Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny


If it wasn’t apparent from the title, here is what gives it away. Prof. Jones (Indy) is infiltrating a Nazi unit responsible for transporting looted art, including precious antiquities. He is caught and hung within a chamber at the top of a tower, while the commanding Nazi, Col. Weber (Thomas Kretschmann, an actor known for playing Nazis), boards a train carrying the spear that pierced Christ’s side to Hitler in the last days of the war. But before Indy is strangled, an Allied bomb lands on the tower and then crashes through multiple floors before exploding upward. All the Nazi soldiers are killed, but Indy, suspended over the blast, doesn’t receive a scratch and frees himself in time to catch up with the train.

Yep, it’s another Indiana Jones movie! At least Superman has the honesty to wear a cape and fancy long underwear.

Harrison Ford has been miraculously de-aged for these early scenes, which play like something from the Warner Bros. Loony Tunes division. The average Nazi, or bad guy de jour, in these flicks is incredibly incompetent, with only the baddie-in-chief having any real smarts or fighting capacity.

Flash forward to the present – 1969, that is. Indy is now a 70-year-old man, a bit of a curmudgeon, teaching his last class before retirement. Oh-oh, not so fast old-timer! Here come the Nazis, this time led by Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen – “Hannibal”), a brilliant German scientist who created the Apollo moon rocket. Dr. Voller is after the “Dial of Destiny,” which supposedly can identify fissures in time. He intends to use it to go back to 1939, correct Hitler’s mistakes, and thereby win WWII.

Once again, the baddie is surrounded by two dimensional idiots whose only purpose in the film is to show how ruthless two dimensional idiots can be, and how deserving of mass annihilation by Indy and friends. These friends keep popping up with amazing new skills as needed – sort of like the endless inventory of “Acme” products in the aforementioned Warner Bros. cartoons.

Along for the ride is Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge – “Fleabag”), Indy’s god-daughter and mercifully NOT a love interest. For a moment, I thought Ford was going to be given the Sean Connery treatment – babe magnet into his 80s. And let’s not leave out young Tangiers pickpocket turned airplane pilot Teddy (Ethann Isidore – “Mortel”).

All in all, this is not a bad movie. Like many sequels, it is a retread, and the battered under-wall is all too visible at times. Still, it is no more than it ever pretended to be – a long version Saturday Matinee serial. All the cliff hangers are there – but they’re just not as believable when the hero is clearly almost 80 years old, yet pretending to have the strength and agility of someone a third his age.

Technically and special effects-wise the movie is a success, and the story and execution certainly appeal to the 12 year old in all of us. However, the most annoying thing of all is the constant repeat of the Indiana Jones melody at every possible opportunity: all the orchestrator needs is a glance at the bull whip or the fedora and we are musically harangued again, as if we could possibly forget exactly what it is we paid our hard earned allowances to watch.

This movie uses Archimedes’ Dial of Destiny (a mythical “way-back-machine”) to return to 1981 when cartoonish violence and implausible plots were more acceptable. Enjoy the trip.

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