What the Critics are Saying

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday night. At the glitzy Palais screening, director James Mangold and stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Boyd Holbrook and Ethann Isidore enjoyed a warm five-minute standing ovation from the crowd. But it was Indy himself, Harrison Ford, who was the center of attention, with the actor visibly moved to tears by the reception.

Not soon after the premiere, the first reviews of the film, which hits theaters on June 30, came trickling in. As of late Thursday, the early critical reaction to the fifth film in the much-loved Indiana Jones franchise has been decidedly mixed.

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A common theme among the early reviews is that the film is better than Indy’s last outing, the rather polarizing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from 2008, but not much better. Many reviewers took issue with digitally de-aging Ford for some scenes and the use of CGI overall. But there was praise aplenty for Waller-Bridge, and of course, Ford, who still oozes charm as the adventuring archaeologist.

Below are key excerpts from some of the most prominent early reviews.

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney wrote that “what the new film — scripted by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp and Mangold, with the feel of something written by committee — does have is a sweet blast of pure nostalgia in the closing scene, a welcome reappearance foreshadowed with a couple visual clues early on.” But that “part of what dims the enjoyment of this concluding chapter is just how glaringly fake so much of it looks.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was among the more positive critics of the film, and he described Dial of Destiny as having “quite a bit of zip and fun and narrative ingenuity with all its MacGuffiny silliness that [Kingdom of the Crystal Skull] really didn’t.” The review goes on to say, “The finale is wildly silly and entertaining, and that Dial of Destiny is put to an audacious use which makes light of the whole question of defying aging and the gravitational pull of time. Indiana Jones still has a certain old-school class.”

IndieWire’s David Ehrlich did not pull any punches in his review, writing that “not only is Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny an almost complete waste of time, it’s also a belabored reminder that some relics are better left where and when they belong. If only any previous entries in this series had taken great pains to point that out.” Ehrlich took issue with many aspects of the film but most crucially that it was “safe.”

In contrast, Empire’s John Nugent was very high on Dial of Destiny, writing, “All the hallmarks of the series are there as you’d hope them to be, lovingly preserved like archaeological treasures.” Nugent welcomed Mangold’s more somber direction and concluded by writing, “Indy’s final date with destiny has a barmy finale that might divide audiences — but if you join him for the ride, it feels like a fitting goodbye to cinema’s favorite grave-robber.”

Writing in the Times of London, critic Kevin Maher began his review with the pithy: “The good news is that it’s not as poor as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The bad news is that it’s not much better.” Maher suggested that even the addition of Fleabag’s Waller-Bridge couldn’t rescue the film, but he did credit Ford’s performance. “Ford, despite all this, remains on charisma overload. Even when the machine around him is on autopilot, he brings his weathered gravitas to perhaps his most significant character. Inevitably he, and Indy, deserved better,” Maher wrote.

Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson was another who felt underwhelmed by Dial of Destiny. “The basic component parts are there: an object quest rooted in history, a tingle of the supernatural, easily rooted-against fascist villains,” writes Lawson, before adding, “but something in the calculations is off.” Lawson felt that the story didn’t click and veered too much into the magic, and by taking the character out of the familiar. “Indy just doesn’t seem right in the movie’s environs, an old guy who’s been dragged somewhere he doesn’t belong,” Lawson writes.

Robbie Collin, writing in U.K.’s The Daily Telegraph, said that Dial of Destiny “ultimately feels like a counterfeit of priceless treasure: the shape and the gleam of it might be superficially convincing for a bit, but the shabbier craftsmanship gets all the more glaring the longer you look.” Collin also felt the film was too safe, writing that “the film is loaded with mayhem but painfully short on spark and bravado: there’s no shot here, nor twist of choreography, that makes you marvel at the filmmaking mind that conceived it.”

Total Film’s James Mottram gave the film a rave review, writing that Indy “goes out on a high.” Mottram loved the nods to the past but also enjoyed Mangold’s attempt to show growth in the lead character. “The action is slickly handled by Mangold, not least a thrilling tuk-tuk chase through Tangier. But best of all, this is an Indiana Jones film with tears in its eyes. We see the character has grown older, but not necessarily wiser. Drinking a bit too much, he’s full of regrets about pursuing fortune and glory and leaving his loved ones behind.”

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