Review by Sean Boelman
For one of the most beloved action franchises of all time, the Indiana Jones series has been met with a surprisingly mixed reception outside of the first entry. Unfortunately, the fifth (and presumably final) entry Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny doesn’t buck that trend. It isn’t a terrible film, but rather a merely average action flick — disappointing considering the pedigree of talent and IP involved.
The film follows Indiana Jones as he sets out on an adventure to recover an artifact that has the potential to change the course of history. Although this series is known for putting our protagonist on outlandish adventures chasing magical artifacts, Dial of Destiny takes “outlandish” to a whole new level — yet manages to feel frustratingly dull nevertheless.
The biggest mistake of the film is its bloated length, as the script lacks the momentum to sustain more than two and a half hours of runtime. The opening scene offers “context” to the story but is really just a derivative train action sequence that has been done better in other films before. Indeed, viewers will spend much of the film wondering where they have seen these action sequences done more effectively. Although Mangold’s direction is hardly incompetent, it’s shockingly dull — too caught up in nostalgia to give audiences anything legitimately exciting.
It doesn’t help that the action sequences aren’t particularly impressive. Of course, some of their lack of luster can be attributed to the fact that Ford is more than 80 years old at this point, and he can’t do what he used to. However, it’s much less easy to forgive much of the film feeling like a CGI monstrosity when so much of what made the original so beloved were its impressive set pieces and stunts.
There are certainly glimpses here and there of moments that have the magic of the Indy we all know and love — like a scene in which the aging archaeologist/adventurer commandeers a horse and rides it through the NYC streets and subway — but these moments are either brief or have been revealed by the trailer. And the final act is just an uninspired mess, not even in a way that can be enjoyed for its camp.
While none of the new additions to the cast is as egregious as Crystal Skull’s attempts to pass on the torch to Shia LaBeouf, they aren’t particularly memorable either. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is charming enough to be passable, but the character is so thinly written she just ends up being a forgettable sidekick. Antonio Banderas is utterly wasted. And as the villain, Mads Mikkelsen is surprisingly not very menacing — which is unusual for the talented actor. Only Boyd Holbrook shines, giving a hammy performance that allows for some of the film’s few fun moments.
That said, Harrison Ford is as great as ever in his leading role. Despite his age, he still brings the same level of swagger to the action sequences and charisma to his wisecracks, but also brings a great deal of emotion to the film regarding his arc of growing older. It never feels like “one last hurrah” for Ford as the character, but Ford is nonetheless having a great time getting to revisit the role.
While Crystal Skull was at least enjoyable for its sheer ridiculousness, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny lacks the enjoyability factor that got this series through its many ups and downs. In trying to recapture the glory of the once-beloved series, Mangold has unfortunately all but ensured that the series goes out on a whimper.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny hits theaters on June 30.