Given the mediocre response to the previous Indiana Jones installment, all eyes are on the new film, Dial of Destiny, to see if it can right the ship, especially as the first film in the franchise not directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie, directed by James Mangold (Logan, Ford Vs. Ferrari), debuted in an out-of-competition screening at the Cannes festival Thursday night and early returns are… once again, pretty split. This even as fans bid an emotional farewell to Harrison Ford in the title role, who was on hand for the premiere.
“I’m very moved by this,” Ford told the Cannes crowd after being given a surprise Palme d’Or before the screening. “They say when you’re about to die, you see your life flash before your eyes, and I just saw my life flash before my eyes. A great part of my life, but not all of my life.”
Dial of Destiny has been in pre-production since 2016, initially with Spielberg returning to the director’s seat, before he eventually relinquished the role to allow a younger filmmaker to helm the final chapter. The bulk of the movie takes place in 1969, set against the backdrop of the Space Race between the U.S. and Soviet Union. As in many Indiana Jones properties, the aftermath of World War II looms large, with Mads Mikkelsen playing an ex-Nazi working with NASA who serves as a key antagonist. Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays Indy’s goddaughter, Helena Shaw, with whom he searches for Archimedes’ dial.
But according to Variety, the response to the film itself was tepid. In particular the action scenes and the laugh lines of Waller-Bridge did not play well with the Cannes crowd. With Cannes Film Festival ovations more inflated than NBA scoring numbers these days,Variety described the five-minute standing ovation as “muted” and“more of a polite formality.”
Ben Kenigsberg, reviewing for RogerEbert.com, said that opening scene, in which Indy and Basil Shaw battle Nazis atop a train, underscored that Mangold “is not Steven Spielberg,” but that the film improves from there, despite some plot holes created by the titular macguffin. It praised Waller-Bridge’s contributions, calling her, “the film’s most reliable source of fun and repartee,” and writing that she “comes close to stealing the show from Ford.”
For Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson wrote that viewers could feel the strainig of the film’s quartet of screenwriters–Mangold, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and David Koepp–and that ultimately Dial of Destiny “would be perfectly fine as a standalone adventure film starring some other character, but it’s not worthy of the whip.” Lawson wrote that Ford was “in good form,” but criticized the tendency of legacy sequels to make the original characters mournful and sullen, a problem in franchises like Star Wars and Scream. It also noted that this Indiana Jones film “[adds] more magic than has perhaps ever existed in the franchise,” though viewers may not be as familiar with Archimedes as they were with something like the Ark of the Covenant.
In a three-star review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw actually praised the “digital youthification effects” of the opening scene, and said the franchise retained “a certain old-school class,” while acknowledging that Dial of Destiny did not provide the same kind of reinvigorating spark that The Force Awakens did for the Star Wars franchise.
All of which is to say that critical responses are mixed, and the movie will have to be a major hit with audiences to recoup its reported $300 million budget. Meanwhile, there’s at least one important person who wholeheartedly loves Dial of Destiny: Spielberg himself, who said “It’s really, really a good Indiana Jones film. I’m really proud of what Jim has done with it,” per Variety. Dial of Destiny will be released on June 30.