The opening of "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" is set in 1944 during the Allied liberation of Europe at the end of the second World War. Indy is captured by Nazis as they search for an artifact called the Lance of Longinus and he has to swashbuckle his way off a train filled with Axis soldiers, which sounds just about perfect for an Indiana Jones plot. But here's the problem: 1944 is about six years after "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was set, meaning they needed to de-age Harrison Ford by almost 40 years. So for the first 20 minutes of the new Indiana Jones adventure, we have a hero with a computer generated face that never once feels or looks like the real Harrison Ford. If that's not a metaphor for this movie, I don't know what is.
This never stood a chance. Since we have a half-animated Harrison Ford to open the film, when we finally jump to 1969 (when the rest of the movie takes place), the audience is still left looking for a magic trick. I mean, I get it: Harrison Ford is (a remarkably jacked) 80 years old and there are going to have to be lots of special effects to keep him looking badass enough to trade fist-icuffs at Nazis, but the special effects just aren't good enough to youthify him believably.
As "Dial of Destiny" was announced and all of the marketing focused on this being Ford's final time putting on the fedora and whip, I knew there wasn't much chance of this being as good as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or even "Temple of Doom," so my bar was set at just needing it to be better than 2008's dreadful "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Sadly, I'm not sure that it is.
First of all: this is the first Indiana Jones movie that isn't directed by Steven Spielberg and, even though new director James Mangold has made a few hits (including another attempted franchise capper with "Logan"), he's no Spielberg. That isn't Mangold's fault because no one is, but since he doesn't have much of his own style, "Dial of Destiny" has no authorial voice and basically feels like a Disney+ series about Indy, staffed by generic and interchangeable filmmakers.
Second: the (four!!!) writers are really hoping that nostalgia does most of the work for them instead of crafting an interesting story with memorable characters and engaging action sequences. So, we are introduced to Helena Shaw (played by an embarrassed-looking Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who is obviously a stand-in for Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood, and her young sidekick Teddy, who is a stand-in for Ke Huy Quan's Short Round. Then they sprinkle little lines throughout the film that equal the filmmakers saying, "Hey, remember when Indy did that? That was cool." The problem is all that does is remind you of better movies with stories we cared about.
Every frame of this movie is packed with things to stare at, but none of it looks remotely real. "Dial of Destiny" has a budget of almost $300 million and never once actually transported me outside of the movie theater. There's a scene with Indy running across the top of a train which makes him look like Forky from "Toy Story 4" that I assume the CGI team was using as a temporary placeholder and then just forgot about. There's so much gloss, sheen, color correction and green screen that the movie looks and feels like an uninspired soup of colors and images that add up to Disney hoping we pay them our money like good boys and girls.
Uninspired, ugly, joyless and without any single second of life, "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" didn't once spark excitement for me. At 154 minutes, the film feels punishingly long and boring, which is unforgivable since watching Nazis get punched in the face is such an evergreen source of enjoyment. Indy being nuked inside of a fridge in "Crystal Skull" might have been ridiculous and dumb, but I'll take that over him with an animated face spouting dialogue so wooden it sounds like it came from ChatGPT any day.
Maybe kids might like this? Most people's favorite Indiana Jones adventure is usually the first one they ever saw, so some 12-year-old might fall in love with "Dial of Destiny" and want to become an archeologist, I guess? Not me, though. Instead, this made me feel like the 80-year-old Dr. Jones we see in this film: old, tired, ready to yell at some clouds just to feel something. I wanted to love this movie and be transported back to when I was a kid seeing "Last Crusade" in the theater for the first time. Instead, I got a cynical cash grab. Maybe a better title for this would have been "Indiana Jones and the 14 Dollars, Please."