Indiana Jones’ Final Outing is a Fitting Tribute

“They look like snakes.” It’s such a simple line of dialogue, yet after 42 years and four previous movies, we know exactly what that means to retiring archaeology professor, Dr. Henry Jones, best known to all as the swashbuckling Indiana Jones.

As the final chapter of the beloved franchise, this entry is the first one not directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg (listed here as an Executive Producer). Instead, James Mangold takes the reins and also shares writing credit with his frequent collaborators Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, as well as Indiana Jones veteran David Koepp. Of course, George Lucas and Philip Kaufman receive credit for their original characters.

Harrison Ford once again dons the familiar fedora hat, and at 80 years of age, still possesses the screen persona and magnetism that first won us over in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The extended and frenetic opening sequence finds a young Indy (Ford is digitally de-aged for the sequence) at the tail end of the Second World War fighting Nazis over what else, a prized ancient artifact. I’ll leave the specifics to those who watch the film, but just know that it’s an interesting historical choice, and also one that matters little in relation to the enjoyment of the film.

Working alongside Indy in the opening sequence is his pal and fellow archaeologist, Basil Shaw (talented character actor Toby Jones, who seems to be in most movies these days). However, the fun part for me was seeing Thomas Kretschmann and Mads Mikkelsen share scenes as Standartenführer Weber and Dr. Jürgen Voller, respectively. These are two of my favorite actors and I do wish they had a couple more exchanges. Although Mikkelsen’s character gets significant screen time and plays a crucial role in how the story unfolds and concludes (he is also digitally de-aged for the opening sequence).

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 2023
A digitally de-aged Harrison Ford. (Lucasfilm)

The story picks up with modern-day Dr. Voller and his band of misfits tracking down the relic and disturbing Dr. Jones’ retirement party. It’s at this point where Indy’s Goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) pops up creating a three-way battle for the priceless relic. This sets off a chain of events that leads them on a global trek. Helena’s partner in crime is young Teddy (Ethann Isidore, sporting a Bob Griese Dolphins jersey), who is clearly the scrappiest of the bunch. Dr. Voller’s troupe includes Shaunette Renée Wilson as the misguided Mason, Boyd Holbrook as sleazy Klaber, and Olivier Richters as one of the largest bodyguards you’ve ever seen.

Fans of the franchise know that the story is secondary to the characters and action, and there is no shortage of action on speeding trains, galloping horses, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, vintage airplanes, and scuba dives. Antonio Banderas shows up as a boat-owning old friend of Indy, but it’s the appearance of series favorites John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, and Karen Allen as Marion, that generated cheers from the audience. Ms. Waller-Bridge holds her own with screen legend Ford, and it will be interesting to see the career path she chooses after her success on TV and now film.

There could be criticism directed at the action sequences and the film’s pacing, but what’s the point? Mangold has delivered what the fans want. At times this feels like a live-action cartoon, and that’s not meant as criticism. It’s pure fun, fantasy, and adventure cloaked in nostalgia; and the film is a fitting conclusion to a world-class franchise.