The case for and against Dial of Destiny’s bonkers ending

Like every Indiana Jones movie after 1984 Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate is here to remind you Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s got all the hits: world-hopping archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) reluctantly faces snakes and dutifully faces the Nazis. Plus: John Rhys-Davies plays an Egyptian! The film is so focused on nostalgic suspense, it’s easy to forget that director James Mangold, alongside writers David Koepp and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, is very consciously telling a story about a late-career Indiana Jones, and a genuine interest have to take him to a new place what is meant to be his last bow.

This means Dial of fate‘s final act could come as a complete surprise to viewers, even though the film teases it as a possibility all along. It may be the most shocking Indiana Jones moment since – well, the end of the previous Indiana Jones movie, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. If anything, it carries on a rich tradition of unforgettable endings to Indy’s adventures. It also feels like it goes against the spirit of every Indiana Jones movie before it. Let’s talk about it.

[Ed. note: Spoilers for the entirety of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny follow.]

How does Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny end?

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate follows Indy and many other less savory people as they race for the Antikythira, the Greek name for the eponymous Dial of Destiny from the movie. Also called the Archimedes dial after its inventor, the Greek mathematician Archimedes, the dial is said to be a kind of compass, one that points to anomalies in space and time.

Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), the film’s villain, is a former Nazi scientist who gained favor with the United States government by aiding in the moon landing and pretending to be reformed. He’s secretly after the dial in hopes he can use it to travel back in time to World War II and lead the Nazis to victory. What actually happens is stranger than that.

Image: Lucasfilm

The dial works as advertised, leading Voller to a rift in time in the middle of a storm. But Voller’s calculations are wrong: the portal takes his plane full of secret Nazis back not to the war, but to the Sicilian city of Syracuse around 212 BCE, when the city was besieged by the Romans. It is the battle where Archimedes dies.

The final battle within Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate Indy and his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) defeat the Nazis while evading the Romans. In the end, the heroes succeed, but Indy suffers a serious injury. Helena wants to save him and bring him back to the present, but Indy is moved by the living history around him, and after meeting Archimedes himself, says he wants to die there in the past.

Helena cleverly knocks Indy out, returning him to the present day of 1969, where he can be hospitalized and rescued.

The arguments for the end of Dial of Destiny

In an interview with Uproxx, director James Mangold notes that in an Indiana Jones movie, the artifact resembles Chekhov’s gun — the ancient object discussed in the first act must go off in the third, showing its power. It should also tie in with Indy’s personal journey, and help him solve whatever he’s struggling with.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate takes place at a point in Indy’s life where he no longer feels like he belongs. Mankind has reached the moon, his son Mutt (Shia LaBeouf in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) died off-screen in Vietnam, his marriage to Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) is over and he’s about to retire from his long career as a professor. There is a strong thematic resonance in the idea of ​​Indiana Jones longing to hide in the past and wanting to stay there when he miraculously finds himself in an era where he devoted his life to college.

The problem is that it doesn’t add up to the Indiana Jones movies before it.

The case towards the end of Dial of Destiny

While the same two people – Steven Spielberg and George Lucas – guided every previous Indiana Jones film, each one is a completely different flavor of pulp throwback. One thing is consistent, however: the artifact at the center of each story blurs the line between fact and fiction, lying on the threshold of history and myth.

“Archaeology is the search for facts, not truth”, says Indy at the beginning of his class Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s a clever line that encapsulates both Indy’s biggest drive and his biggest blind spot: he firmly believes that history can be discovered and explained, even though he constantly encounters things that can’t be explained, and he grows as a person as a result.

Indiana Jones crosses a bridge in the shadows in a still from the self-titled movie Indiana Jones 5

Image: Lucasfilm

In Dial of fate, Indy is skeptical of the dial’s abilities, but in the end it doesn’t force him to face something he doesn’t understand. In fact, it seduces him with a version of the world he already knows.

While it’s shocking and a little silly to see Indiana Jones talk to Archimedes, Dial of fateThe film’s script does indeed set the moment thematically, and a solid case could be made for it within the film’s logic. Take a step back, though, and the ending becomes a metaphor for how a franchise is eroded as sequel after sequel pile up, taking the story further away from its center.

The Indiana Jones movies were always throwback to pulp adventure series. They were in 1981 then Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered, and they were in 2008 with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – a movie that, while derided, was designed to evoke 1950s sci-fi the way the previous films in the franchise evoked movies like the 1939 adventure Gunga Din. While Dial of fate is all about a compass, directing its viewers nowhere but other Indiana Jones movies. It bends the franchise into a navel-gazing ouroboros. On the surface, as Mangold says, it’s a story about moving on. But it’s not – it’s a regressive story about Indy choosing a world he knows, and history he knows. And it’s about the franchise itself retreating into self-parody. Like Indiana herself, this final installment of the series is stuck in the past – showing no indication of what a problematic message that is.