Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) poster

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)


USA. 2023.


Director – James Mangold, Screenplay – Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp & James Mangold, Producers – Simon Emanuel, Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall, Photography – Phedon Papamichael, Music – John Williams, Visual Effects Supervisor – Andrew Whitehurst, Visual Effects/Animation – Industrial Light & Magic (Supervisor – Robert Weaver, Animation Supervisor – Matthew Shumway), Visual Effects – Important Looking Pirates (Supervisor – Nicolas Hernandez), Rising Sun Pictures (Supervisor – Julian Hutchens), Soho VFX (Supervisor – Berj Bannayan & Keith Sellers) & The Yard VFX (Supervisor – Laurens Ehrmann & Julien Martins), Special Effects Supervisor – Alistair Williams, Makeup & Prosthetics Designer – Frances Hannon, Production Design – Adam Stockhausen. Production Company – Lucasfilm Ltd..


Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Helena Shaw), Mads Mikkelsen (Dr. Jürgen Voller), Ethann Isidore (Teddy Kumar), Antonio Banderas (Renaldo), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah), Toby Jones (Basil Shaw), Thomas Kretschmann (Colonel Weber), Boyd Holbrook (Klaber), Shaunette Renee-Wilson (Mason), Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Olivier Richters (Hauke), Nasser Memarzia (Achimedes), Alaa Safi (Aziz Rahim)


In 1945, Indiana Jones attempts to procure the Lance of Longinus from a haul of artefacts appropriated by the Nazis. This proves to be a fake but he learns that Dr Jürgen Voller has obtained half of the Antikythera, the so-called Dial of Destiny created by Archimedes. He and British colleague Basil Shaw get away with the half of the Antikythera after a furious chase aboard a train. New York City, 1969. Indiana is retiring from teaching when he is approached by Basil’s now grown daughter Helena, who is a student of Archimedes. Indiana shows her his half of the Antikythera whereupon she snatches it, intending to sell it. At the same time, heavies working on behalf of Voller, who is now a valued US asset who was instrumental in the Space Program, seek to obtain the Antikythera. Indiana heads on an international chase that takes him from Tangiers to Greece and Sicily where he is forced to combine forces with Helena in a race to find the sunken graphikos that will lead the way to the other half of the Antikythera and retrieve it before Voller does.

Looking back at the Indiana Jones series from 2023, people who were not there at the time seem to have no idea how big the films were. The first of the series was Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – not Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark as people now seem to believe it was called. It earned as much when it came out as producer George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977) did in its initial theatrical run. The first two sequels, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), were both the second high grossing films of their year.

On the other hand, Lucas’s Star Wars has gone on to become an indisputable pop culture fixture and is still having tv series spun off from it whereas the Indiana Jones series gradually lost its momentum. The original trilogy was followed by the tv series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-3). Director Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and co reunited after nineteen years to make a fourth film with the universally derided Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

A good deal of the reason that Star Wars flourished and Indiana Jones has not kept up as well is due to Star Wars having been relentlessly merchandised; by contrast, there is some but nowhere near the same Indiana Jones toys, videogames, original novels, comic-books and animated tv series. Star Wars also has an entire universe that has allowed it to be spun off into tales devoted to multiple different characters or histories of the empire and the Skywalker family across multiple generations. On the other hand, aside from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, there has been a lack any kind of The Adventures of Sallah/Henry Jones/Mutt Williams spinoffs – it is a series that is largely centred around one figure, its leading man.

An 80 year old Harrison Ford back as Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
An 80 year old Harrison Ford back as Indiana Jones

It is also been fifteen years since we had Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – that was such a negative experience to all accounts that one’s doubts whether there were any young people around at the time who discovered the series and were eager to return for more. That leaves the only the aging audience for the original trilogy, which put out its last adventure 34 years ago. So it is perhaps not a surprise why people did not turn out to embrace the new Indiana Jones film at least in the droves that made the originals the hits they were, making it the lowest grossing film of the series (a not entirely immodest $174 million worldwide).

