Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny Review: A Classic Franchise With Modern Problems

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is too long with not enough plot followed by a rushed ending.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated


The best part of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the beginning, a lengthy sequence set in 1945 involving Indy trying to steal back the Spear of Destiny from Nazis. Using de-aging technology, Harrison Ford is back in the saddle as a middle-aged explorer with the voice of an 80-year-old man, but above all, it’s just plain fun. Sadly, it doesn’t keep the energy going and becomes a slog, thanks to an insufficient plot and too much runtime.

Right after the flashback sequence ends, it jumps the story forward to 1969 and a topless Harrison Ford struggling to move around his rundown apartment. It’s a jarring juxtaposition that sets up the rest of Dial of Destiny, which never uses the word “old” but makes it clear that Indiana Jones‘ best days are behind him.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harrison Ford

Mads Mikkelson’s Nazi from the opening scene is back in New York, having become an advisor for the United States government thanks to the real-life Operation Paperclip, but he’s clearly still evil. The final star of the film, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is Helena Shaw, Indiana Jones god-daughter, and the three become entwined in a series of chases and close escapes to retrieve Archimedes’ timepiece, i.e., the Dial of Destiny.

The plot follows the classic template established in Raiders of the Lost Ark: chase an artifact, travel via a map with a red line, find another artifact, have a tense encounter, and repeat. It sounds rote and by the numbers, but it’s a classic adventure movie formula that for the most part, still works. The largest problem this time has nothing to do with Indiana Jones, or any of the stars for that matter, all of their star-power isn’t able to elevate a dull story.

Despite a glimmer of hope for the future of Indiana Jones, and the excellent ending, it’s not worth the slog to get there.

Directed by James Mangold, known for Logan and in charge of both an upcoming Star Wars movie and Swamp Thing, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a drastically different film from everything else in his filmography. Stepping in after Steven Spielberg left the franchise had to have been intimidating, which may be why Mangold makes rookie mistakes for directors given a big-budget franchise: it’s too long.

A middle sequence involving diving could have been removed entirely, dropping the number of chase scenes to four because, as it stands, I was checking the time at that point and wondering when the film was finally going to get to the point. To its credit, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, as with the previous films, gets weird at the end, but its sadly a short part of the film, and for how wild a twist it is, nothing is really done with it.

Mads Mikkelsen

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny plays things too safe, and it moves with the gait of an old man, short sprints and long periods to catch its breath, repeated over and over until it just ends. Thankfully, the ending is well worth it for franchise fans, including a beautiful callback to the first movie. And yes, the absence of Mutt (Shia Lebeouf) is addressed; it makes sense and helps add to the image of Indy as a hard-luck hero with nothing going right for him.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, as Helena Shaw, going by this film, is not likely to continue the franchise afterward, but if she is, it’s going to be in good hands. She’s a horrible action star, which makes her perfect for a franchise where the hero routinely gets beat up and loses on a regular basis.

Yet despite the glimmer of hope for the future of Indiana Jones, and the excellent ending, it’s not worth the slog to get there. A runtime of two hours and 34 minutes makes it the longest film in the series by 30 minutes, and with fewer action setpieces, it’s the most boring in the franchise. The most famous pulp adventure franchise, and its hard-working stars, deserved a better send-off.