By Randal C. Hill
Attention Harrison Ford fans: Grab a red-ink pen and mark June 30 on your calendar right now! That’s the day Walt Disney Productions releases “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”
With the first four Indiana Jones movies, Paramount Pictures distributed the blockbusters that featured Steven Spielberg as director and George Lucas as the idea man. Disney now owns the franchise, but Spielberg and Lucas are still listed as executive producers. Dial is directed by James Mangold, who is also one of the four scriptwriters. He says, “It became really important to me to figure out how to make this movie about a hero at sunset.”
This will be the first Ford-fueled release since 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” The latest tale features the elements of earlier Jones narratives, the original releases being an homage to the Saturday matinee action serials of the 1930s and 1940s.
Here the brilliant college professor and world-circling adventurer has taken on a new colleague, the daughter of one of Indy’s old friends. Helena Shaw is portrayed by winsome Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a pop-culture icon in her native UK, where she stars in the TV comedy series Fleabag.
In Dial, Shaw says to Jones, “Dad told me you found something on a train during the war – a dial that could change the course of history.” Indiana, who had never possessed the crucial artifact, admits, “I’ve been looking for this all my life.” In the duo’s rock ‘em, sock ‘em quest for the enigmatic prize of all prizes, the pair crash heads with Nazi villain Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelson) as Jones’s lip-curling nemesis.
“Dial of Destiny,” set in 1969, depicts Indy as a 70-year-old facing retirement. (Ford turns 81 on July 13.) Ford was digitally de-aged for the movie’s 1944 opening, which reportedly “spooked” him when he first viewed the changes.
In contrast to the traditional action-movie hero, Indiana Jones is refreshingly imperfect; the adventure-loving archaeologist has been shown as a guy who makes mistakes, gets his feelings hurt and maintains a paralyzing fear of snakes.
Ford’s voice may now be gravelly and his face a roadmap of wrinkles, but “Dial of Destiny” shows that this guy can still snap a bullwhip, leap (somewhat) gracefully onto a horse, and offer a sexy sideways smile that has become his trademark as the best-loved escapade-embracing archeologist in movie history.
Though nobody doubts the box-office success of Disney’s forthcoming release, Ford’s character will not be recast later. “I’m Indiana Jones,” Ford says matter-of-factly. “When I’m gone, he’s gone.”