The original and best action hero of the 1980’s is back. 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark is quite simply the greatest movie ever put to celluloid and gave us the greatest character of pop culture in Indiana Jones. Out of the mind of George Lucas came an adventure of what we were told the serials of the 1930’s were. It was directed by Steven Spielberg, who just got turned down for the second time to direct a James Bond movie. The stars aligned to give us a two fisted, gunfighting, whip cracking, globe trotting adventurer that is part scoundrel and all action hero. So how does Indy hold up in his fifth movie in the series, The Dial of Destiny, in this modern age of moviegoers?
An Ultimate Review of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
The first twenty minuted featuring a de aged Indy belong in the best parts of the original trilogy. Set at the close of the war in 1945, the Nazis are looting everything they can get their hands on including a train full of ancient artifacts that belong in a museum. Indy and his compatriot Basil Shaw played by Toby Jones have infiltrated their ranks in pursuit of the Spear of Destiny, the lance that pierced Christ’s side as he hung on the cross. Disguised as a Nazi wearing a uniform with a suspicious bullet hole where the heart should be, Indy gets captured, tortured and escapes as he makes his way aboard a speeding train bound for Germany. Also on board is a Nazi rocket scientist named Voller played by Mads Mikkelsen, who is after another artifact on the train called the Dial of Destiny that is supposed to give its owner god like powers. The pursuit of the two ancient artifacts collide atop the train. When a Nazi draws a bead on Professor Jones and his whip comes out of nowhere to level the playing field, you know the outcome has all but been been guaranteed as Indy wins his fight against a train full of Nazis and the Allies go on to win the war.
Now we cut to 1969 and find that history has not treated our favorite adventurer well. Society has stopped looking to the past for answers as it looks to the stars after the first moon landing. Indy is drinking himself to sleep every night in his tiny apartment, surrounded by the counterculture as Marion is in the process of divorcing him and he is about to retire knowing his best days are long since behind him. Into his life walks his goddaughter Helena Shaw, whom he hasn’t seen in eighteen years. She shares her fathers Basil’s obsession with the dial in the same way Indy shared his father’s obsession with the Grail. Years ago, Indy promised to destroy the half he possessed. It turns out Indy couldn’t bring himself to do it and has it hidden among all the relics he recovered over the years. When he digs it out, Helena is joined by none other then Voller, whose now working for NASA as a rocket scientist- and his Nazi goons. It turns out Voller never stopped looking for the dial and didn’t know who that daring adventurer atop the train that defeated him to claim the dial was. And Helena just lead him right to the dial. But then Helena reveals her true colors and betrays Indy and leaves him behind to be killed as she grabs the dial and takes off with everybody in pursuit and this movie is off to the races.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Helena Shaw
So let’s address the elephant in the room in Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her birthmark’s portrayal of Helena Shaw. She is the Jar Jar Binks of the Indy franchise. And this from a franchise that once gave us the perfect girlfriend in Marion Ravenswood and then went on to prefect the irritating female sidekicks in Willie Scott and Elsa Schneider. She is the grave robber to Indy’s professor of archeology with the intention to sell the artifacts to the highest bidder on the black market. She is so unlikable a character she left Indy behind to be killed and we are expected to grow to like this character? Can she handle taking over an action franchise? Well, watch her run across a rooftop and you’ll have your answer. And I can assure you that it is safe to go see this movie as the rumored scene where she spins the dial and becomes Indiana Jones and takes over the franchise was not in this cut. But look at the finale and don’t tell me it wasn’t a hasty reshoot based on negative screenings. Hopefully Kathleen Kennedy doesn’t follow trough on her threat to spin this character off into her own franchise. But she does manage to move this story along.
As far as the action is concerned, Indy is showing his age as you would expect. At one point, even he is complaining about his knees and shoulders and getting shot seven times. An escape from the Nazis across the streets of New York is followed be a tut tut chase across Tangiers leads to Scuba diving off the coast of Greece and finally trough a fissure in time as the dial is finally fired up. Another of my issues with this movie is why Indy doesn’t access a firearm until the final act. Is this another capitulation to the writers antipathy to the second amendment? Because a couple of gunfights would have led to a much needed shot of adrenaline to this movie.
But How Ultimate is it?
I would also like to address why Hollywood feels the need to emasculate our action heroes of old. Look what they did to Luke and Han in the Star Wars sequels. Wolverine was reduced to laying low and changing Professor X’s diapers. As if Linda Hamilton wasn’t enough, the Terminator even had to be flanked by another female sidekick. John Wick was a suicidal sad sack until they killed his dog. Hell, even James Bond was closing down the bars before they flat out murdered him in his last adventure. Hasn’t Hollywood figured out these characterizations just are not resonating with audiences? Sadly, this Indy movie isn’t going to find any new fans in this generation of moviegoers. But maybe pop culture can finally be rid of the curse that is Kathleen Kennedy over at Lucasfilm and bring the Star Wars franchise back from the brink of extinction.
Let’s give Indy a rest before the inevitable reboot with probably Chris Pratt as the new Indy. I don’t know about the rest of you but I could set trough a new Crystal Skull every three years I so love this character. And the Indy movies have always given him the best endings. From riding off into the sunset to marrying the love of his life. Dial of Destiny continues that trend. So buckle up and enjoy the final ride and make it your mission in life to introduce the younger generation to the history of Professor Henry Jones Jr.