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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review

In 1969, Henry Jones Jr. is at a low point in his life. Well past his glory days, he now is disrespected by his younger neighbors, slowed down by aches and pains, forced into retirement by his college, and ignored by his students. Indy is a man out of time and the world moves on without him. To make matters worse, he is separated from his wife Marion.

Everything changes one day when Helena Shaw arrives. Indiana Jones was a close friend of her father, fellow archeologist Basil Shaw. They were so close that Indy was named Helena’s godfather.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review

Over time, Basil became obsessed by an ancient device called the Antikythera. The mechanism was found in a Greek shipwreck and was a complex device over a thousand years ahead of its time. Its function was a mystery that took over Basil’s life. Now Helena is hot on the trail of the lost antiquity.

Unfortunately for Indiana Jones, former Nazi Jürgen Voller is similarly obsessed with the device. It was ignored by Hitler in favor of other items of the occult, yet Voller believes it is the key to restoring the glory of the Third Reich. Voller uses his scientific knowledge to assist the US in getting to the moon. Now he plans to use his newfound government resources to recover the Antikythera. Can anyone but Indiana Jones stop him?

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review

Before jumping into this review, I must disclose my bias up front. Raiders of the Lost Ark is in my Top 5 favorite movies of all time. So that will obviously affect my thoughts as the bar for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is set exceptionally high. Despite this, I felt like this fifth film in the series was a solid entry into the Indiana Jones saga and if it truly is the last film in the series, it’s a good palate cleanser after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Harrison Ford returns in top form as Indiana Jones. While it’s not the years but the mileage, he holds up extraordinarily well for being 80 years old. While action is always the centerpiece for any Indy movie, the character of Henry Jones Jr. is the bigger focus of this story.

Ford portrays him as a man out of time who is beaten down, disrespected, and overlooked by the modern world. This is hilariously emphasized as Jones, wielding a baseball bat and wearing a backwards t-shirt, yells at a hippie neighbor to turn down his rock music. It’s a funny moment, but it underlines how far removed this character is from his days fighting Nazis in a speeding truck. In another scene, Jones runs up to a New York cop begging for help as he’s pursued by the villains. He’s dismissed as a crazy old man, thus further underlining that our hero has a long way to go to get his groove back.

While dealing with all this baggage, Ford delivers some of the most poignant and emotional scenes as Indy we’ve ever seen in the series. Weighed down by all of his regrets, he finally talks about what is most important in life to him. These scenes are likely what inspired Ford to don the fedora once more.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review

Phoebe Waller-Bridge joins the Indy universe as Helena Shaw. She’s funny, intelligent, and an interesting contrast to Indy. Helena also has additional layers well below the surface that come as surprises later in the story. You’re never sure if Helena is going to zig or zag in a particular moment, and Indy trying to keep up with her keeps things interesting.

Ethann Isidore also comes on board as Teddy. He’s no Short Round, but he holds his own with the veteran cast. Mads Mikkelsen is particularly noteworthy as Jürgen Voller, the main antagonist in the story. He makes a perfect Indy villain as he portrays an obsessed scientist and mathematician. James Mangold’s good luck charm Boyd Holbrook is also good as Klaber and the massive Olivier Richters is the most memorable and physically intimidating goon since the airplane mechanic in Raiders.

While Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny blazes a lot of new territory in its 1969 setting – the call backs to the previous films help make this feel like a genuine Indy adventure. John Rhys-Davies appears again as Sallah and we learn what he’s been up to since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Jones makes references back to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in a natural way.

And of course there’s the opening act, which is a flashback to the end of World War II featuring a de-aged Harrison Ford. The CG effect sometimes looks fake, but tricks with the lighting and fast paced action generally make it believable. (Though there’s no de-aging Ford’s voice.) But the real thing that gives the whole production an air of authenticity is John Williams‘ score. While there’s no new standout theme that comes out of it like in the ’80s films, it’s a solid score that brings back the nostalgia.

With the Indiana Jones MacGuffins, I’ve always preferred the religious ones like the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant over the more sci-fi ones like the Crystal Skull. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny manages to make the best of both worlds. We’re treated to a prologue where he’s after the Lance of Longinus, or the legendary spear that pierces the side of Jesus on the cross. The Lance has it’s own weird and interesting history that is well worth looking up on Wikipedia and it fits in beautifully with Nazi lore, Christian legend, and history. It’s a perfect Indy MacGuffin.

But then the movie switches gears literally and figuratively as the Antikythera becomes the focus of the story. If you had told me what it does before I saw the movie, I would have shaken my head and expected another Crystal Skull train wreck. However, without spoiling anything, I can say that the twist with the Antikythera ended up being a lot of fun and a perfect surprise I did not see coming. That unexpected turn of the story somehow felt perfect for Indy, Spielberg, and Lucas despite my initial distaste for it before seeing it.

The end of the movie is another thing I won’t spoil. It could have gone a lot of different ways, but I must admit that I was okay with where it left off. If this is the end, I can live with it. If there are more adventures in this world, I’m okay with that, too. The ending doesn’t go out with a bang, but it leaves Indiana Jones in a place that should leave fans happy no matter what the future holds for the saga.

While Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a solid Indiana Jones story, it could have been better. First off, the action wasn’t all that memorable. Indy does have a brief horse chase in the subway that is nail biting. There’s also a fast-paced tuk-tuk chase in Tangiers. But none of these action scenes have a memorable Indiana Jones twist that sets it apart from any other action scene in any other movie. These films were the gold standard for stunts in the ’80s. Now they feel like generic CG action in any other film. I feel like Mangold probably should have relied on more live-action in-camera stunts more.

Indy 5 is also somewhat lacking in humor. There are several funny moments, but they are more “chuckle” moments than ‘laugh out loud” moments. The Indiana Jones movies are a roller coaster of highs and lows. It felt like the lows got more attention than the highs.

Some of the cast felt wasted as well. Antonio Banderas is barely on the screen as Renaldo. He could have been used a lot more. And Shaunette Renée Wilson isn’t used effectively as Agent Mason. Her fashion and overall look solidly establish the 1969 time frame, but her role in the film is ambiguous and she’s never used to her full potential.

So where does this film land in my overall Indiana Jones ranking?

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  4. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
  5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I don’t think this movie is going to win over any new Indiana Jones fans, but it should please longtime Indy fans who were unhappy with Crystal Skull.


The Walt Disney Studios will release Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in theaters on June 30, 2023. The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, language and smoking.