One last dance with the hat
Published 11:34 am Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Traipsing across the globe and screen this week is “Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny,” the newest and final installment in the renowned adventure series. The film brings our beloved Indy back into action, determined to rescue priceless artifacts from those who would seek to use them selfishly.
This film is the fifth in the franchise’s history and is said to be the last, as Harrison Ford’s age increasingly limits his potential as an action hero. That being said, it has always been the swagger, determination and distinctly American brand of recklessness that truly define Indy, not his physicality. Those traits persist in Indy’s portrayal to this day, with Ford inhabiting his charming curmudgeon as expertly as he ever did.
Thematically, this film is perfectly in line with its predecessors, featuring a search for a powerful ancient artifact shrouded in mystery and myth, as Indy finds himself pitted against puzzles, booby traps and his most persistent foes, the Nazis.
At the opening of the film, it is now 1969 and Indy is facing retirement from Hunter College, on the precipice of a new life chapter and a new decade, both of which are sources of anxiety for Indy, as he is concerned with a lack of purpose and belonging in the rapidly arriving future. Indy is convinced his days of adventure are behind him, anticipating a quiet and solitary final act. However, the unexpected appearance of Indy’s goddaughter, Helena Shaw, a brash but brilliant treasure hunter, brings Indy back into the fold of mystery and exploration, his past holding the key to a newly reignited search for a historical artifact.
Helena is played by the always brilliant Phoebe Waller Bridge, whose athletic good looks and wry charm are a delightful mirror to a young Indy. Helena’s father, Basil, had been an old colleague of Indy’s and spent his final days obsessing over an artifact from his and Indy’s shared past, half of a priceless Antikythera mechanism (an ancient hand-cranked “clock” for determining star positions), believed to have been built by the historic mathematician, Archimedes.
In their younger days, Indy and Basil had rescued this object from being captured by the Nazis, whose nefarious intentions would surely see it used to devastating ends. However, Indy and Basil were only able to rescue half of this artifact, the other half being lost to history. Helena’s entry into Indy’s narrowing world brings this forgotten item back into center frame and reopens the boundaries of Indy’s life as they soon find themselves bouncing across the globe in search of the dial’s second half, one step ahead of the decades-long Nazi conspiracy. For any fans of Indy, this film treats the iconic hero with love and grace, demonstrating a true understanding of the character. It effectively captures the spirit of adventure that so defined the original films.
The modern use of CGI rather than practical effects does admittedly remove some solidity from the film’s set pieces. However, the solid performances from both leads and supporting cast provide a great balance to CGI’s limits, providing for a satisfying return to Indiana Jones. We hope to share the new adventure with you all soon!