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Indiana Jones and the
Hollywood Game Changer

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, starring Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Trailer: Lucasfilm Ltd.

#IndianaJones  •  #LifeHacks

It’s here. The Dial of Destiny. The fifth — and final — Indiana Jones adventure starring Harrison Ford.

Kick the Cannes

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny movie poster

It’s time to put this series about the famed archaeologist into its own historical perspective.

This is a series unlike any other. Back in 1987, at the 10th Anniversary Star Wars Convention, George Lucas took to the stage and stated there would be 12 Howard the Duck movies. He was kidding, of course. But he was serious when he said there would be six Indiana Jones adventures. That was after two had already been released and it’d be another two years before the third.

What a completely different series this would have been had it been treated with the same churn of a James Bond venture, with — back then, at least — a new movie released every two years. That’s part of the challenge of a time-locked series. James Bond has always been about a man of a certain age romancing the ladies while saving the world from one maniac or another with dreams of world domination. With Roger Moore, who starred in For Your Eyes Only in 1981, Bond never even broke a sweat. Daniel Craig changed a lot of that, but in a Bond cycle that lasted 15 years.

Harrison Ford has been Indiana Jones for 42 years. And every step of the way, he’s let people see him sweat. The goal was never to stay fresh; it was to get the job done. And maybe some fortune and girly... er... glory.

Thankfully, the Indy series was — through any number of circumstances — forced onto a different path, a path that has allowed the character to age in step with Harrison Ford. And with that, the series has been able to cover an incredible amount of history and become a wholly different kind of experience. Throw in the televised Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the expanse of history ranges all the way from Archimedes to Buzz Aldrin. Howard Carter and T.E. Lawrence. Both World Wars. The atomic bomb. The Vietnam War.

In that regard alone, the Indiana Jones series is monumental — and mighty special. Sure, Indy had his romantic adventures as well, but one was impossible to shake. Marion Ravenwood.

Indiana Smith and the Beach Bond

It’s funny to think about James Bond now.

Raiders of the Lost Ark movie poster

Of course, there’s the now famous story of George Lucas “hiding out” on the beaches of Hawaii at the time Star Wars was released, uncertain of how audiences would respond. He was with his friend Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg was chatting about his interest in directing a Bond movie.

Lucas said he had something even better. A globetrotting archaeologist named Indiana Smith. Yeah. And Lucas really did have a dog named Indiana. He makes mention of him in The Making of Star Wars; Indiana the dog was his inspiration for Chewbacca the Wookiee.

It was a huge “get” to have Sean Connery — the first Bond — play Indy’s father in Last Crusade. But the impact was much greater; Craig’s gritty take on Bond owes at least a little something back to Dr. Jones. Actually, the same can be said of Timothy Dalton and even Pierce Brosnan.

The ideas Lucas and Spielberg bounced around on that beach — and the movie they made together on a shoestring budget — would go on to have some incredible shockwaves on this writer. It’s stunning to look back on it now from the perspective of its original release. Lucas and Spielberg saw Raiders of the Lost Ark as an experiment in how quickly audiences could process a lot of information. That’s how dramatically different the pace was compared to other movies of the time.

As a scrawny little boy sitting in the Century 21 theatre in Denver, Colo., at a sneak preview of Raiders of the Lost Ark a week before its official opening, I was mesmerized by Indy. I wanted to be that guy. And when Indy shot the swordsman in Cairo? It felt like the roof of the theatre was going to blow right off by the sheer volume of applause and cheering.

The Century 21 is no more. Audiences don’t engage like that anymore. But those impressions from that night will last a lifetime — and beyond.

Through Indy, that kid would go on to learn how to deal with the Thugees of high school hallways and corporate cube farms. And even now, looking at the 70-year-old Indy in Dial of Destiny, the goal remains the same.

Be that guy.

The goal is on track so far. With 50 countries lived in, worked in or otherwise visited (with or without U2) spread across six continents, there’s a remarkable comfort level to be enjoyed whether the surroundings are in Denver, Buenos Aires, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Cairo, Bangkok or Shanghai.

If only Club Obi-Wan was real. At least Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is.

