When Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released in 2008, I was certain its failures would mean the end of the franchise. Instead, plans were almost immediately made to release a fifth and final swashbuckling adventure starring everyone’s favorite archaeologist hero, though they would take 15 years and multiple rewrites to reach fruition. Finally, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has reached theaters, with Steven Spielberg stepping down as director for the first time in the franchise and James Mangold taking the helm in a production that mostly feels content to capture the style of the series without any major alterations.
While Dial of Destiny doesn’t feel like a James Mangold film, it also doesn’t feel entirely like Spielberg, but rather an empty imitation. In fact, everything about the film has the look and feel of classic Indiana Jones, but the soul is gone from the experience. It isn’t as bad as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but that isn’t saying much at all. The one thing audiences can be thankful for is the abandoned plans to have Shia LaBeouf replace Harrison Ford, and the 80-year-old actor returning to the role this one final time. While he may not be able to achieve the same level of physicality and some audiences are certain to complain about the de-aging process used for an earlier sequence, there is no denying that Ford still has the star power which made the role so iconic in the first place.
Dial of Destiny begins with a prologue sequence set in 1944, during the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II. Indiana Jones is on a mission to obtain the Lance of Longinus with his archaeologist colleague Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) while avoiding capture by the Nazis, when he stumbles upon a piece of the Archimedes's Dial. The antique device invented by mathematician Archimedes is rumored to be capable of locating fissures in time and is being held by Nazi astrophysicist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), who unsuccessfully chases after Jones and Shaw. Years later when Jones is in the process of forced retirement from teaching, Voller inexplicably reappears in search of the Dial.
Shaw’s grown daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is also seeking the device, though she appears to only be concerned with its monetary value which leads Jones to join in the search to be sure the artifact is placed in a museum where it belongs. This begins the globe-trotting adventure, with countless chase scenes utilizing a variety of vehicles from horses to rickshaws. These chases also allow Ford to remain at the center of the action, while often remaining seated and keeping physicality to a minimum.
There is also a heavy use of CGI in many of the action sequences, but at least the effects have advanced beyond the scene from the previous film where Jones was thrown by a bomb while hiding in a refrigerator. It is obvious Dial of Destiny is overusing digital effects, but thankfully none of them are painfully bad. And they shouldn’t be given the $295 million spent to make the movie. Like the action sequences, the film itself is not terrible so much as it is a safe and fairly bland installment into a franchise that once had a great deal more life to it. While I wasn’t bored, Dial of Destiny also did not leave me mourning the end of these movies, which have already felt dead for several decades.
Given how much money was spent to make Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, it is no surprise to find it is being released in multiple premium formats. In addition to IMAX and Dolby presentations of the film, the last Indiana Jones movie can also be seen in 4DX and ScreenX, the latter of which was the way I experienced the film. For those who want an immersive experience similar to 3D without the gimmicks and awkward glasses, ScreenX is a fun option.
But what exactly is ScreenX? It claims to be the world’s first multi-projection system used in a theater setting, following in the tradition first established by Cinerama in 1952. ScreenX offers a 270-degree panoramic viewing experience, and they don’t rely on a curved screen at all. Instead, ScreenX theaters expand the image directly onto the side walls, which they call “Wings.” These special walls are specifically created with a fabric that allows the projected images to match the center screen. That center screen will play the film as you would see it in any theater, while the images put on the side walls by up to twelve laser digital projectors are made up of specially created material to match the color and brightness of the screen.
ScreenX was created by CJ 4DPLEX, a technology company that is probably best known for their 4D technology, which started in South Korea but has expanded across the globe with increasing momentum over the last decade. Although 4DX is certainly impressive enough, ScreenX is an even more recent innovation in the efforts toward a more immersive cinematic experience. I have heard ScreenX described as IMAX, but with the image being wider instead of taller, though this doesn’t quite do the experience justice. While IMAX may give you more to look at, ScreenX is more about utilizing peripheral vision to feel as though you are inside the film. This is especially effective during some of the chase sequences, though there is a surprising amount of the film which did not use the side material at all.
Most of the added material projected on the side walls in Dial of Destiny is environmental, allowing the audience to feel as though they are in the middle of the action, even if it doesn’t add any narrative material to the experience. During a chase and battle on top of a train, the side walls display the environment quickly speeding by, including trees on each side of the track. Similarly, other chase sequences open the world up with more of the environment. It isn’t as effective as some of the past films I have watched in this format, but it does add to the viewing experience during some of the bigger set pieces. Above all else, it is simply a fun way to experience the movie. And while the format of Imax can be seen in home entertainment releases, ScreenX must be viewed in theaters to get the experience. This is another reason to bring audiences back to theaters, with the hopes of making the film’s giant price tag worthwhile.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 4/10
ScreenX Features: 6/10