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny also comes with some changes to the regular. It is still a Lucasfilm production but George Lucas has retired and sold Lucasfiim and properties to Disney in 2012. Given the relentlessness with which Disney are marketing new Star Wars films and tv series, you can perhaps have a certain trepidation about a new Indiana Jones film. Absent from the director’s chair is Steven Spielberg who directed the previous four entries in the series (although Spielberg and Lucas are still present as Executive Producers). Many of the regular cast have reunited, including return appearances from Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davies (who has lost so much weight he looks unrecognisable), although Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt has been unceremoniously killed off.

Harrison Ford is back. Ford was 39 when Raiders came out and hit his 81st birthday a month after Dial of Destiny premiered. Certainly, the films have made a point of aging through the decades concurrent with Ford’s age. The visual effects team do an exemplary job of giving us a deaged Ford during the opening scenes set circa 1945. On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t such a wise choice to open the present (1969) scenes with a shirtless Ford showing flabby moobs as it signals just how old he is getting. It is undoubtedly for this reason that Ford does not engage in as much of the running about and stunt work that he did in previous films. And this is also why a reasonable amount of the action burden is shifted to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, which smartly becomes an opportunity for the film to push the Girl Power message that is the in rallying cry for 2022-3. This is probably likely to be the very last of the Indiana Jones at least as we recognise them where surely anything subsequent could only involve Indy adventuring on a walking frame or take place in a retirement home.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

The new director is James Mangold who has previously made the likes of Cop Land (1997), Girl, Interrupted (1999), the time travel romantic comedy Kate & Leopold (2001), the reality-bending psycho-thriller Identity (2003), Walk the Line (2005), 3:10 to Yuma (2007), Knight and Day (2010), Ford v Ferrari (2019) and two of the X-Men outings with The Wolverine (2013) and Logan (2017), and in genre material also produced the animals attack tv series Zoo (2015-7).

As I started watching, I began to form the conclusion that James Mangold lacked the spark of Steven Spielberg. The opening scenes with Indy about to be hung in a building just as bombing causes the roof to start collapsing and on the train fighting the Nazis worked fairly well but paled against the great openings of Raiders, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. Not to mention that Mangold had made the decision to film the sequence in an ugly colour desaturated grey that seems almost the antithesis of the opulent widescreen and colour adventures of Spielberg’s films.

On the other hand, Dial of Destiny markedly improved (and adopted a regular colour palette) from that point on. There is a great exhilarating centrepiece of a chase through the streets of Tangiers and various others fighting aboard a plane and in the midst of a parade. It is not a perfect film but when the only competition these days seems to be endless Fast and the Furious or Transformers sequels, it serves to bring back the old adventure spirit to screens in much the same way that Raiders recaptured the spirit of the serials forty years before it came out.

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Jürgen Voller in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Jürgen Voller

The actual plot is a rehash of Raiders – the continent-hopping quest for the halves of a magical archaeological artefact in a race against the Nazis; Indiana having to cooperate with the feisty daughter of a former colleague; and a climactic unleashing of the artefact’s powers. Helena is a variant on Marion Ravenwood but comes with the initial untrustworthiness of Last Crusade’s Ilsa Schneider, There is also a kid along for the journey a la Temple of Doom. Surprisingly, the plot of modern Germans trying to obtain the artefact to travel back in time to alter the course of Nazi Germany was also used in the recent Danger! Danger! (2021), which was made as a homage to the Indiana Jones films.

The Indiana Jones films are like the archaeological equivalent of Techno-Thrillers in which magical artefacts – the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Crystal Skull – are regularly introduced but the story concludes with only a glimpse of their power unleashed before the door is closed again. The Ark is briefly opened but then locked away by the US government; the Holy Grail heals Indy’s father but is buried as the temple collapses; the Crystal Skull is found but the aliens depart for the stars with it at the end.

The Antihythera in The Dial of Destiny is a similar magical McGuffin, although ends up being the most fantastical of the all the artefacts in the Indiana Jones films. Here Indy, Helena and the Nazis actually travel back in time to 212 B.C. and Indy meets Archimedes. As always with the series, the mundane status quo that we started with wins out. Interestingly, here we have Indy begging to stay because he loves Ancient Greece and Helena pleading with him and giving assorted reasons why he cannot stay there.

Trailer here

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