Rob Reviews "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny"
In preparation for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, I am one of the many who went back and watched the previous four films. In researching each one, I discovered that the screenwriters of the fourth film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, did so under a bit of duress. They really didn’t want to do an Indiana Jones story about aliens, but this was the vision that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had and that was going to be the thing. Now, I tell you that story because there is a part of me that wonders if David Koepp (who is the one writer both films have in common) had some of the same issues going into this one.
This victory lap moves a little further forward in time to 1969 as the Apollo astronauts return from walking on the moon. Dr. Henry Jones (Junior) is finally retiring from teaching when his goddaughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) shows back up in his life after almost two decades. She asks Indy to join her on a quest to find both halves of an ancient relic built by Archimedes that if reunited can change history while trying to keep ahead of the evil Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), who has his own nefarious plans for it.
Spielberg gives the director’s chair to James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari) for this one, who does a fine job and gets performances from his cast that services the story well. The problem here is that a little over twelve hours after seeing this film, I am still not quite sure how I feel about it. At no point during Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny did I have that heart-racing feeling I got at least with the first three films, but at the same time there were multiple points where I found myself leaning forward in my chair as some of the action unfolded. I don’t find myself hating this film by any stretch, but I also was not overjoyed when the credits rolled.
I’m also not sure how necessary Waller-Bridge’s Helena is to the overall story. She has a couple of moments that do move the story forward, but some rewriting could have fixed those as well. The opening twenty minutes of this film seem to really just set up who she is without her being there and to showcase Toby Jones as Indy’s globe-hopping buddy. I would have liked to have more of him as the guy that comes back years later to finish the adventure they inadvertently started in the prologue to the main plot than to throw a different character into the mix. There also seems to be an attempt to reinvent the role of “Short Round” with the addition of newcomer Ethann Isidore as “Teddy,” but that also seems very shoehorned in by giving him a couple of moments to save the day that also could have been retooled to let Indy be more the hero we have gotten to know over the last forty years.
The story also seems to run fast and loose with its premise by offering complex explanations that really forced me to do my best to keep up with all of the information that was being thrown around in clumps surrounded by a LOT of fluff action sequences that seemed to serve no other purpose than to fulfill a run time that is north of two and a half hours. It’s always fun to see how far visual effects have come, but this could easily have been just as good (if not better) to sit at that two-hour mark all of the others have been able to do. It DOES stick the landing very well to wrap everything up, but the journey there (although well-paced), just had me scratching my head more than once.
I have recently opined that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not a bad film as much as it is a bad script, but I cannot even say that about Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Although the story itself does flirt with collapsing under its own weight of detail and exposition, it is still better than the film that came before it but does not crack the proverbial medal stand of the first three. I will say that speaking with a colleague that has now seen it more than once that it was better for him the second time, so perhaps my evaluation of this film will be more solid by using one of my AMC A-List credits with it in a premium format. Should I choose to do so, I am prepared for that needle to move either way.
And I am going to have to buy a new box set, I guess.