First, sorry for the dearth of posts. Been incredibly busy of late with all kinds of things and, if I’m being honest here, I don’t know if in the next few months I’ll be able to post like I did when I was really cooking. I’ll keep trying, though…!
Now, on to the latest, and we have to assume last, Indiana Jones film featuring Harrison Ford. Here’s the movie’s trailer:
When it was announced Harrison Ford would return one more time to play what is probably his most iconic role (even above his Han Solo from Star Wars, IMHO of course!) there was excitement, at least from me.
I still recall going to see the original Raiders Of The Lost Ark (before it was retitled to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) back when it was originally released back in 1981. It’s hard to recall today, but both Harrison Ford and director Steve Spielberg were not the icons they would become. I firmly believe this movie made Harrison Ford an upper tier actor, which he held for decades and, it seems, only now in his twilight years is relinquishing.
But Steven Spielberg, also, wasn’t as huge a name at that time, either. Sure, he had the hit releases in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but he had just released 1941 which was a box office and critical failure. But the release of Raiders, followed by the mega-hit E.T. The Extra-Terrestial the next year, erased any worry he might be a flash in the pan.
There were three Indiana Jones films that followed the first, and in my opinion none of them were as good as the original. Temple of Doom proved too grim and claustrophobic. The Last Crusade is beloved by many fans but though I feel it has some great sequences, I can’t say I like it as much as others do. Still, I feel it is the second best of the Indiana Jones films, and that includes the one I’m about to talk about. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls I felt also had some really good sequences but boy did it have issues with its concluding act. Audiences, however, seemed really turned off by it and, especially, the infamous “nuking the fridge” sequence in the opening act.
Which brings us to Dial of Destiny. Steven Spielberg, who perhaps after four Indiana Jones films had had enough of that particular genre, bowed out and for the first time someone else directing an Indiana Jones film: James Mangold. He’s been a generally good director in my opinion, with some of his most recent films being Ford vs. Ferrari and Logan.
At the very least, and given the theme of Logan dealing with an hero dealing with his twilight years, it appeared the franchise was in good enough hands.
I wanted to see Dial of Destiny in theaters when it was released and even after some of the early reviews were mixed. But, as is unfortunately too usual these days, I simply didn’t find the time to see the film. The film wound up doing very badly at the box office and was one of the bigger flops of the year.
Reviews were generally mixed, as they were early on. There were those who liked the film quite a bit and felt it was a good conclusion to the Indiana Jones saga even though Last Crusade and Crystal Skulls both attempted to be concluding stories. Hell, Last Crusade even had Indiana Jones and his father (played by Sean Connery) quite literally riding off into the sunset!
So, finally, let’s get to Dial of Destiny…
I’ll try not to get into too many SPOILERS but there will be a few here and there and I’ll try to point them out as best as I can.
The movie begins with an extended sequence featuring a younger Indiana Jones on a mission behind Nazi lines. The “de-aging” of Harrison Ford is pretty good for most of the sequences but not spectacular. Hollywood is getting better at the process but there’s still improvement to be made.
The sequence is ok but watching the CGI action effects makes me realize how much I miss the practical effects presented in Raiders. Unfortunately, using these CGI effects seems to make directors go “bolder” with the action sequences but frankly they become cartoonish and not very believable. There’s a bit with Indy riding a motorcycle where this was a little too obvious. There clearly was no motorcycle, no actual Harrison Ford, and the scenery around them was also CGI.
It’s becoming tougher for me to be invested in these action scenes when they’re so clearly computer generated bits.
Anyway, we’re introduced to Indy’s partner Basil Shaw and the two are seeking to retrieve the legendary Spear of Destiny (not to be confused with the Dial of Destiny) which Hitler feels has some mystical power which will, in these waning days of WWII, lead to victory.
In the course of trying to retrieve this relic, Indy and Shaw realize the relic is fake but there is a very real one -or rather one-half of one- among the looted goods: The Dial of Destiny. Another character, Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), also realizes this is the real deal but at the end of the sequence, Indy and Shaw have the device and we fast forward to…
New York, 1969.
A very old Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford was around 79 when filming this movie. He is now 81) awakens to find the news of the first Moon landing but he doesn’t care all that much. He’s grumpy and his life is apparently unwinding as we get a glimpse of divorce papers between Marion and he.
He goes to the University for his final lecture before retiring and there a mysterious woman seems to know much of the material he’s lecturing. She also knows about the Dial of Destiny and its maker, Archemides.
Indy heads to a bar after the retirement party, not too keen about his stage in life, and the mystery woman shows up. She states she’s Helena Shaw, daughter of his one-time partner Basil. She also states that she wants to find where Indy and her father threw away the half of the device, which she states they did in a river shortly after they recovered it.
This part of the film, I have to say, shows me that the movie’s script was a work in progress and I‘ll get into that in a moment.
The bottom line is that Indy and Helena wind up forming a very uneasy alliance and travel around the world in search of the second half of the Dial of Destiny while on the run from Dr. Voller, who is still around and determined to get the device.
What does he seek? Is Helena good or bad? Will Indy triumph in the end?
Well, what do you think?! 😉
What we have her is a decent enough action film that unfortunately and as I stated above relies on perhaps too many CGI stunts that simply look like in the real world they could never work.
But the movie’s biggest flaw is that I’m convinced the film was being worked on from a story standpoint up to the very end.
How else to explain the appearance of Antonio Banderas in a role that, frankly, any other actor could have done? He literally has five minutes of screen time and barely says anything memorable before he’s gone. Mads Mikkelson’s Dr. Voller is about as one note as you can get. He is this understated villain who is simply there and never gets any powerful scene to strut his stuff, so to speak.
But perhaps the biggest artifact to find which proves the story was a work in progress is the character of Helena.
When first introduced and as I mentioned above, she tells Indy about how they tossed Dial into a river and Indy asks her if she remembers the last time they were together. I’m convinced at one point Helena’s character was a fake and not the real Helena Shaw and Indy’s question -and a subsequent flashback- proves that she wasn’t the daughter. Shaw’s daughter would know the Dial of Destiny was in her father’s possession well after the war and not thrown away into any river at War’s end.
Therefore, I feel her character was originally a cohort of Dr. Voller but the decision was made to make her a rascal rather than an outright villain and someone who would eventually go over to the side of good.
Anyway, it is what it is. Dial of Destiny is far from terrible but, unfortunately, not much more than decent. I recommend it with reservations but do feel most Indy fans will have a good time with the movie.
I will say this much, though: The final sequence was very sweet and a good way to say goodbye to this movie hero.