Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny dials up a better swansong for the beloved archaeologist. But there is still a certain tired feeling.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Synopsis
Towards the end of WWII, Indiana Jones thwarts a Nazi plunder train but fails to completely retrieve the Antikythera—the legendary dial of Archimedes. Jump forth to 1969, Indy is a broken man, in the midst of a divorce with Marion Ravenwood and emotionally weary of everything. When Helena Shaw, his goddaughter, turns up prying for information about the Antikythera, Indy warns her not to continue but is quickly sucked into a deadly race for the rest of the dial. The famed archaeologist, however, doesn’t see the new adventure as a return to form. Instead, he regards it as an epilogue for his life.
I start by sharing my views about 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the much-lambasted fourth Indiana Jones adventure that continues to be derided.
I watched that at the now-closed Cathay Cineleisure, with my mother, and while we didn’t emerge from the cinema woefully dissatisfied, both of us agreed on a sad truth.
Crystal Skull wasn’t a horrid movie per se, IMO; I was even okay with that amazing fridge scene. But magical, it was certainly not. A necessary installment for the franchise, err ...
Throughout the run, I also kept wondering whether it would have been better had Hollywood focused on creating an Indiana Jones successor rather than extending the famed archeologist’s adventuring life. Believe it, or not, the only development about that episode that I genuinely liked was Mutt Williams. He annoys but that character flaw aside, don’t you agree that Mutt was the only thing that was fresh about that episode?
The same question kept popping up in my head whenever I watched the trailers for Dial of Destiny, and when I watched the movie itself yesterday. Not that the action was lacklustre, or that Harrison Ford didn’t put up a stupendous performance despite his age. But the moment the explosive chases ebb, the moment the gunfire stops, there’s that question again. Worse, there is now the additional puzzlement of: why resurrect the franchise by focusing on the sadness of a world-weary, emotionally broken Indy?
Doing so seems to add sentimental weight to a franchise that thrives on action and bangs. But unlike epilogues like Rocky Balboa, this swansong isn’t about Indy living out one final adventure—he didn’t want what was happening. For that matter, neither is Dial of Destiny a treasure-hunter’s version of Creed. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena Shaw seems to but is never definitively depicted as Indy’s successor.
In the end, exhilarating as the many chases are, out of the world as the final act is, Dial of Destiny couldn’t shake off a certain tired, dragged-out feeling. A certain done-for-nostalgia’s-sake signature too.
To be clear, this fifth episode didn’t bore me. I enjoyed the pan-Mediterranean sights and I sat upright during the most intense moments. (And cheered when a certain master went … Eure …)
But I didn’t step out from the cinema thinking, they should have made this episode sooner. I actually felt a little sad that they did.
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