‘Dial of Destiny’ and the Lowering of Indiana Jones’ Expectations

Fifth film in saga works, occasionally, but makes us pine for 'Last Crusade'

James Mangold’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is not the hang-up-the-hat-and-whip career capper it wants to be.

In fact, that’s still “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), which not only ended in perfect fashion but remains Steven Spielberg’s best comedy.

Mangold’s attempt to match both the style and feel of Spielberg is as hit and miss as the film itself. Sometimes it’s enough just having Harrison Ford return as the unflappable archeologist/awful college professor Henry “Indiana” Jones, and sometimes this final entry chokes on its big swings and overdone attempts to wrap up something that ended decades ago.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny | Official Trailer

It begins with an extended flashback sequence, showing Ford’s Dr. Jones battling the Nazis for the possession of not one but two desired objects, with one of them revealed as a fake- this is the first mistake the movie makes. If you’re going to declare the existence of a wild McGuffin (I won’t reveal it here) that the Nazis are after and then call it a fake-out, make sure your actual/second McGuffin is as intriguing as the first (it isn’t).

The first 20-or-so minutes of the film present the most ambitious use of de-aging CGI effects yet, as a “younger” Harrison Ford is front and center for this entire portion. It works in moments, but the illusion doesn’t hold for entire scenes. Much worse is how we’re looking at the digitally de-aged Ford but hear his gruff older voice, which is nothing like the vocal range he had in the 1980s.

As in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” (2019), my desire for this f/x illusion to work and how it holds up for a couple of seconds is not the same as succeeding in fooling me. Hiring a younger actor as a stand-in (as Mike Flanagan cleverly did for “Doctor Sleep”) would have worked much better.

Or, hire a young actor for this portion to stand in for Ford, as River Phoenix once did, brilliantly, in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1/10) Movie CLIP - Young Indy (1989) HD

Anyway, Toby Jones co-stars as Basil Shaw, a new colleague who accompanies Jones on a mission to obtain a new totem, which is sought after by a Nazi named Dr. Voller (played by Mads Mikkelsen). Decades later, Jones is now a geriatric, retiring from teaching and seemingly disconnected from the late 1960’s counterculture youth movements around him.

When Basil’s daughter Helena (played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) appears, a worldwide chase begins for the still-desired totem, as Dr. Jones struggles to keep up with all the running and swashbuckling.

A problem from the prior film presents itself immediately: there are far too many characters here, as I often struggled to keep track of who all the new people are on a scene-to-scene basis, and I rarely cared about anyone aside from Indiana Jones.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008) presented Dr. Jones with too many side characters in his entourage or chasing him in the background and the same goes here; considering the most beloved entry in this series is about a father and son reconnecting on an adventure, you’d figure the filmmakers would take a hint, but no.

I was happy to see Ford and not his digital facsimile take the film by the reigns, but the first act of the film is much worse than anything from the unloved but not entirely disastrous prior entry. Despite Mangold previously helming “Ford vs Ferrari” (2019), “The Wolverine” (2013) and “3:10 to Yuma” (2007), his ability with action sequences is touch and go here.

Waller-Bridge has the breakout scene stealer performance of the film, but her character is hard to like for much of the movie. Considering how forceful Mikkelsen’s presence is, it’s a wonder that the supporting cast is cluttered with so many other, lesser villains.

FAST FACT: Fans may dislike the 2008 “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” but the fourth film in the Indiana Jones saga earned an impressive $317 million stateside along with $473 million from international theaters.

I was feeling underwhelmed for most of the way, but a funny thing happened an hour in: the movie mostly grew on me. In addition to liking the acknowledgement that our favorite film characters do grow old, I appreciated how the film referenced the prior entries. A conversation about both Mutt Lang and Marion Ravenwood is my favorite emotional aside here.

Likewise, the reprise of Jones’ fear of snakes and even a verbal mentioning of the divisive, thrilling “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”(1984) really works.

Mangold’s film picks up once Antonio Banderas shows up and an old school underwater dive is something new for the franchise. The politics here aren’t fleshed out – while a reflection on the personal losses of the Vietnam War are touched upon, the bit where Jones smacks a Nazi across the face with an anti-war sign doesn’t really connect (exactly what Jones feels about Vietnam, let alone the draft and developing movements, is never fleshed out).


Without describing anything explicitly, I’ll carefully state that the third act goes in welcome, unexpected directions that will divide fans, likely outrage many but, really, isn’t any more or less insane than where this series has gone before.

Lingering complaints that this and especially the prior installments are “unbelievable” can be countered with reminders of greatest hits moments like melting Nazis, three people jumping out of a plane in an uninflated raft (and surviving!) and a Knight who hangs out in a cave for centuries, only to act like an unforgiving game show host.

These movies have always been ridiculous and it’s part of the appeal. The question is whether the movie takes its story gimmick as far as it could go; in the prior sequel, I’d say the extraterrestrial angle was only half-there. Here, the final scenes could have gone even farther, but I was grateful for how wild things get.

Ford’s final lap in this role has enough going for it to be seen once, though it’s the least in the series (yes, I prefer the one with Cate Blanchett’s Russian villain and cinema’s most infamous refrigerator).

