Director James Mangold teases a 'hero at sunset' in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
When it comes to what fans can expect from Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, it's all in the name.
Not that director James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari) is going to reveal just what exactly this mysterious dial is or what it does. "I can't, because I don't want to give the movie away," he tells EW. "But is there a relic in this movie that possesses a kind of power, or may possess a kind of power? And is it based on history and scientific speculation? Yes."
The upcoming film is the fifth in the beloved Harrison Ford-starring franchise, and the first to be helmed by Mangold, 59, taking the reins from Steven Spielberg. It follows the events of the divisive fourth film, 2008's Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which infamously introduced Mutt, Indy's motorcycle-loving, vine-swinging greaser of a son, played by Shia LaBeouf — an addition that was not welcomed by a lot of fans, and was later criticized by the actor himself. LaBeouf and his character will not be in Dial of Destiny, and Mangold promises audiences will "find out what happened" to him, but of course, won't say more.
What he can say is that the film opens in 1944 with a "blast of classic Indy action, me doing my very best version of Steven [Spielberg], and Harrison doing his best version of being under 40." A glimpse of the opening sequence, which features a digitally de-aged version of the 80-year-old actor, appears in the first teaser trailer that was released earlier this month.
From there, the film "tumbles" (per Mangold) right into 1969, where the bulk of the story takes place. When looking at the first three films — all of them set in the 1930s — the director says he was struck by the "wonderful synergy between this kind of pulpy cinematic style of the films, and the period itself and the cinematic language of that day."
The challenge, then, was to bring characters from that older world into a more modern period.
"I mean, 1969 is the beginning of now, really, in terms of technology and the space race," says Mangold. "So, you have Cold Wars, nuclear power, intrigue, the lack of clear good guys and bad guys. In the same way, you have to be really considerate about how you try and transpose a fairly simplistic kind of black-hat, white-hat sensibility into a period that is more complicated. We try to exploit that by jumping forward into 1969 to a hero who is used to a black and white world, [but finds himself] in a world that has gone gray."
In this new world, idealism about science and government has vanished, everyone is much more suspicious of what it might call a hero, and age has caught up with Jones, Mangold says. (But remember Ford's line from Raiders of the Lost Ark: "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.")
It's here that we're introduced to Helena, Indy's goddaughter, played by franchise newcomer and Fleabag phenom Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Mangold describes the character as a "catalyst" for the film. "She's a daughter of a friend of Indy's, who we will also meet in the movie," he says. "Helena's gotten herself in a bit of trouble, and brings [that] to Indy's doorstep. She's a character who's a wonderful set of contradictions — charming and brilliant, but also a lot of trouble."
The helmer says it's his hope that Helena's arrival will convert Dial of Destiny into a classic Indy adventure, one sheathed in the thematic elements of the '60s. John Rhys-Davies returns as Sallah, last seen in the third film, The Last Crusade. The film also stars Antonio Banderas, Shaunette Renee Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, and Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen and Holbrook play the villainous Voller and his lackey, Klaber, respectively.
It's not lost on Mangold how special the character of Indiana Jones is to fans, including himself. He refers to the character as "a phenomenally unique hero" and a "brilliant nerd who is also a badass."
"He's a guy who's never happier wearing glasses and reading a book, but somehow finds himself in these kinds of incredible situations. He uses unorthodox weapons to defend himself. He usually figures his way out of trouble with his brain, which is a very different set of circumstances than most of the heroes of our contemporary culture, who are just empowered."
You know, like Marvel's Wolverine, whose swan song Logan Mangold also directed? With Ford saying Dial of Destiny will be his last turn as the fedora-loving and whip-cracking adventurer, Mangold says it's fair to draw some comparisons between the two projects — to a point.
"I'm always interested in this idea of a hero at sunset," the director says. "What does the hero do when the world no longer has a place for him? I find it really interesting to try to look at classical heroes through the prism of our jaundiced contemporary attitudes."
However, whereas Logan was a "very purposefully and intentionally grim adventure, very dramatic, and very serious," Mangold says Dial of Destiny will be very different.
"I am under no illusions that my job making an Indiana Jones film was to suddenly beat the humor out of it and turn it into some kind of dirge," he says. "I think that what we're trying to do is balance both an accurate and realistic appraisal of where this character would be at this time in his life, and do that honestly, and at the same time, try and carry forward what the very title of our movie promises, which is a romp and a wonderful adventure with action and chivalry and escapes by the skin of your nose and ingenious solutions to diabolical problems. This is an Indiana Jones film."
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny hits theaters June 30, 2023.
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