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Not quite the fitting farewell to Harrison Ford as Indy – Beyond Bollywood

No disrespect to director James Mangold, but the first Steven Spielberg-sans Indians Jones film ends up more like a redial.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️ (2 / 5)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny [2023]

By Mayur Lookhar

In a crucial relic-hunt sequence, an exasperated Indiana Jones [Harrison Ford] whinges about climbing some 40 feet in a cave at this age, suffering from back issues and carrying other scars.  Helena Shaw, his much younger accomplice is quick to remind the old man that he has undertaken another adventure out of his own accord.

The character is perhaps now close to 70. Harrison Ford is 80.  Both Jones and Ford can moan about the age, but the lure of another action-adventure, a chance to sport the fedora and crack the whip one last time before walking into the sunset was hard to ignore for the veteran Ford. He didn’t have Steven Spielberg behind the camera. Creator/writer duo of George Lucas and Philip Kaufman are no longer penning the Indian Jones story. Spielberg chose to pass the director’s hat to James Mangold, an acclaimed filmmaker himself with titles like Knight and Day [2010], The Wolverine [2013], Logan [2017] to his credit.

What could Mangold add to this popular global franchise? What could he extract from an 80-year-old Ford? For starters, he has rolled back the clock. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny [2023] begins in 1944 during World War II. Mangold and his CGI artists have digitally de-aged the 80-year-old Ford. At first, we thought whether this was any [used/unused] footage from the previous films? The opening sequence is a good 20-25 minute long. Nah, this is as fresh as it gets. As young as Ford could look at 80.

Dr. Jones has secretly hopped onto a train largely occupied by Nazis, who are transporting precious looted items. His friend Basil Shaw [Toby Jones] has been caught by the Nazis. The duo is here to retrieve the Lance of Longinus, but soon realise that there is something much more precious and original in these stolen items. Jurgen Voller [Mads Mikkelsen], a senior Nazi solider, has found half of Archimedes Dial aka Antikythera mechanism

The device was created by Archimedes of Syracuse with the ancient Greeks using it to chart the cosmos. In Indiana Jones, these objects serve as ideal MacGuffin. It’s such fictional element added to history that makes it an adventurous ride not just for Indiana Jones, but also the audience.

In James Mangold’s film, the Archimedes Dial has the potential to create fissures in time. In short, it’s a time portal device. Jones, Shaw beat the missiles from Allied forces, take down misfiring Nazi soldiers, survive ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ style action to retrieve the half dial.

Harrison Ford

25 years later, Jones [probably now 65-70], is teaching in Hunter college. His wife Marion [Karen Allen] has left him after the death of their son Mutt in Vietnam war. Now that is a dignified way to bump off a character. Jones is spending the rest of his life in solitude. Then one day Shaw’s pretty daughter Helena [Phoebe Waller-Bridge] turns up seeking help from her godfather. The archaeology student is in debts, having rubbed powerful people the wrong way, Helena has been selling off antiques in the black market. She longs to retrieve the other half of the Archimedes Dial and trade it so to clear her debts. Jones reminds Helena that the obsession for the Archimedes Dial drove his father mad. He refuses to be her godfather.

Remarkably Jurgen Voller miraculously survived the deadly crash of 1944. The Dial drove Shaw mad. So, it is only befitting that Jurgen Voller is played by a man called Mads. The stage is set for another archetypal adventurous, action-filled ride.

Boyed by the success of Raider of the Lost Ark [198], Indiana Jones acquired a global cult following. Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford would then go on to make two more successful films – Temple of Doom [1984] and Last Crusade [1989]. 19 years later, Spielberg, Ford came up with the fourth instalment – The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  It became evident by then that franchise was acquiring a template. Jones is to retrieve a precious item, often ending up as a relic hunt. The McGuffin touch added a certain fascination for the leading characters and also the audience. The fifth film arrives 15 years later, with the franchise now entering into its 42nd year.

Harrison Ford had made it clear that he is unlikely to feature again in these action-adventure, relic hunt roles. The manner in which the fifth film has panned out, there’s a strong possibility that producer Lucasfilm, Walt Disney might call a halt to their cult franchise. So, is the Dial of Destiny a fitting swansong for Ford as Indiana Jones?

At 80, Ford leaves no stone unturned to make it a memorable last hurrah. It would be harsh to expect an 80-year-old to pull off daredevilry. Mind you, right from the first film, you always took the action with a pinch of salt. Age has its limitations, but there is no shortage of energy from Ford. He flaunts the iconic fedora, cracks the whip and beats the hell out of Nazis. The film begins in 1944, the action then shifts to 1969, but surely lines like ‘Nazi and funny’ are not amusing in 2023.  Though dragged by a dull, déjà vu narrative, Ford charms us again with his passion, enthusiasm and energy.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

We’re watching Phoebe Waller-Bridge for the first time. She’s turned the Shaw legacy on its head, Helena, however, discovers the adventurist, archeologist in her in this Dial of Destiny trail. Waller-Bridge impresses this desi reviewer with her style, wit and daredevilry.  How many women in the preceding film got to do high-octane action?  From a tuk tuk to a bike, the English actress revels in the action, adventure. Harrison Ford is irreplaceable. There can’t be another Indiana Jones, but if the latter is looking for a successor, then Waller-Bridge’s Helena has shown enough enthusiasm, dare to carry forward the legacy.

Mads Mikkelsen

Mads Mikkelsen is an apt choice for Jurgen Voller. It’s strange though how a former Nazi would go onto become a key astrophysicist of US government’s moon-landing program. Mikkelsen came to prominence playing the suave, restrained but merciless terror financier Le Chiffre in Casino Royale [2006]. Most Indiana Jones villains are aggressive, cocky and crazy too. Mikkelsen’s Voller is an antithesis to the Belloqs, Mola Rams [Amrish Puri], and the Irina Spalkos.  He has nefarious designs, but Voller comes across as an admirer of Indiana Jones. Voller is retrained, sophisticated. Jeez, nor he or either his men are good enough to pin down a 70-year-old Jones, the young lady Helena and her sidekick Teddy Kumar [Ethann Isidore] – a 14-year-old boy.

We never really see a monster in Voller. The snake-eyes look worried only when Voller gets his time travel calculation woefully wrong.  

John Rhys-Davies makes a little appearance purely for nostalgia. Antonio Banderas feels wasted in a cameo role as Renaldo, an old humble captain friend of Jones.

Be it the leading or supporting cast, each artiste excels in their role. Where does then Dial of Destiny go wrong? It purely comes down to the dull, predictable, repetitive screenplay. The final adventure, especially in an altogether different world, is exciting but the action, despite aided by modern tech, never looked convincing. The most inexplicable thing is how in the climax action, the sparring warriors on the ground take down Voller’s aircraft, but no one notices the tiny aircraft that is out to rescue Indy and Helena. Believe it or not, the owner-pilot continued to sleep in the plane whilst the little boy Teddy did a miraculous take-off. The pilot wakes up to find his aircraft in a different portal and then thankfully takes charge.

When they had no great technology, a viewer was intrigued and immersed into the mysterious places in preceding films. In the Dial of Destiny, the transit from present to the past is captivating, but the rest of action/adventure in present day Earth is unconvincing. The designs and action in the Syracuse cave on Earth is unimpressive. Besides, imagine a tuk tuk outpacing SUVs of 1969. Then there is Helena blazing on a bike and catching up to the pace of a private aircraft that is about to take off.

Indiana Jones, his fedora, whip, theme music will forever remain immortal. However, Ford’s last film as the iconic character ends up like a poor redial. Definitely, not quite the farewell that he deserved.

Watch the video review below.

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