Review Roundup: James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Critics respond to the final adventure for the world’s most famous archaeologist.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

A few weeks ago, my family and I say down to watch all of the Indiana Jones movies. They were all enjoyable in their own way — Raiders of the Lost Ark is a stone-cold classic while The Last Crusade is my favorite because of nostalgia — but it was clear that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ended things on an underwhelming note. Which is probably why there’s so much interest in one more Indiana Jones movie.

This will almost certainly be the final Indiana Jones movie, if only because Harrison Ford is in his eighties, and let’s face: no one else could ever hope to play Indy. But does The Dial of Destiny, which finds the most famous archaeologist of all time gallivanting around the globe in search of yet another mysterious ancient artifact, serve as a worthwhile swansong for the classic movie hero? Or is it a case of too little, too late?

Read on for a selection of critic responses to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Siddhant Adlakha, It’s a film about letting go of the past and moving forward, but one that refuses to do the same”

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is very much about trying to recapture the series’ lost spark, both in its filmmaking and within the world of the story, but these impulses are set at odds. It’s the tale of a former adventurer who needs to stop living in the past, but the only way it works is by firmly rooting itself in nostalgia. Indiana Jones, the character, needs to move on, but Indiana Jones the franchise won’t let him.

Peter Bradshaw, Has quite a bit of zip and fun and narrative ingenuity”

It is probably a bit cheeky to be giving Ford a young female co-star under this “goddaughter” tag, with a bantering tension that is really not too different to a (platonic) co-star he might have had in the original movies. Yet the finale is wildly silly and entertaining, and that Dial of Destiny is put to an audacious use which makes light of the whole question of defying ageing and the gravitational pull of time. Indiana Jones still has a certain old-school class.

Stephanie Bunbury, Packed with action and nostalgia”

The latest Indiana Jones is also anything but artisanal: it could give late-vintage Fast and Furious a very, very speedy run for its money when it comes to spectacular (and spectacularly ludicrous) SFX stunts. It serves them up, however, in the same gleeful spirit that Steven Spielberg brought to Raiders of the Lost Ark way back in 1981, when CGI was just a pup, with a satisfying sprinkling of call-backs to moments in the earlier films.

Robert Daniels, Some relics should just stay buried”

The only warmth is Harrison Ford: He just seems so at ease. He doesn’t fall for the bait of trying to recreate the past. He pinpoints the exact emotional wear and tear Jones should be feeling at this moment of his life. Ford is a curmudgeon and a charmer; he offers vulnerability and strength, patience and naturalism, the willingness to play with his star persona and the ability to give audience their comfort food. He is everywhere the movie should be and in the places where the film tragically isn’t.

Bilge Ebiri, Too entertaining to dismiss”

Sometimes I wonder if the worst thing to happen to the Indiana Jones franchise was Raiders of the Lost Ark itself, which kicked off these films but also set a standard so high that no movie has been able to match it over the years. (I still think it’s probably the best film Spielberg ever made.) The warm light of nostalgia now bathes Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, but those films were also found wanting by many back in their day, with elements that attempted to recapture that old Raiders magic. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny might prompt similar complaints, some of it warranted. But it’s also too entertaining to dismiss. You may not lose yourself in this one the way so many of us once did with the earlier Indiana Jones movies, but you’ll certainly have a good time.

David Fear, Does Harrison Ford’s Indy dirty”

Director James Mangold has taken over the reigns from Steven Spielberg, and he’s clearly studied the master’s playbook as if it were a holy scroll. The Logan director has coordinated a series of interlocking set pieces — featuring CGIndy escaping exploding buildings, leaping from cars onto speeding motorcycles, and running across train tops to the sound of John Williams’ iconic franchise theme — with all the precision of a massive game of Mousetrap. (The help of the editing trio of Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker, and Dirk Westervelt to achieve this minor miracle can’t be overstated.) It’s like watching the cinematic equivalent of the world’s greatest Beatles cover band do the hits down to the last note, and is undeniably a blast. And then, like a giant boulder unleashed from its underground perch, everything rapidly rolls downhill from there.

Owen Gleiberman, Serves up nostalgic hokum minus the thrill”

But those early high points aren’t really followed through on. Mostly, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny works by translating Indy’s old daredevil kick-ass fervor into the pure will with which he’s now hunting for the artifact. As the film leaps international locations, the action starts to feel more conventional and less “Indiana Jones”-y.

Ankit Jhunjhunwala, The film has a lugubrious feel and seems to be happening in slow motion”

What prevents this installment from taking off despite the presence of all these promising ingredients is mostly down to pacing, tone, and vibes. The previous four films in the series come in at an average of two hours while Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny vastly overstays its welcome at over two and a half hours in length. There is absolutely no reason for an Indiana Jones movie to be this long, especially one that has fewer characters than usual and a relatively thin story.

James Mottram, A highly satisfying blend of action, humour and emotion”

[B]est of all, this is an Indiana Jones film with tears in its eyes. We see the character has grown older, but not necessarily wiser. Drinking a bit too much, he’s full of regrets about pursuing fortune and glory and leaving his loved ones behind. “Family never was your strong suit,” chides Helena, clearly unhappy that he hasn’t looked her up in 18 years. Ford has shown he’s a dab hand at playing the curmudgeon, so it seems apt that Mangold and his co-writers should steer the character in this direction. By the end, though, you’ll have a smile on your face, especially when it comes to the final shot: an elegant tip of the hat to one of cinema’s greatest heroes.

Iana Murray, A cameo- and reference-packed last crusade”

Mangold is a very fine director capable of helming solid crowd-pleasers (Ford v Ferrari, Walk the Line) and even breathing new life into the dying X-Men franchise with Logan. But Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny looks anonymous. Its visual style is drab in a way that drains the film of any personality. When Indiana Jones makes his way through boobytrapped caves in torchlight in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the contrast between the outside world and this creepy tomb evokes a singular wonder. But virtually every scene in darkness here is scantily lit and hard to see. And like many a modern blockbuster, Dial of Destiny leans on rapid cuts that heighten the pace of Indiana’s brawls with the Nazis, but the choreography is barely discernible.

David Rooney, Short on both thrills and fun”

This is a big, bombastic movie that goes through the motions but never finds much joy in the process, despite John Williams’ hard-working score continuously pushing our nostalgia buttons and trying to convince us we’re on a wild ride. Indy ignores the inevitable jokes about his age and proves he can still handle himself in a tight spot. But Ford often seems disengaged, as if he’s weighing up whether this will restore the tarnished luster to his iconic action hero or reveal that he’s past his expiration date. Both the actor and the audience get a raw deal with this empty exercise in brand redemption.

Stephanie Zacharek, “[It] creaks under the weight of the franchise’s stature”

By this point, any Indiana Jones picture is going to have almost too many layers of meta-nostalgia to sift through, though it’s also more likely to foster fond memories of your old, busted childhood VCR than it is to conjure Buck Rogers or Zorro’s Fighting Legion. That’s not a good thing or a bad thing; it’s merely a thing. But it does make you think about how readily your own cherished vision of the past can be used as a marketing tool, and how, increasingly and for some good reasons, we yearn to be returned to olden times that aren’t really even that old.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny arrives in theaters on June 30, 2023. Watch the trailer below.

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