Something Old, Something New

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom movie poster

Audiences clamor for something new, but then fall back into the comfort zone of the familiar as soon as something breaks through and strikes a chord, like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Upon the release of Temple of Doom, Willie Scott was derided because she wasn’t like Marion. For some, the fictional Sankara Stones were nowhere near as compelling as the Biblical Ark of the Covenant. All of a sudden, the plea for something new became a demand for more of the same. Essentially, the general public immediately attempted to stand up rules around what the series should — and should not — be. Indy broke those rules every time, including gracefully sidestepping Monty Python jokes while searching for the Holy Grail.

Each movie is unique in ways uncommon to any other series.

And, with Temple of Doom, the jarring darkness of that hearts-on-fire story (quickly followed by the release of Gremlins) led to the addition of the PG-13 rating.

It’s an historic series in so many respects.

It’s also a series that has been the go-to source for a boundless amount of inspiration for this writer. Sweat wears well. Obstacles are to be overcome. Knowledge is power. Adventure is out there. Life well lived.

Of course, the series has its conventions, some loosely defined rules.

  • Indy never gets to keep the treasure, the object at the heart of each quest. At best, it’s returned to the rightful owner. Sometimes it’s once again lost in a crevasse or a river. Otherwise, it belongs in a museum. At worst, though, it winds up crated in a warehouse. So much for “fortune and glory.”
  • The roots are in the movie serials and pulp fiction stories of the 1930s and ’40s.
  • Very real history provides the foundation for each adventure, which is then taken to new fantastical levels. Even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is based on the very real, but controversial, Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull; it’s the foundation to send Indy into a terrific sci-fi adventure that is also time-period appropriate. In Dial of Destiny, the Antikythera, the first known computer, is tied to the genius of Archimedes and propels Indy into a completely unexpected challenge that is set against a backdrop of Apollo 11 and the Vietnam War.
  • Family matters are Indy’s blind spot.
  • The humor is generous. (And that includes refrigerators.)
  • Indy is a professor of archaeology, not a superhero. He’s a human being.
  • Indy is not a perfect human, but there is a tremendous amount of heart put into this character.
  • The action goes over-the-top, but it works because of Indy’s vulnerability.
  • Giving up is never an option. And sometimes it takes a punch to the jaw to make that message stick.
  • Pragmatism is a key to success.
  • As Harrison Ford ages, so does Indy (most of the time).
    1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) takes place in 1936; Indy 37, Harrison 38
    2. The Temple of Doom (1984) takes place in 1935; Indy 36, Harrison 41
    3. The Last Crusade (1989) takes place in 1939; Indy 40, Harrison 46
    4. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) takes place in 1957; Indy 58, Harrison 65
    5. The Dial of Destiny (2023, pandemic-delayed from 2021) takes place in 1944 and 1969; Indy 45 and 70; Harrison... um... 79 during filming

Of all the above, only one convention is actually broken for the final adventure. It’s justifiable.

Times, They Are a-Changin’

Now for the big question of the series: are the fickle masses ready to see Indy embark on his final grand adventure? Probably not. And no. He doesn’t die. That’s not a spoiler. The very notion is flat-out poppycock. But he is 70 in August 1969 and that forces some realities to be faced. Most have probably forgotten — or never knew — in the original broadcasts of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series, each episode was bookmarked with a nonagenarian Indy, played by George Hall wearing the familiar fedora, but with a black-patch over one eye, regaling people with stories from his past and the lessons learned.

Every episode, that is, except for one.

That one featured a bearded Harrison Ford back as Indy, stuck in a blizzard and it’s a saxophone that sparks some memories of adventures past. That also leads to one inconsistency regarding the Jones family, but Lucas has kept those introductory segments buried in an archive for the past 24 years. Problem solved, but it’s an unnecessary approach. There are at least three better ways to go about it. Call me, Uncle Walt, and I’ll explain how those bookends can be restored without disrupting a thing.

Much like James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and even Dominic Toretto have had to contend with technology making their lines of work obsolete, Indy has to stare down a disinterested Hunter College classroom as he discusses the archaeological significance of technology throughout history and — potentially — a ho-hum theatrical audience with a short attention span.

Regardless of the latest chapter’s commercial fate, the work stands for itself.

There has never been a series like Indiana Jones. And, even in this world of multiverses, streaming series and the MCU, it’s hard to imagine anything comparable ever happening again.

• Originally published at

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