AutoMatters & More: Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

The Indiana Jones movie poster
(Courtesy The Walt Disney Studios)

Set primarily in 1969, with flashbacks to establish the backstory in World War II, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the final Indiana Jones adventure — undoubtedly due to Harrison Ford’s advanced age. Nevertheless, his on-screen persona is immediately recognizable, complete with his leather jacket, brown fedora and intimidating, loudly cracking bullwhip.

If you enjoyed the previous Indiana Jones movies, you will not be disappointed with this globe-trotting final installment. It has everything, beginning with fights with dastardly Nazis, and moving along to improbably campy derring-do atop a rapidly moving train, behind the wheels of automobiles, endless chases on foot and appropriate one-liners.

In the theater for the preview screening.
In the theater for the preview screening.
(Jan Wagner)

This time around Harrison Ford portrays a reluctant Indiana Jones. A professor at Hunter College in New York, he is facing his imminent retirement. His students find him boring. He lives a rather sedate, peaceful, uneventful life and he seems to be quite content with that. Soon, however, he is dragged kicking and screaming out of his retirement by someone from his past who needs his help. Of course, that character is much more than they initially appear to be, a situation that inevitably leads to Professor Jones’ efforts to try to save the world from an unimaginably horrible, history-changing, dire fate.

That said, important aspects of this movie merit criticism. Right at the start, the World War II fighting scenes are dark. I’m not talking about dark in tone (although it can be argued that they are that, too), but rather they are literally too dark. Much of the action takes place in near darkness — so much so that you can barely see the details of the action and the stunts, which were no doubt produced at very great expense. Why would they do that — and at a preview screening of the film in IMAX, no less? That was distracting and unnecessarily annoying.

Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones
(Courtesy The Walt Disney Studios)

That’s not all. I soon became distracted by another serious technical problem, but this one continued throughout the film. The sound was so distorted at times that I could not understand the dialog. It was as if the audio track was being played through the theater’s sound system at way too high an audio level. I’ll put that one on the theater. Hopefully your screening will be better.

Without spoiling the details for you, I will tell you that the really cool stuff related to the dial of destiny — the Archimedes Dial — happens close to the end of the film. The bulk of the film, however, was made up of silly, wildly improbable chases. The hero Tuk-Tuk vehicle which, by its frail-looking appearance should have been quite fragile, instead was seemingly indestructible as it endured innumerable impacts — many if not almost all of which should surely have caused it to fail massively, but instead it continued on, again and again. I’m talking about a degree of silliness almost as ridiculous as Wile E. Coyote falling off of cliffs while in the almost futile pursuit of the Road Runner.

(Courtesy The Walt Disney Studios)

It used to be that in movie car chases the film was undercranked, so that when it was played back at normal speed the cars appear to be sped up — which looked very fake. These days car chases in the movies — especially stratospherically high-budget movies — feature much more realistic chase scenes which at least look like they might somehow be possible — but not here. Be prepared to Laugh Out Loud. Unless you are a really little kid (in which case you would probably not be reading this review), you just will not be able to take what you see seriously.

I left the theater wishing that the script had focused more of its attention on the really clever, jaw-dropping stuff that focused on what the dial of destiny was capable of doing.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny was directed by James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari) and, in addition to Harrison Ford, its stars include Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Shaunette Renée Wilson (Black Panther) and Thomas Kretschmann (Das Boot).

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is in theaters now. To see an official trailer, visit:

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