Home/Action-Adventure, Conscious Creation, Movie Reviews/‘Indiana Jones’ dials up his destiny one last time

‘Indiana Jones’ dials up his destiny one last time

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (2023). Cast: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Toby Jones, Karen Allen, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Mads Mikkelsen, Ethann Isidore, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Boyd Holbrook, Thomas Kretschmann, Olivier Richters, Alaa Safi, Nasser Memorzia, Martin McDougall, Holly Lawton. Director: James Mangold. Screenplay: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp and James Mangold. Story Source Material: George Lucas and Philip Kaufman. Web site. Trailer.

All things eventually come to an end, whether we’re ready for it or not. We may not like what we see, either, especially if we’re troubled by what’s on the horizon. We might even feel like there’s more that we could or should have done to forestall what’s unfolding while we had the chance, opportunities that slipped through our fingers and are unlikely to come again. But sometimes destiny has a way of intervening, giving us another unexpected shot at realizing our aspirations and perhaps even making a meaningful difference. Such are the possibilities posed to an iconic screen legend in the final chapter of a long-running movie franchise, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Intrepid archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has lived a full and adventurous life in his quest to retrieve famed antiquities and to educate America’s future. He’s spent years lecturing attention-rapt university students at revered institutions and scouring far-flung historic sites in search of exotic relics. But, in 1969, with retirement looming, he’s on the brink of an uncertain and less fulfilling future. As it is, he struggles to teach archaeology to bored, disinterested undergrads at a less prestigious college, an unrewarding step down from what he’s accustomed to academically. And, outside of work, he lives by himself in a cramped, disheveled Manhattan apartment, conditions considerably less desirable than what he’s used to. He’s also engaged in divorce proceedings from his wife, Marion (Karen Allen), and attempting to recover from a personal tragedy, circumstances that have taken virtually all of the joy out of his personal life. With prospects like these, what does he have to look forward to? Have the elements that made life worth living vanished from his existence for good? Or is it possible to somehow turn things around and give him hope for a new future? Indeed, will destiny intervene to change his fate?

Flash back to 1944, when Indy was at the height of his game. While in Europe during World War II, Jones and his esteemed Oxford colleague, Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), search for the Lance of Longinus, the sword said to have been used to pierce the side of Jesus Christ while on the cross during the crucifixion, an artifact believed to possess magical powers. As the duo looks for the relic, however, they face competition from their longtime foes, the Nazis. The Germans desperately want to add it to their collection of ancient objects believed to possess supernatural capabilities, tools that Führer Adolf Hitler has become obsessed with acquiring as a supposed means to defeat his enemies. And, in the race to find the artifact, it appears that the Nazis have come up with it first. Chief investigator, astrophysicist Dr. Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), hands over the lance to German military leader Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann), who has it loaded onto a train filled with other antiquities bound for Berlin for a heroic presentation to the Führer. There’s just one problem – the relic is a fake, and Voller knows it.

When Voller makes this revelation to the Colonel, he adds that he has found something more valuable than the counterfeit artifact – a portion of the Antikythera, an enigmatic dial mechanism believed to possess tremendous powers that was allegedly created by the ancient Syracusan mathematician Archimedes. In fact, legend has it that the special powers of the Antikythera in its complete form played a crucial role in protecting the Sicilian City of Syracuse during a siege by the Romans in 212 BC. But the Colonel isn’t interested in Voller’s substitute discovery, especially since it’s incomplete. He considers it a useless mechanical device, dismissing it from the train’s inventory and leaving it in Voller’s hands.

Meanwhile, as all of this is playing out, Jones and Shaw are hot on Voller’s trail, and, when they discover he’s aboard the train bound for Berlin, they secretly stow away to track him down. They also quickly discover that the lance is a phony and that the train carries all of the other stolen relics – including the remnant of the Antikythera. And, once they find Voller, a battle ensues for its possession, a rollicking struggle that lands the relic in Shaw’s hands, who took possession of the device for further study.

For the most part, the story behind the Antikythera subsequently went cold. But, in 1969, it gets revived when Basil’s adult daughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), also an archaeologist, pays a visit to Jones. She expresses an interest in picking up on her late father’s studies and seeks Indy’s help. That’s because he now secretly possesses the device, and she is the only one who knows.

