FILM REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Ford is still a likeable lead, but the depressing direction his character takes and the overabundance of special effects just results in this feeling like a generic action movie
After the disappointing critical reception of 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Harrison Ford returns as the great adventurer one last time in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny to hopefully give the cinematic icon the send-off he deserves. Enduring the mundanity of his autumn years, Indy is brought out of retirement to track down a mythical item before an old enemy does and the course of history is altered forever.
As seems to be the trend with these returning legacy heroes from the '70s and '80s, Dial of Destiny takes the Indiana Jones character in a much more dour direction. Ford at least brings his all, commanding the screen with his gruff voice and imposing demeanour. The ones who don’t bring their all are the writers, who have turned Indy into a classic grumpy old man: tired of life and lacking the spark for adventure that he had in his younger days.
Opening with an exciting action sequence on a train, set during World War II and complete with an impressive but noticeably imperfect digitally de-aged Ford, the film starts as it means to go on. The rest of the film, set in 1969, is reliant on green screen and CGI spectacle, superimposing Ford’s face into horse, car and tuk-tuk chase sequences. At 80-years-old, it was optimistic to expect Ford to do his own stunts, but being a franchise that was classically based in practical stuntwork, Ford doing much of his own back in the day, it is somewhat depressing to see this legendary action star digitally rendered through a computer into a world that lacks the dirt and grime of the earlier movies.
Dial of Destiny has its brief highlights: the action scenes are blandly entertaining CGI schlock, there are some nice call-backs to the earlier films, such as when Indy acknowledges his age and questions why he is even on this adventure, and Mads Mikkelsen was born to play a villain in most every respectable franchise. Matters are not helped, however, by Indy’s constant companion for this adventure, his goddaughter Helena Shaw, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Lacking charisma, humility or a consistent motive and becoming increasingly insufferable as the movie goes on for its extended runtime, she is another instance of Disney forcing the strong female role model, taking the lead in too many action sequences that would do better to feature Indiana Jones, despite his age.
Intended as an improved and true ending to the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny unfortunately just highlights the depressing difference between old and new moviemaking: why use real locations and practical stunts when you can just CGI everything onto a green screen? Ford is still a likeable lead, but the depressing direction his character takes and the overabundance of special effects just results in this feeling like a generic action movie and not an Indiana Jones movie, begging the question of why they even brought him back.