So the boulder of intellectual property and franchise brand identity rolls on … bringing us Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the fifth film in which the legendary archaeologist and whip-cracking adventurer is back for another go-around. He is, of course, played by the legendary Harrison Ford, now 80 years young, but carrying it off with humour and style and still nailing that reluctant crooked smile.
It’s the first Indiana Jones film not to be directed by Steven Spielberg – James Mangold is now at the helm – but despite that, this one has quite a bit of zip and fun and narrative ingenuity with all its MacGuffiny silliness that the last one (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) really didn’t.
We all sat down to this movie hoping for a resurgence comparable to what JJ Abrams did with The Force Awakens, and if that didn’t exactly happen, it still gets up a storytelling gallop. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a tremendous co-star turn as Indy’s roguish goddaughter Helena Shaw, who wears shorts and shirt making her look like a grownup, naughty Enid Blyton heroine. And in fact some amazing digital youthification effects give Indy himself a great opening flashback section back in the second world war.
Back in the bad old days of 1944, with the Third Reich beginning to crumble, intrepid young spy Indiana Jones is captured by the fiendish Nazis along with his pal, Professor Basil Shaw, in which small role it is a pleasure to see Toby Jones.
They grab what the Germans want: the extant half of a much-desired artefact created by Archimedes, the Dial of Destiny, which allows its owner to control the forces of space and time, but which Archimedes prudently split into two and hid the other half. A chase with a nasty German, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkeksen) leaves this whole business unresolved but fast-forward to the present day – the Space Age late 60s, and grumpy old Indiana Jones is retiring, miserable at his irrelevance in the modern world. But this same Voller under a fake name is the brains behind the Apollo 11 moon landing, having conned the US federal government, represented by Agent Mason (Shaunette Renée Wilson) and still dreams of controlling the universe and reintroducing Nazism by joining the Dial’s two halves.
Only Indy can stop him, along with his scapegrace godchild Helena who is in fact making a dodgy living flogging antiquities on the black market – and she has a cheeky sidekick in tow: Teddy (Ethann Isidore). There are plenty of jolly chases, including a tuk-tuk vs classic Jag event in the narrow streets of Tangier and for the Indy purists, some creepy encounters with insects and an underground tomb whose passageways open up with a grinding noise.
It is probably a bit cheeky to be giving Ford a young female co-star under this “goddaughter” tag, with a bantering tension that is really not too different to a (platonic) co-star he might have had in the original movies. Yet 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 ageing and the gravitational pull of time. Indiana Jones still has a certain old-school class.
• Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny screened at the Cannes film festival and is released on 30 June in UK and Irish cinemas.