By John H. Foote

(**) In theatres


Especially after the debacle that was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), which was directed by Spielberg.

So again, why?

That is the question on millions of moviegoer’s lips, why do an Indiana Jones film WITHOUT the prime creative force of the previous four, Steven Spielberg? Why would James Mangold step in for the greatest director in the history of the cinema? Sure, the chance to direct an Indiana Jones must be tempting, but who would even dream they could even equal Spielberg in any way, shape or form?All through the film, we can spot moments that are merely OK that Spielberg would have turned into cinematic gold. Though Indiana Jones might have been the creation of George Lucas, it has always been Spielberg directing the films, and as the prime creative force, he brought the films off, he gave them their beauty and excitement.

When I heard there was to be a fifth Indiana Jones adventure, at first I was at least interested. When I heard Spielberg was stepping away from directing the picture, my heart sank, and I quickly wrote the film off. Who could do it other than Spielberg? And it is not that Mangold is a weak director, he is not, and has made some great films, but standing in for Steven Spielberg? Who would dare?

And Harrison Ford is now 80 years old. 80??!! They hide that with some clever CGI in the opening sequence, but after that, set in 1969, Indiana is aware his crazy adventures across the planet might have come to an end.

Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller Bridge

The film opens at the end of the Second World War with Indy chasing yet another important relic, again pursued by a nasty Nazi, Voller (Mads Mikkelson), who will go to work for NASA after the war. We move from here to 1969 in a single cut, and Indy is now retiring from teaching. Elderly, he is slower, but very spry for his age. Still quick with a sardonic quip, there is no question this is the Indiana Jones we know so well, just a little creakier and greyer. He knows it and is none too happy about what time is doing to him. Then his god daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller Bridge) shows up with a lead on the infamous Dial of Destiny which allows for time to altered. He smells an adventure, Indy is in, and the two are soon hurtling around the globe in search of this missing artifact. So too is former Nazi Voller, just as nasty as he ever was and hellbent on finding the piece before Indiana. It turns out Helena’s intentions are less than noble or pure, but times have changed, what could we expect?

Ford and Waller-Bridge have a nice crackle to their chemistry though I think this wonderful actress could go toe to toe with just about anyone in movies. She is an absolute delight and, like Sean Connery back in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a piece of genius casting.

The action moves along at a brisk pace, the stunts are as expected wild and well executed, and Indiana can still crack that whip but there is something lacking throughout.


Spielberg always gave the films the element of the impossible happening before our eyes (remember the opening to Raiders of the Lost Ark?) and it is just not present here. Maybe we have bad memories of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, or maybe it really is the lack of Spielberg, but something is missing.

Ford is game and by now could play this role in his sleep, and as mentioned Waller-Bridge is electrifying, but something is just not there. It looks and feels, even sounds like an Indiana Jones film, but never swallows me up like the first three, and elements of the 2008 film. And after bringing Karen Allen back for the fourth, where is she now? Allen is such a lovely presence I had hoped for her to be back, but alas, no luck. Mercifully, Shia LaBouef is absent as Indy’s son Mutt. Thank God for small mercies.

Mikkelson a superb actor is a perfect villain though not required to do much but glower, there is really nothing else in the film worthy of discussing.

John Williams’ score, still perfect, those first three notes telling us exactly where we are and who we are with.

When they sat down to make a decision about this one why did they screen the 2008 film and decide “NO!”, though money is the God ruling George Lucas.

Harrison Ford has said that this is it for him, he will not play the character again, so whatever will they do? Why not cast Chris Pratt and go backwards creating new adventures for Indiana? Only Ford and Pratt are worthy of the bull whip and the name. But Spielberg must direct, and I have a hunch he is finished with the series. If so, thanks for the memories, now let’s move on.

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