the cross. It turns out that the whole talk of these sacred relics is just a distraction until we get to the real treasure, the Archimedes Dial, a device believed to have the ability to locate cracks in time. The best Indiana Jones movies contain a supernatural element, so why not time travel? Well, you see why in the messy peak stretch.
The bulk of the action takes place in 1969, when Indiana gets nervous even getting up from his chair (and Ford laudably ignores his vanity, making no effort to hide his age). The unexpected return to the life of Basil’s late daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), whom Indi hasn’t seen since her childhood, resurrects ideas for Archimedes’ double-disc instrument and whether its purported properties might actually work. Helena claims to have chosen the legendary painter as the subject of her doctoral dissertation.
The dial was split in half by its inventor to avoid it slipping into the wrong hands—or to help materialize a daunting new part that required multiple destinations—so one half rests in an antique vault, courtesy of Dr. Jones, and the other half lies in parts unknown. But Helena isn’t the only one interested.
He also brings Nazi physicist Dr. Jürgen Fuller (Mads Mikkelsen), who had a previous brush with Indy 25 years earlier, out of hiding. He’s been living under an assumed name and working for NASA’s space program, developing the technology that took the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. Turns out he changed his name but not his political conviction, so going back in time would allow him to “correct” history.
Helena, whose intentions are not what they seem, hops a flight to Tangiers by half-dial, reconnects with her junior partner Teddy (Ethan Isidore) and sets up a private auction to sell the antiquities to the highest bidder. Indiana follows her to stop her, and she’s unapologetic about valuing money above all else. But when half of the disc slips from one set of hands to another, they all end up trying to outrun Fuller and his evil idiot (Boyd Holbrook and Olivier Richters), following clues to locate the missing half and test Archimedes’ invention.
Mangold moves from one set piece to the next without much connective tissue. They include a horse and motorcycle chase through the streets of Manhattan that crashes through an anti-Vietnam demonstration and a parade of the Apollo 11 “Welcome Home” tape before continuing into the subway tunnels. There’s also a frantic ride in Moroccan tuk-tuks and seafloor diving off the coast of Greece to find coded evidence of Archimedes’ tomb. By then, you’ll likely have given up on following the twisted plot mechanics and will just be zoning in and out with each new location.
Or maybe you’ll spend some time wondering why Antonio Banderas landed such a minuscule role as Reynaldo, Indy’s old fisherman whose diving expertise provides crucial assistance while getting Indy to tangle with a pack of massive CG eels in a very sloppy way. Provided that Disney can relax on any Little mermaid sniping. Rinaldo has a crew stacked with male models who have bodies that didn’t exist in the late ’60s, which seems an interesting detail, though he hasn’t been around long enough to bring it to light.
Sadly, none of this amounts to more than a talented director tinkering with rote video game planning. Waller-Bridge makes Helena swift with prudence, handy with her fists and a devil behind the wheel, and, as in these less gender-restricted times, irresistibly resourceful, never helpless. But it’s only in the end, when Helena puts aside her mercenary instincts long enough to show a genuine interest and affection for Indiana, her godfather, that the chemistry between Waller-Bridge and Ford yields some fun.
Mikkelsen could be a great villain (see: Casino Royale), but any interesting idiosyncrasies the character might have displayed are mired in a convoluted plot. This calls for a larger-than-life bad guy, who is somewhat smaller. Isidore’s Teddy fills the spunky sidekick spot, well, let’s just say he’s not short-handed and leave it at that.
This is a big, jaw-dropping movie that gets through the motions but never finds much joy in the process, despite John Williams’ hard-working score that constantly pushes nostalgia buttons and tries to convince us we’re in for a wild ride. Indy shrugs off the inevitable jokes about his age and proves he can still handle himself in trouble. But Ford often seems to pull away, as if pondering whether this will restore the iconic action hero’s faded glamor or reveal that it’s past its expiration date. Both the actor and the audience get an initial deal with this empty exercise in brand redemption.