So here we are with Harrison Ford's last time out as the iconic cinematic character, Indiana Jones. Now I have to begin this review with a preface. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my number one movie and tops everything for me to watch again and again. Which means reviewing this was personal and also because I got to take my kids to see this movie in theaters for the first time. In fact, my daughter is the same age I was when I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in theaters when it came out. I know how impactful movie experiences like this can be.
Well, off the bat I'll say this is no Raiders of the Lost Ark but this movie is leaps and bounds better the our last adventure with Indy. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was widely panned and proven an unpopular entry into the franchise, and with valid reasons. It had goofy or annoying characters or gags that just fell flat. Again, for me being on the Central Coast, I loved seeing Morro Bay make a cameo in the iconic "map sequence." No Central Coast cameos here in this movie, but we do love the globe trotting they do.
I don't think I'm spoiling anything that hasn't been shown outside of the the trailers for this movie, but it does begin with Indy fighting the best villains of all: the Nazis. Disney has been keen on using this de-aging technology lately, from Tron Legacy to Rogue One and The Mandalorian. While there are moments you can get a sense of the CGI face, to be honest they really have gotten it down to the point where I wasn't staring at the face wondering how they did it. I was with Indy and on his adventure, not caring about the massive manpower it took to make Harrison Ford look like his did when he first dawned the fedora. Most of the effects in this movie seem to work as well, but Indiana Jones is supposed to be much more grounded, even though it does live in a fantasy world where supernatural elements exist.
On a story point you have to remember that. All of Indiana Jones' "MacGuffins" (or prop that drives the story), have a supernatural element to it. They all are part of myths, lore or fantasy and you have to remember to be ready to suspend your disbelief enough to get there. When you forget that, you might be scratching your head at the end of the movie thinking, "This got weird really fast." Just remember you are there with Indy to have fun.
One of the other things about Indiana Jones, much like Star Wars, there is a pattern to them. Like poetry they have similar elements that they hit. Each movie made is checking boxes from one to another. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny sure checks those boxes... and then some. Spoiler free of course, this movie echoes The Last Crusade more than any other entry. Which isn't a horrible thing either. Like The Last Crusade and (as much as it pains me to say) the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Dial of Destiny has an emphasis on family. Now they don't forget things that happened in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and honestly in a way retcon things that happen, and they make it better. It was a good writing choice to help build character for our old Indy. But I couldn't help feel some Star Wars: The Force Awakens echos as well here.
In short, this movie is fun. It's a good time with old friends. I would even say I loved this experience of seeing this movie in theaters. Are there things to nitpick and kinda whine about? Sure. I'll go into that later with my spoiler filled review. But the fun and adventure outweighs it all and you're having a great time. If you're wondering, my kids enjoyed all the previous movies and they enjoyed this one. Some of the other Indiana Jones movies are maybe a "hard" PG-13, but this one wasn't as intense for kids as the other ones. I actually can't wait to go back and see it in theaters again!