Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
Everyone’s favorite fedora wearing, whip swinging, swashbuckling archeologist went on a “last crusade” decades ago, but his adventuring days are not over quite yet. Audiences already experienced an aging Indy in the disappointing 2008 sequel, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In Dial of Destiny, he is even older, despite his fashion style remaining unchanged (if it works, it works!).
Unfortunately, not only does the 5th Indy flick fail to right the wrongs of the previous lackluster sequel, but it also steps onto many of the same booby traps that derailed that film. Dial of Destiny is an Indiana Jones movie in appearance, and demonstrates flashes of the original charm and excitement, but it is unable to locate the same relentless sense of fun and adventure. It is not a total disaster, but by the end the movie you almost feel sad and sorry for Indiana Jones, rather than compelled to race to the nearest costume store to try and be him.
The movie begins with an extended flashback scene that features a convincingly de-aged Harrison Ford. The technology is still not perfect, but is good enough to gives a surreal feeling of being transported back in time and watching an unmade sequel to 1989’s Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. The opening is the best sequence of the movie, that beyond simply looking the most like the originals, also does the best at capturing the classic adventure vibe and tone.
The movie then transitions to the current Indiana Jones, an old and lonely man in a reclining chair. The movie (thankfully) makes no attempt to conceal Ford’s age, fully committing to the hero’s later stage of life. Whether this newer (or, rather, older) version is as entertaining as the classic depiction, however, remains up for discussion.
There are some positive elements. Harrison Ford remains great as Indy, and Mads Mikkelsen is well-cast as a villainous Nazi scientist. John Williams’ tremendous score also does some heavy lifting. Hearing that iconic theme song again will make even a hardened cynic grin. At the same time, the exhilarating opening sequence and the delightful soundtrack are double-edged swords, reminding audiences how much fun the franchise once was and, by contrast, how much less fun the current iteration is.
The story reuses many classic elements from previous movies, but is overlong and convoluted, featuring a string of MacGuffins and far too many competing factions and characters. Director James Mangold takes a bold swing with a sure-to-be-controversial finale that—while not quite as cringe-worthy as the aliens in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull—doesn’t work at all, ending the movie on a low note.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character is introduced as Indiana Jones’ goddaughter. She is a spunky, self-sufficient, wise-cracking foil to Indy, but sometimes comes across more obnoxious than endearing. Part of the problem is how frequently she steals the spotlight from Indiana. Particularly in the middle act, Harrison Ford feels sidelined (which is not what anyone wants from a final Indiana Jones film, regardless of what they may think of Bridge’s character).
In the end, Dial of Destiny simply doesn’t always feel like an Indiana Jones movie. The nostalgic elements don’t hit as hard as they should, and it almost feels more inspired by the National Treasure movies than a continuation of the films that inspired those movies. The ending is an anti-climactic and unsatisfying send off for the iconic character (even more so than his ending in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). The modern Indiana Jones movies are a reminder of how rare these sorts of films are today, and how great the original films were. But seeing the iconic character as a broken down, frail, and lonely man, I can’t help feeling that perhaps it would be better to let him rest in his reclining chair in peace rather than dragging him into another adventure; a cherished relic from an older era ready to find a lasting home in a museum.
Engage The Film
Faith & Science
As an archeologist, Indiana Jones is a man of science. In a flashback scene, after his friend expresses a belief in supernatural powers, Indy challenges, “But you can’t prove it! Proving it is what makes it science!” Now, years later, after having seen angels of death melt Nazi faces, the Holy Grail heal his father from certain death, and even some aliens, his rigid views have been reevaluated and expanded. Indiana Jones is not religious, but he is now more agnostic about the supernatural. Later in the film, he muses, “It’s not so much what you believe. It’s about how hard you believe it.” This conviction may embrace an erroneous relativistic understanding of truth, but also reflects his character’s growth and acceptance that there are realities in the world that defy scientific explanation.
The Dial is claimed to have the power to turn back time. The villain desires this power to manipulate history for the Nazi’s to win the war. While Indiana wants the artifact kept in a museum rather than used, he also is largely occupied with the concept of time and dealing with the past. Time comes for everyone. Indiana Jones is now old and frail, not the forever-young archetypal hero of the past. He frequently reminisces and reflects on his past, mostly the painful memories. In a way, he and the villain share a discontent with the present and a wistful desire to change their pasts.
On a meta-level, the movie uses technology to wield its own Dial of Destiny by turning back the clock several decades, de-aging Harrison Ford, and continuing the iconic franchise. In doing so, it raises some interesting questions about whether it is healthy to stay fixated on reliving the past, or if we must learn to be content with embracing the time in which we live and allow relics to remain in the past. The Bible conveys, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Life unfolds in seasons, and time is meant to be experienced in the present, not in dwelling on the past.