Back in 2008, when Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull came out, there was plenty of nostalgia to smile at mixed with the fact that it was a dull movie. There was that absurd ending that Steven Spielberg himself didn’t like, but it was George Lucas’ story, so he went with it. One positive was it moved on from Nazi enemies to communist Russia in the thick of the Cold War. Likewise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the final film of the Indiana Jones franchise, jumps to 1969. Without Spielberg or Lucas as director and writer (they are still executive producers), what was the next big villain that Indy and his whip had to face?
The answer… Another Nazi!!! Really??? Again??? Quickly, it dawned on me this was going to be a lazy story. FOUR top-quality writers share credit, and none of it shines well on them. Jez and John-Henry Butterworth reunite with director James Mangold following their success with Ford v Ferrar. David Koepp also joins, serving up a script that felt like it was produced by A.I. Should we stop worrying and love the A.I. bomb if franchises produce this type of writing?
Dial Of Destiny begins with the last days of World War II as the plunder of the Nazis reaches a critical mass. Nazi officer and archeologist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) tries to recover a dial, the Antikythera. Indy (Harrison Ford) is there with Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), a man obsessed with the Antikythera’s power but fears it could be used by the wrong hands. Indy can retrieve one-half of the artifact, and the other lies somewhere else. Cut to the day Man has reached the Moon, and the world celebrates – except for Indy, unhappy that it came at the cost of hiring former Nazis to help beat the Russians. Indy retires from being a professor at Hunter’s College. Then, an unexpected surprise happens with the arrival of Indy’s goddaughter, Helena (Pheobe Waller-Bridge), daughter of the now-deceased Basil.
The quest begins when Helena uses Indy to steal the MacGuffin – the surviving piece of the dial – as a group of Voller’s henchmen comes to take it. Having helped NASA successfully win the Space Race, Voller now seeks to make amends for his failed pursuit. Indy travels to Morocco to get the dial back and learns that Helena is a thief for valuable contraband. Thanks to her father, she became very knowledgeable about the Antikythera. Of course, so are Voller and his company. It becomes a rat race to find the other half and, depending on who gets it, keep the clock moving forward or go back in time.
Dial Of Destiny makes this less an adventure and more of a coerced hunt for Jones. The intrusion of Voller’s men resulted in two deaths and which results in Jones being framed for murder. He leaves the country to get the dial back from nefarious figures. Helena has her version of Short Round in Teddy (Ethann Isidore), a ten-year-old street kid from Tangiers. At one point, Teddy flies a plane through a storm. No, seriously, figures it out follows Voller’s plane. While it becomes easy to guess what Voller wants, his reasoning, and the mistakes that follow, gave me PTSD to the finale of Crystal Skull. It’s such nonsense that I screamed to myself, “COUNTERFEIT!!!”
I wanted to like this movie. I loved the original trilogy, and it should not have returned to profit on nostalgia. It was nice to see Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and Marion (Karen Allen) one last time. But this story should have been better and less convoluted. It’s implied Voller is also connected to the CIA, but I’m not sure. The CGI is dodgy. What is Helena’s end game? How did Indy end up at Hunter’s College? None of the action seemed fun compared to the original films. This franchise, let alone Dial of Destiny, was a relic that should’ve been left as it was. The clock should have never been turned back.