|Worth seeing:||to see an old man reliving his younger days as a heroic adventurer until it jumps the shark with a wild tail-spin into fantasy|
|Featuring:||Harrison Ford, Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, John Rhys-Davies, Karen Allen, Olivier Richters, Thomas Kretschmann|
|Released:||28th June 2023|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Towards the end of the Second World War, renowned archaeologist Indiana Jones (a de-aged Harrison Ford) and his colleague Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) are trying to liberate an ancient Greek relic from a Nazi scientist, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), but it falls hundreds of feet from a speeding train and lands in a fast-flowing river, never to be seen again…
…until, 25 years later, when Shaw’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) approaches Indy in a bar. It turns out that Basil had recovered half of the Archimedes Dial, and promised to destroy it, so that it couldn’t be used for its legendary purpose – to travel in time. He promised to destroy it, but he didn’t.
To stop it being used irresponsibly, Archimedes had hidden part of it, so Indy and Helena set out together to recover both parts of the dial.
As they start their search, they soon find Voller is on their tail; years after their first meeting, he’s now working for the American space programme, his Nazi past a secret to everyone but Indy himself.
In an adventure that takes them to Greece, Italy, Egypt and beyond, Indy – once again – fearlessly wields his whip, his hat and his fists – to try to save the world from the latest, devious Nazi plot.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Die-hard Indiana Jones fans will be praying that this works; praying to the Ark of the Covenant; praying to the Holy Grail – praying to whatever God or holy icon means something to them.
It begins – as all Indiana Jones films do – with a seat-of-the-pants thrill-ride, hunting relics, fleeing villains, on this occasion both on a train and on top of a train. It’s all very Indy – and set in 1944, with the octogenarian star playing mid 50s, a combination of AI technology and stunt-doubles makes it surprising convincing.
Then we jump to the late 1960s – with the historical context of the space landings – when Indy is the kind of grumpy old man, complaining to the neighbours that their music is too loud. This certainly isn’t a stretch.
Then – much as happened in 2008’s largely dismissed reboot, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – a young adventurer turns up out of the blue to give an obsolete archaeologist a new purpose.
So far soo good.
Then villains appear. There are chases through the streets, on rooftops, through museum basements – everything you could want – with the added fizz of an 80 year old man trying to hold his own.
We have code-breaking, global travel – complete with the red line being drawn over the map as the plane crosses the ocean – everything you could hope for.
There are even humorous asides, harking back to the earlier films.
Then, it gets to the end of the second act and they start to take the maguffin – in this case the Archimedes Dial – just a little too literally and the narrative crumbles, taking all credibility with it for half an hour.
Once the preposterous plot ties itself up, we return to the late 1960s, where even the potential opportunities raised by the nonsense are squandered.
But one final nod to one of the best-loved scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark almost forgives it all its failings. Almost.
The first of the bunch not to be directed by Steven Spielberg, its director James Mangold has tried to defend the wild twist in the narrative by suggesting that it’s no more outlandish than (SPOILER ALERT) the angel of death killing Nazis when the Ark of the Covenant is opened in the first film or a five hundred year old knight guarding the Holy Grail in the third, but perhaps 1980s film goers were more forgiving or grounding those stories in the familiarity of the bible made them more acceptable. But following on from the aliens of the fourth film, once this narrative departs from archaeology, history and good old-fashioned action and spins off into fantasy, it feels more like Bill & Ted than a serious piece of cinema.
Until that point, it’s a lot of fun – an entertaining, nostalgic romp – more so for older viewers who’ll get the references. More cynical younger audiences will find they’ve seen it all before – done in the right context, rather than shoe-horned into a favourite franchise. As recently as The Flash – and as far back as Back To The Future – a key plot point was delivered more convincingly.
Ford himself does well enough for his age – and the technicians did a better job than expected with the de-aging, although Ford’s gruff 80 year old voices didn’t sit right with the face of a man in his 50s.
It might be notable that this has received a lower star rating than the previous film, despite it being better! This is down to a variety of factors, including different reviewers – although the critic who reviewed the last one agrees that this one was in fact better!
With 15 years in between, attitudes can change, experiences can change and the world can change – but regardless of star ratings – to be clear, this reviewer at least believes that the Dial of Destiny is a better film than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – but it’s still not a patch on Raiders.