Give 'em Hell, Indiana Jones.
Released in UK Cinemas: 28th June 2023
Directed by James Mangold
Finding himself in a new era, approaching retirement, Indiana Jones wrestles with fitting into a world that seems to have outgrown him.
Indiana Jones is arguably one of the most celebrated cinematic characters of all time. You see the hat, hear the beginning of the theme and you are transported back to these stories of danger, mystery and peril. Because of this legacy that has been written into the zeitgeist, any attempt to build on it immediately begins to threaten the history of the characters and the memories of the audience.
Legacy sequels have always been hit or miss so 2008's Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a considerable risk that for the most part did not pay off, landing on shaky ground and generally left out of the conversation when discussing the series. Given its lukewarm reception, it's optimistic that 15 years later Harrison Ford had one last crusade left in him in the hope to give the series a more satisfying conclusion.
This time James Mangold is at the directorial helm, marking the first Indiana Jones film not directed by Steven Spielberg. But Mangold understands the impact of these films, growing up with them himself, so Dial of Destiny unsurprisingly plays things very safe as it breaks out the whip for a final adventure that manages to recapture the spirit of the original.
Harrison Ford gives us a glimpse at Indiana Jones as he approaches retirement but also flashes back to his heyday with the help of de-ageing computer trickery helping to give closure to the character while allowing audiences to tag along on one more adventure. Ford gives an unexpectedly energetic performance for an 80 year old balancing it with a more mature and composed portrayal as he is faced with the next stage of his life. Phoebe Waller-Bridge gives the 'young protagonist related to the main character that may one day take over the franchise' role another go after Shia LaBeouf is written out of the narrative with much more success. Her presence and personality are reminiscent of a young Indy so much show that a neon sign screaming 'Spin-Off Coming Soon' may as well have been following her every move.
Dial of Destiny makes some bold moves, especially in its startling final act but Mangold and team stick very close to the winning formula of the series never stepping too far outside their comfort zone. The opening sequence takes audiences back to the height of the second world war with Indiana Jones doing what he does best - fighting Nazis. He does so with a de-aged face that holds up for the most part, only occasionally slipping into the uncanny valley, which can also be said for much of the visual effects - perhaps leaning too far into an overreliance in a franchise that was once known for its outstanding practical work.
It's hard to live up to such an imposing legacy - where this final instalment may not hit the heights that made the original trilogy the landmarks they are today, it captures the spirit and at the very least is a perfect slice of heroic globetrotting escapism that encapsulates the summer blockbuster. Though it's by no means perfect, Dial of Destiny is a fitting swan song for one of cinema's most iconic characters.