Back Home Again With Indiana. One Last Time.

Give today’s moviemakers this much: they are doing what they can to get people back into theatres, particularly those who have been more reluctant to do so, by tapping into extensions of franchises that brought them in in droves when they first were released decades ago.  The plot lines are easily accessible, the talent and their roles pre-sold, and the chance for audiences to, if only for a couple of hours, escape back into times when the world was a lot less difficult and far more opportunisitic, like when they first stood in long, long lines awaiting heavily-anticipated and hyped blockbusters.  TOP GUN was the most recent of these strategies to strike it rich by hitting all of those tickmarks, and it dominated last summer’s otherwise still-strugging theatrical box office wars.   And this weekend, after a 15-year hiatus after its most recent installment, and more than 40 years after Harrison Ford’s Dr. Henry Jones swashbuckled onto screens, the INDIANA JONES franchise is back for its own Ponce de Leon-like renaissance.

Ford is indeed back, and, thanks to some well-publicized de-aging techniques used in the filmmaking the punim that made him a hunky hero even more than his Han Solo role in STAR WARS returns as well.  In an extended flashback scene that sets up this film’s object of desire, once again a historical artifact with Biblical powers, Ford’s rugged chin and matinee idol looks are once again on the big screen, and after a somewhat tepid start there is yet again the kind of epic gravity-defying battle that culminates in the swell of John Williams’ iconic theme, an audio signal that despite any worries you may have had at some point, Indy was going to be OK.

But then we’re brought back to the present, or at least the 1969 that serves as the setting for DIAL OF DESTINY, and we see Indy in as depressing a Manhattan tenement as ever existed in the era, trudging to work uptown at Hunter College, where he’s about to retire from his role as a mostly-ignored professor, on as depressingly grim a Number 6 IRT train as ever existed.  .   As someone who is old enough to vividly remember such commutes in that era, I’d contend the recreation of the New York City transit system was even more impressive than that applied to Ford’s features.  We see on his dingy refrigerator that he’s recently been served with divorce papers, too.  But when his goddaughter, played by the winsome Phoebe Waller-Bridge of streaming series fame, re-enters his life and presents him with an opportunity for one more globe-trotting pursuit, the old Indy, and his well-worn fedora and jacket, are back.  And once again, he’s battling Nazis along the way, this time Nazis so zealous they even have Hitler himself in their cross-hairs.

The pursuit is for, as PEOPLE MAGAZINE’s Tom Gliatto gushed, a device that could upend world history (no one in an Indiana Jones movie is ever itching to discover something as insignificant as a  painting from Picasso’s lost “purple” phase). Created by the Greek mathematician Archimedes, this mythical doohickey is a dial with wheels as meticulously engineered as those in a modern watch. It would have required an enormous Swatch band!

But the chase this time isn’t quite as epic as it was in the first four installments, ones that Steven Spielberg directed.  This time, it’s James Mangold’s vision driving the action, and, at least to me, it was one that produced a film featuring scenes not quite as gut-wrenching or as gory as were, say, pursuits through a mine shaft trying to avoid the Ark of the Covenant being used as a nuclear device.  The device in question is indeed activated, and Indy, along with his new younger friends and enemies, take the trip of a lifetime–dozens of them, in fact.  And it is in that final act, where we are literally thousands of years removed from the angst and depression of the present day, that the joie de vivre of battle and reward returns to Dr. Jones, and both he and the film’s viewers are faced with confronting their own destinies head on.  Let’s just say he probably would have been justified with his initial decision, but the one that finally served as this franchise’s coda is even more satisfying.  I’ll only say this much:  it’s a less depressing one than befell Han.

That alone should give you a reason to swashbuckle into a theatre this weekend, and I defy you not to be humming this tune, let alone some of the other music that the film’s other award-winning original, nonagenarian composer John Williams, provides for the ride.  For me and the Mets, it was not the best of Junes they nor I have ever had.  It’s somewhat ironic that DIAL OF DESTINY is set in the same year that produced the ultimate comeback from a substantial mid-season deficit.  I can only hope the Mets may be as inspired by the reminder of better days of the past, and the start of a new month, as I am.  Here, grab a fedora and enjoy:

Until next time…

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