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'Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny' (2023)/Directed by James Mangold/Grade: B

People who know me, know I've made it no secret what the Indiana Jones series means to me. So when I arrived at the NCG Cinema today to see Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023), I was as excited as I've ever been for a movie. Did it live up to those expectations?

On the one hand, no. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'll start with the positives:

- Harrison Ford is spectacular as usual in the final portrayal of his most iconic character

- Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a lot of fun as Helena Shaw, Indy's goddaughter who joins him on his adventures this time around

- Mads Mikkelsen clearly enjoyed every second of screen time he had as Dr. Voller, the film's main antagonist

- James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line, Girl, Interrupted) directs the action sequences with the appropriate amount of youthful energy and flourish. I was particularly on the edge of my seat during a white-knuckle chase through the streets of Morocco, which had me going "Oh shit!" (Excuse me language) a couple of times. Really strong stunt work, editing, and special effects

- The cinematography by Phedon Papamichael (Ford v. Ferrari) is sleek and gorgeous, and the camera's movement also exudes that youthful energy the series is known for

- The technical aspects are really solid. Costume design, production design, VFX (minus a few wonky bits of CGI in the last third)

- The digital de-aging effects during the opening were solid; Harrison Ford really did look like his younger self

- The ending (with a surprise cameo I won't give away) is a sweet, tender sendoff to our beloved archaeologist. It also references Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) in a way that truly warmed my heart.

Here are the negatives:

- Voller, as a villain, does not reveal his maniacal motivation until the final third of the film. I blame that on the screenwriting by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp and James Mangold. Whosever choice that was, it gave the climax less vitality than it deserved

- Voller's death also, without giving the specifics, feels very hastily handled. It doesn't have any of the grandness or horror or over-the-top gusto of the previous villain deaths

- John Williams' score was rather forgettable. It says something when what I remembered most were passages harkening back to previous pieces in Indiana Jones soundtracks.

- One of Voller's henchmen, Hauke (Olivier Richters), is given almost nothing to do in the action sequences, despite being very tall, muscular and probably more than capable. He should've had at least one mono-a-mono fight with Indy

- A couple other supporting characters, Mason (Shaunette Renee Wilson) and Renaldo (Antonio Banderas), are given so little screen time they leave no impact. They purely exist as machinations to move the plot forward.

Overall, while this movie had a handful of shortcomings, the positives outweigh them. If you're an Indiana Jones fan like I am, definitely check it out. I'll also say that I just had to take a moment early on, and sit back and remind myself: I'm watching a new Indiana Jones movie, on the big screen, starring Harrison Ford, executive produced by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and scored by John Williams. It was truly an emotional moment, and hype aside, I had a great time with this picture. I mean, I hardly noticed the runtime, so that says something. In the words of Sallah (John Rhys-Davies, who has a couple of lovely scenes here), "Give 'em hell, Indiana Jones!"

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