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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) Review

The adventures of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) have become iconic in the action-adventure genre, and the globetrotting, Nazi-punching archeologist's influence on media has refused to fade away, even in today's current state of entertainment culture. If anything, Jones' escapades are given more importance, as his values and morals are emphasized when compared to real-world events. While some titles in the Indiana Jones franchise have been known to cause discourse across the fanbase, there's still a timeless sense of fondness that's associated with the titular character and the cinematic universe that has been fleshed out around him.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny marks Ford's fifth outing as Jones as his final one. His impressive, long-running commitment to the series makes the conclusory chapter in the saga even more bittersweet, and it's reassuring that Ford was so eager to send off the franchise in his older age. The actor has been vocal about his love for Indiana Jones altogether, which had inflated hopes around what Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny would set out to achieve. The lukewarm responses to the film's opening at Cannes 2023 weren't just a one-off from a singular audience. Perhaps it was Indiana Jones' closing chapter's destiny to be "pretty okay" and aggressively "fine."

There's a sweeping sense of familiarity that comes over the extent of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny as the film wastes no time jumping back into the Nazi-driven plotline. The first act provides plenty of context of why the centric relic - the Archimedes Dial, or Dial of Destiny - holds so much importance, but brings little freshness to the franchise. A good amount of the first act is dedicated to a de-aged Ford taking on Nazis in bouts of hand-to-hand combat, and while the re-imagining of Ford's younger self isn't all too offputting, it feels unnecessary to include an overlong flashback. If audiences wanted to revisit an Indy in his prime, they could simply rewatch some of the older films. There's a want for the response Toby Joness Basil Shaw to be sympathetic, but Jones borders on over-acting his role to the point where it isn't completely convincing. The greenscreen effects used throughout Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny also fail to convince audiences of their quality -- Lucasfilm and Disney have accomplished technological feats in past releases, so they should be able to meet their own standard here, too.

Director James Mangold has also set his own standards through work such as Logan or Ford vs. Ferrari, though his approach to Indiana Jones only suffices on some accounts. The screenwriting is considerably uneven, but still saves space for memorable moments. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny can be likened to theme park stunt shows with room set aside for sociopolitical commentary -- an aspect that has always been present in the Indiana Jones series, and connects the fifth film back to its roots. The political notion of Indiana Jones contributes to some of the series' greatest strengths. It's disappointing that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is somewhat predictable, and while there's so much excitement unfolding on screen, some parts could be considered as boring. Not every moment grips an audience's attention, though the ones where Ford is seen as an aging professor draw them in thanks to his passionate enthusiasm. It's a clean blend between the actor and the character.

Endearing legacy moments throughout Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, in addition to moments that light up the series' spirit of exploration, flatter the saga's ambitious beginnings. It's able to round out the cinematic universe by honoring the source material it was built upon while contributing new storylines that borrow from old tropes. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny may face a great deal of deja vu, but clever foreshadowing and divisive risk-taking attempt to shake up the time-old narrative formula. Series newcomers Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Ethann Isidore are given character archetypes to fall into that makes sense for the direction that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny want to go in, but doesn't challenge how original the screenplay can really be. Mads Mikkelsen's chilling demeanor has proven that he's well-equipped for villainous roles. It's just surprising that it's taken it this long for him to be cast as a Nazi, considering the quality of his acting skills.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny firmly middles itself, as it meets some expectations without feeling the need to exceed them. There's a major creative liberty taken that has become a franchise first, but it's a shame that the final cut didn't push itself to be more daring. For Jones, however, there is time dedicated to touching on the adventurer's sentimental side. Ford still has the same spunk and attitude that give the archeologist his distinct personality, but the more tender moments shared with Jones are where he really shines. While as sweet and softhearted of an ending as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has, it may not exactly belong in a museum. 6.5/10.

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