Indiana Jones films: Dial of Destiny is the end of the Harrison Ford franchise - and that's a good thing
Harrison Ford returns to his iconic role as daredevil adventurer Indiana Jones, but de-aging the star won’t be enough to save this franchise
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There’s no denying that Indiana Jones is a beloved film franchise, and will be for many years to come, but it’s also clear that the magic was lost some time after 1989 - and no, I’m not blaming the fading of the franchise on the fall of communism.
The Last Crusade hit cinemas in summer 1989 - it was the the third film in the series after Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and its prequel Temple of Doom (1984). And for nearly 20 years this was the Indiana Jones cinematic universe, and all was right with the world.
The films aged like fine wine, a little of the ‘80s bottled for all time. They were fun action romps with fairly simple though often outlandish plots about a brave archaeologists doing battle against Nazis, sinister cults, and the Nazis again. But then 2008 rolled around and, after the financial crash, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the worst thing to come out of that year.
Why was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull so bad?
A big problem with the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which came out in 2008, 19 years after The Last Crusade, was that the plot was all over the place, from the nuking the fridge opening to the ridiculous climax.
Indy is kidnapped by soviet agents in the 1950s and harangued into locating the legendary Skull of Akator. He is forced to work with the greaser Mutt Williams and along the way encounters his old colleague Harold Oxley who has become obsessed with the history of the skull. Things get very convoluted for what should have been a straightforward treasure hunt movie.
Crystal Skull also suffered from an overabundance of CGI at a time when filmmakers decided that you could never put too much of it into a movie but before the technology had been finessed enough to look clean. The original Indy trilogy had a nostalgic feel with its honest fun practical effects whereas this is a style over substance mess that doesn’t even have style.
Lastly and most egregiously - the aliens. Technically, they weren't actually aliens but rather interdimensional beings. Either way, there was absolutely no need to have the cartoony, glowy green eyed CGI monstrosities hijack the plot of the film at the last minute.
Previous Indy movies had occult elements - the face-melting Ark of the Covenant, the hypnotic Sankara stones, and the Holy Grail among them - but never orb eyed interdimensional beings that look like they came straight out of a low-budget sci-fi comedy.
Will Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny be a success?
Almost certainly, at least commercially. Crystal Skull made a whopping $790 million off a $185 million budget despite being reviled by most of its audience. It’s hard to imagine that Dial of Destiny will be as bad as its predecessor, but even if it’s worse, it has more than 40 years of childhood nostalgia to cash in on.
Jurassic World: Dominion just eked over the line to cross the billion dollar mark at the box office when it hit cinemas last year, using that same type of in-built manchild fanbase. My prediction? Dial of Destiny will be the highest-grossing Indiana Jones movie so far.
But making a billion at the box office doesn’t mean that a movie is good, or even popular - as proven by the legions of Marvel fans who slate each new MCU release before buying a ticket for the next one.
Based on the trailer Dial of Destiny looks like it will suffer from the same messy plot as did Crystal Skull, compounded this time by a dual narrative that sees a de-aged Harrison Ford as a young Indy as well as the aged archaeologist who should have long since hung up his bullwhip.
Additionally, the reviews from Cannes are in, and whilst critics at an arthouse film festival may not be the most representative of the action adventure fanbase, they have been roundly underwhelmed by Ford’s final outing as Indy.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge will likely be a stronger supporting character than was Shia LaBeouf, and if producers are setting her up for her own spin-off down the line, then power to her. We know that Ford has called time on the franchise himself after Dial of Destiny. If only he’d done it two movies sooner.