A Not-So Dignified Farewell: My Thoughts on Dial of Destiny

The poster for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny says, “a legend will face his destiny.” And how exactly did the movie deliver on that promise? They had the hero give up. For the life of me, I don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would consider having a supporting character save Indiana Jones for the big climactic action be a finale worthy of the franchise. What an utter disappointment. Perhaps it’s some half-brained commentary on not letting your passion consume you. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not a dignified farewell for the likes of Indiana Jones.

As a fan of the series since childhood, I felt no emotion at the end other than puzzlement. Several people in the theater laughed-out-loud. This is Indiana Jones’ final climactic moment on the big screen and he just gives up. Even Marion just shows up at the end, lazily and without any effort from the protagonist.

I was skeptical of the negative reviews surrounding Dial of Destiny out of Cannes, especially as those first few action sequences blazed past on the screen. Even with some missteps here and there, the first half felt like a classic, fun-loving thrill-ride of badass action sequences that fans have come to expect from the series. Hell, that German/Nazi castle/train escape sequence with the Allied Air Force shelling the shit out of them may very well be the finest action sequence of the franchise, and that’s saying a lot, but it just falls apart after that. It felt like a mess of scripts from the three or four writers were Frankenstein’d together as the politics between satisfying this ego and that played out behind the scenes, ultimately dumbing-down the story in favor getting to the action as fast as possible. 

Dial of Destiny Review

The film lacked a strong internal goal that pushed Indy into those difficult and dangerous situations. They made it clear he wished he could have talked Mutt out of joining the military. That’s powerful and they didn’t use it effectively. If they made him indebted to Basil, saving his greedy daughter could have provided some catharsis for the loss of Mutt and would have settled a debt to an old friend. That could give him the strength to stop drinking and earn back Marion’s love. Nope. Instead, they opted for a silly kissy-recall to Raiders in Indy’s last seconds on screen. What the fuck were these people thinking?!

It makes me wonder if they purposefully set out for a controversial ending as some kind of bizarre marketing strategy, but that’s giving them too much credit. It just seems like bad storytelling to me. A guy like James Mangold could have delivered a much better film. Go watch Cop Land, Identity, 3:10 To Yuma, or Logan. If I were a betting man, I’d wager this is what happens when politics and egos clash behind the scenes. There were simply too many cooks in the kitchen. And that’s no way to say farewell to Indiana Jones.

William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

Articles: 120

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.