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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Review
For the third and, in all likelihood, final time, Indiana Jones has concluded his adventures. The first time we said goodbye to Doctor Jones, it was in the the deserts of Syria. He had drunk from the Holy Grail, completed the work of his father’s legacy, and achieved immortality all in a single moment. Now 30 years have passed, and the world is leaving Henry Jones Jr. behind. He has no family, no legacy, and time has been cruel to him. It’s 1969, and man has been to space! The world is focused on the future. No one cares anymore about old things, or the old men who collect them.
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No one, it seems, including Hollywood. In INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY, Harrison Ford joins the ranks of those actors who have been “de-aged” by the good folks over at Industrial Light and Magic. Appropriate, perhaps, that a man who once drank from the cup of Christ should defy age and time itself. And while the technology has certainly improved since the first time audiences got a brief glimpse at “young” Carry Fisher in ROGUE ONE (2016), the digital puppetry continues to seem hollow and stilted. Hearing the raspy, marijuana-charred voice of old Harrison Ford coming out of the body of young Indiana Jones is like watching an actor carrying an empty coffee cup. It’s a distracting, unnecessary error that fundamentally does not work on screen.
Fortunately, however, the franchise’s newly-minted most melt-off-able face doesn’t hang around the film for long. After all - Indiana Jones is a man of the past! He doesn’t need fancy tricks or gimmicks to get the job done. He needs a whip, a hat, and maybe a horse (if you really want him to look cool). Which might be why he’s remained a personal favorite role for the 80-year-old Ford, who has also never had to rely on anything more than his own good looks and charm to win audiences over.
The instant that Ford’s real face appears on screen, the movie shifts into a much more comfortable gear. Though the same cannot be said for Indie’s circumstances circa 1969. Long gone are the days when college girls would hang on his every word with “LOVE YOU” stenciled on their eyelids. As are his days of excitement, adventure, and prestige. What’s left is the ghost of Indiana Jones, a tired Dr. Henry Jones, who shuffles around his apartment pouring whiskey in his coffee and yelling at his neighbors when their rock music is too loud. He’s not a man who seems interested in, nor capable of, swashbuckling-high-adventure.
That is, until his god-daughter Helena Shaw, played by the always wonderful Phoebe Waller-Bridge (FLEABAG, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY), drops into the movie. She’s spent a lifetime studying her father’s old notebooks about a hidden missing artifact. He father, who is played by a Toby Jones (TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER) who doesn’t get enough to do in the movie, left a retinue of notes and clues pointing to the location of an ancient treasure. And thus, Indiana Jones is sucked back into the world of globe-trotting wonder and excitement.
If the hook to this adventure sounds familiar, it’s only because of the masterful way that Director James Mangold (LOGAN, FORD V FERRARI) and screenwriters John-Henry and Jez Buttersworth unfold their story. From decoding cryptic notes, to shooting it out in crowded streets with kid sidekicks, to scouring ancient tombs for priceless treasure, DIAL OF DESTINY is a trip back in time for Indiana Jones. Just not one that requires any de-aging technology.
And while DIAL OF DESTINY certainly isn’t the best Indy picture, it may very well be Ford’s best. He imbues the character with more heart and passion than we’ve seen before. He’s lived a long life, and he’s not as cavalier about things as he once was. He’s loved, and lost, and learned a life’s worth of lessons. And Ford wears it all on his glorious face, craved deep and made more interesting and iconic by time. He’s always been a master of detail acting. And the subtly on display in this performance should be all the argument against digital face replacement that anyone ever needs.
In fact, perhaps we will allow Ford one trick. He’s earned it after all these years. After all, he wears the hat and the whip so well. And he does look really cool on that horse. So here’s the trick: As ironic as it is, the use of the digital double makes the aged Indiana look spry as Hell. I know that Ford is excited about the result, and the studio says they used actual archival footage for much of the replacement. But, in my book, no fancy computer will ever be better than a what a human can deliver. Certainly not when that human is as talented and capable an actor as Mr. Harrison Ford.
The thought alone is almost enough to spark up enough hope for one more adventure.