The much awaited fifth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise generated major expectations enough to be the great film that closes the saga starring Harrison Ford. The now octogenarian actor used the word “evident” for describe the reasons to not continue portraying the character after this film. In the same way, James Mangold replaced Steven Spielberg, in the only film of the saga that does not have the latter in the director’s chair. As if this was not enough, the cast is conformed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of Fleabag fame), who portrays a freshly graduated archeologist on a personal mission; Toby Jones as Basil Shaw, a dear friend of Indy’s; Mads Mikkelsen, in the role of Jürgen Voller, the token Nazi villain; the barely used Antonio Banderas and the endearing John Rhys-Davis in a limited return.
What happened then?
The film starts quite well, with a set piece in which a technologically de-aged Indiana comes across once again with new Nazi enemies that are loading a train with every valuable relic from World War II upon facing its imminent culmination. An excuse that generates the search for the piercing object with which Jesus Christ was crucified and, at the same time, a fantastic device, designed by Archimedes himself, called Antikythera, with which one can travel through time. Indiana barely escapes with his life after being hanged by the neck and continues his travel with Basil; a character like the ones performed by Denholm Elliot, John Rhys-Davis, Ray Winstone or his own fictional father, Sean Connery. The chase ends in the interior and later exterior of a moving train. There takes place the first duel in the film between Jürgen and Indiana. Starting with this fast-paced first sequence we realize that the excess of CGI brings a sensation that is far removed from the first Indy films, in which the effects were made in a more hand-crafted manner, using miniatures, stunt doubles and matte paintings, things that ironically Spielberg himself brought to an end or extinguished with Jurassic Park.
In Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny two main themes are addressed: destiny, as implied in the title, and time. As the film moves on these are two notions that are becoming strong for the archeologist. In fact, Ford mentioned that one of his few requirements to return to the role of Indy was to make a good film, to make clear that his character is of an elderly age and for this to be a closure. Therefore, the character retires in New York City, is no longer a college professor and finds no meaning in his life. Even Marion (Karen Allen) asks him for a divorce. Indy no longer fits in the New Yorker land of 1969. Somehow, he was left without any adventures to keep him alive. He neither has the physical prowess of yesteryear. This was an issue raised in the Young Indiana Jones TV series, with an older Jones telling stories about his youth.
The production values of this installment are no surprise. There are the usual trips across the continent to deal with the ever opening Pandora’s Box. When something about the plot is resolved, immediately a new challenge appears. If the piece has a part missing, it is a fake or whatever. Therefore we will find Indiana and his troupe travelling through Tangiers, Greece and Syracuse (Sicily). It is the Catch-22 mentioned by Ángel Faretta in his Avengers: Infinity War review, with the difference that in this one something has been lost. The audience who grew with Indiana Jones in their teenage years now seeks nostalgia and fun. On the contrary, here they find a failed Disney product, who has the goal of taking the hero onto new generations and forget about the past. The filmmakers did not need the Antikythera to travel back in time and revise what Raiders of the Lost Ark meant and still means to several generations.
Director: James Mangold. Screenwriters: James Mangold, David Koepp, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth. Cast: Harrison Ford, Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, John Rhys-Davies. Producers: Simon Emanuel, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall. Running Time: 142 minutes.