So how did Jones acquire the relic? Not long before Basil’s death, he gave it to Indy, asking him to destroy it. It seems that Shaw’s studies of the device took a toll on him, and he insisted that its destruction was the only way to prevent anyone else from experiencing a similar fate. Jones agreed and took possession of the device, but he couldn’t bring himself to destroy it, choosing instead to hide it in the archives of the college where he taught.

And that’s where the story picks up again. Indy retrieves the relic from the archives to help Helena launch her study of the artifact, but it quickly becomes apparent that she’s not the only one interested in it. Before long, a host of other players seek to get their hands on the device, including a deep cover US government agent (Shaunette Renée Wilson) and Indy’s old Nazi nemesis, Dr. Voller (who now works for NASA under the alias “Dr. Schmidt”), backed by a trio of notorious henchmen (Boyd Holbrook, Olivier Richters, Martin McDougall). To complicate matters, Helena’s intentions soon prove to be less than honorable, particularly when she absconds with the device and seeks to sell it on the black market to the highest bidder, aided by her street smart teenage accomplice, Teddy (Ethann Isidore), all the while striving to steer clear of her hotheaded former fiancé, Rahim (Alaa Safi), who aggressively tries to win her back with the help of his mob family associates.

Through it all, Jones tries to keep his scorecard up to date with regard to who he can trust, who has the device, where the other half of it is and what everyone’s intentions are. He also tries to keep on top of where to look, a journey that takes him from New York to Tangier, then to the Greek waters of the Aegean Sea, and then to Sicily, an odyssey filled with plenty of twists, turns and misdirections. Of course, Indy also has his share of allies to back him up throughout this ordeal, including his old friend, Renaldo (Antonio Banderas), a seasoned Mediterranean frogman, and longtime relic-hunting colleague Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), who helped Jones in his quests to find the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail (as chronicled in “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), respectively). He also has his famous wits about him that help him out of tight spots and provide him with the intuitive guidance he needs in determining what to do next, something he has to do frequently as this story plays out. But, then, that should come as no surprise, given that this has always been his destiny.

As the title suggests, “destiny” truly proves to be the key theme that runs through this story. It makes its presence felt in a variety of ways, both big and small, but always in important regards, at least where Indy is concerned. He experiences the myriad ways in which it can be dialed up, yet it always allows him to be its master, too. That’s crucial for all of us to bear in mind if we want to go out on top.

“Destiny” is one of those elusive, enigmatic concepts that many of us believe in but find hard to describe in words. It’s often couched in terms like “what was meant to be,” as if it’s somehow intrinsically tangible to the point where its materialization is predetermined and inevitable. But how do such manifestations come about? A capricious act of the Universe? An action of our own making? Some combination of the two? Or is there some other factor at work, such as an entrenched belief in their unfolding? Then again, maybe it’s some of all of the foregoing.

For Indiana Jones, that last explanation seems most likely, but, in my view, the lynchpin element rests with our beliefs. They serve as the catalyst for launching the manifestation process, the trigger for initiating the practice of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains our thoughts, beliefs and intents are responsible for realizing the existence we experience. It’s unclear whether Dr. Jones adheres to or is even aware of this school of thought, but, considering how many times he’s witnessed magical phenomena and how frequently he’s seen his desired outcomes materialize as reality, it seems unlikely that these happenings can be chalked up to mere coincidence or random chance. It’s as if they were meant to be, the fulfillment of his destiny. It’s a practice in conscious creation terms known as value fulfillment, and he seems to be a master of it, whether he realizes it or not.

Jones has had a lifetime of such experiences, as seen in the four films that preceded this offering. It’s something that he would probably like to see go on indefinitely, too (as would the fans of his cinematic adventures). But, as conscious creation philosophy also maintains, everything evolves and changes, as if it’s in a constant state of becoming. And, as the looming changes in his life emerge, it’s something that Indy can’t escape, either, something that’s meant to be, his destiny as it were.

However, the manner in which that destiny is fulfilled is nonetheless somewhat open to interpretation. There are a number of paths available to reach that destination, and it’s Indy’s choice as to which one he wants to pursue. And, given how he’s lived his life, it’s pretty obvious how he’d like to proceed – following the same sort of route he’s always traversed, going out in a proverbial blaze of glory no matter what may happen, just as he always has. After all, at the risk of sounding repetitive, that’s his destiny, and he’s dialed it up once again, even if for the last time.