Not only does “The Last Crusade” remain the unmatchable swan song for this series, Ford’s final return as Han Solo and Rick Deckard are more fleshed out and engrossing.

The appeal of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (ugh, that title!) is that its “old fashioned,” aimed at grownups and has exhilarating moments. As much as I liked how this ended, it didn’t make me want another installment, which was certainly not how I felt the first time I watched the first and best entry, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981).

Sorry, Dr. Jones, but the man in the hat was right: you belong in a museum.

Two and a Half Stars


  1. The hyphen-lady gives a “breakout scene stealer performance”? Yikes. YIKES-yikes. She killed the movie. Obnoxious, graceless, corrosive character. Very poor, cynical movie. Sad, sad send-off to a beloved character.

  2. “Chokes on its big swings and overdone attempts to wrap up something that ended decades ago.” How ironic your description of “Destiny” mirrors the James Bond (disen)franchise.
    Thanks for the heads-up for this one, though. I gave up throwing money down the Hollywood drain long ago.

    1. Rush is Dead, Have you cancelled all of your streaming services? If not you are still giving money to Hollywood.

      1. As if everything coming out of Hollywood is woke garbage despite the fact its more varied

    1. Keith, grow up. Nothing wrong with feminism and strong female characters. Why do you sob in the corner when you see a strong feminist on screen. Besides, I doubt Christian Toto is representing the movie correctly in his review. His site is designed to rile you up. That’s how he makes his money. No fake outrage over perceived wokeness means no money for Christian.

  3. If black actors were not cast in movies that would be an extremely sad thing. I love so many movies starring black actors. Imagine no films with Richard Pryor, Denzel Washington, Octavia Spencer, the list goes on and on. Spike Lee is one of the greatest directors of all time. Imagine a world where his films didn’t exist. For the life of me I cannot understand the folks who post here that want to erase people of color from cinema. Is this site run by the KKK? Seriously.

  4. Indy 5 looks great! The audience score is high. I have several friends who saw it and loved it. I can’t wait to see it. I don’t listen to reviewers because they are usually wrong. Especially Hollywood in Toto. They see woke where there is none.

  5. Disney has lost its brand. This year’s movies all failed to make money. Disney should be a 200 stock, but the arrogant Iger refuses to listen to the customer and give them what they want. He would rather listen to his degenerate management team who tells him they want “Qu- eerness” and cultural appropriation with blacks replacing white culture rolls. Disney+ Subscriptions Plummet by 4 Million. The only profit is DisneyWorld, where Iger decides to push his Trans politics on Florida.

    1. Nothing wrong with casting black actors in roles. How can you possibly have a problem with that? Look at all the great movies with Black actors that have been made over the years. We’d have none of the great movies made starring Eddie Murphy from the 80s. Classics!! Nothing wrong with casting trans people either.

    2. Roger Marris, you seriously are bothered and lose sleep at night over black actors being cast in films? Really? That’s what gets you upset? You only want to see movies with white faces? Wow! That is beyond racist, strange and bizarre. Did you run from the room crying as a child when a Richard Pryor movie came on TV? Did the movie The Wiz make you sob uncontrollably because everyone in it was black? I suspect yes based on your absolute terror and anger in your post.

      1. Yeah, that’s what we want to see, now.
        It’s funny, I was fine with black faces like Eddie Murphy in the ’80s. Now?
        We’re at war. I don’t want to see any black faces. Anywhere. Ever. And I’m doing the research to make it happen.
        Is that racist?
        You bet. You made it happen. See you soon …

    3. Not everything that comes from Disney is woke garbage, Elemental honestly feels more anti-woke in regards to its portrayl of the relations between the different elements, implying anyone can be racist regardless of race, that I think is bold

  6. This movie’s poor reception just confirms what I’ve been saying for years, which is that Ford should’ve given up the role after Crystal Skull. They should’ve just rebooted the franchise with a younger Indy played by Chris Pratt or some other actor that can capture the character’s essence. That choice would’ve given us another 10 or 20 years of fun new Indy adventures to enjoy. But instead we get 15 years of no Indy movies and then this – Indy as a miserable 80 year-old being constantly upstaged by an annoying “girlboss” sidekick. Can Lucasfilm just go out of business already?

    1. Poor reception? The audience score is high. Word of mouth from people who have seen it is good. You know not from whence you speak.

    2. As much as I’m not a fan of how Lucasfilm is going under Kathy K, I think calling for them to go out of business is just not the right response.

  7. Interesting review, but I have to say that a lot of reviewers of Indiana Jones since “Crystal Skull” seem to be missing *why* Indy fans aren’t in love with the idea of the McGuffins from the 4th and 5th movies: the abandonment of the sense of the Divine guiding, and interfering in, Indy’s life. Aliens aren’t God. Time travel isn’t God. They’re superscience, or maybe magic, but the personal stakes for Jones are lower and decidedly humanistic. Even people who aren’t religious, who think God or gods are mere fiction, understand that connecting to a Being Not of This World is a concept full of wonder and fear. Aliens and time travel devices are decidedly too earthy and too close.

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