Many critics and viewers have been disappointed with the approach taken in this installment of the franchise. They claim that it lacks “the spark” of previous offerings, that it’s more of a downer than its predecessors. And, as the first film in the series not to be directed by Steven Spielberg and not to feature a story by franchise creator George Lucas, it’s understandable to see how one might feel that way. However, given that this is the finale of the series, it required a different treatment than what was employed in the prior pictures. This one reflects the onset of conditions that many of us face as we age, and they may not always be pleasant or give us much to look forward to. If you doubt that, just look at the life Indy leads as he’s on the verge of retirement.

What’s more, unlike the other pictures in this series, “Dial of Destiny” does not suggest that there will be further Indiana Jones adventures to come. It’s the end of the line and needed to be treated as such. The reason: the characters have gotten old, as have the actors portraying them (Harrison Ford was 77 when the picture was filmed in April 2020). As much as viewers may enjoy these films and as much as they may want to see more of them, there’s only so much that these performers can do with encroaching age. And so, to give these actors and these characters a proper degree of dignity, they have been provided with a fitting, appropriate, credible send-off – hence the narrative and ambiance chosen for this story. This is nothing new in filmdom, either; we’ve seen it before in other long-running movie franchises, such as with the James Bond series, the “Star Wars” franchise, “Star Trek” and, most recently, even “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the legacy of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. And now the time has also come for Indiana Jones.

Another criticism leveled against this film is its use of de-aging CGI technology in the 1944 flashback sequence, making Harrison Ford look considerably younger than his present-day offscreen age. Purists and cynics have called it “cheating.” But, as Ford responded to the criticism, how is de-aging CGI any different from any other cinematic tool used to create a specific look for an actor portraying a particular character? What about makeup? Costumes? Prosthetics? Motion capture technology, such as that used to create the character Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” series? Couldn’t they be considered “cheating” as well? This is a specious argument and an empty criticism.

What’s more, it seems these days that it’s become all too easy to blast popular, commercial fare simply because it is popular, commercial fare. Granted, some offerings of this type genuinely deserve whatever grief they get, but others, such as this release, don’t merit the unfair potshots fired at them just for innately being mainstream pictures. In many ways, “Dial of Destiny” is very much cut from the same cloth as its box office blockbuster predecessors, but there are enough distinctions, new developments and lesser-known elements (such as the choice of the somewhat obscure Antikythera relic for the story’s focus) to keep it fresh and interesting throughout. Now, this is not to suggest that this final entry in the series is without its faults – it’s overlong, some of its action sequences could have been easily pared back (despite being expertly crafted) and the storyline tends to sag somewhat in the middle. However, Indiana Jones has once again given moviegoers a rollicking good time with a captivating narrative, an intriguing assortment of twists and turns, clever humor, and an array of colorful characters all vying for their piece of the pie (if not the entire pie itself). The film also provides fans of the franchise with deftly handled touches of nostalgia and nuanced efforts at achieving closure for the series, without dangling obvious or ambiguous carrots of there being more to come or any kind of impending reboot. Director James Mangold successfully puts the series to bed and tucks it in nicely while rounding off any remaining edges, something that it and its fans deserve. So, to all those cynics out there who are shamelessly bashing this release to be fashionable or hip, all I can say is “Pipe down and lose the attitude already.” This is good, solid filmmaking, even if it’s not exactly on par with what preceded it. The film is currently playing theatrically.

In November 1970, not long after this story takes place, former Beatle George Harrison released the song “All Things Must Pass,” the title cut to an album of the same name, his first after leaving the band. It’s a bittersweet melody, one that reverently honors what has passed but warmly welcomes what is to be, a mixture of sadness for what’s gone and optimism for what lies ahead. Those sentiments are something we all face in our lives, sometimes in small, everyday ways, sometimes in big, often-dramatic transformations. It’s an inherent part of our reality, and, in this film, we see how it’s part of Indiana Jones’s existence, despite the seemingly timeless nature of his character and his exploits. This, too, is destiny playing itself out, and tears are almost certainly involved as it unfolds. But they need not be tears for what we have lost but tears of thankfulness for what we had, wisdom to which we should all adhere when it comes to looking back on our lives and what it brought us.

Copyright © 2023, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Go to Top