Lucasfilm/Disney has released the first trailer for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” which is due to arrive in theaters on June 30th, 2023. While star Harrison Ford returns, this marks the first Indiana Jones movie to not be directed by longtime series director Steven Spielberg. Taking the reins for this adventure is James Mangold (“Logan,” “Girl Interrupted,” “Copland”). Also returning to the series is actor John Rhys-Davies as Jones’s old friend ‘Sallah,’ a character who first appeared in the original film, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989).
The last Indiana Jones movie, 2008’s “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” left me a bit less than satisfied, to put it charitably. However, four years ago, my wife and I had the chance to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” theatrically once again, and the magic of these movies was instantly rekindled for me. Composer John Williams, who recently announced his retirement before giving an impromptu concert in Anaheim, is scoring the movie as the cap to his long, multiple Oscar-winning career.
*****POSSIBLE LOST ARK-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!*****
Closer Look at the Trailer
It begins with Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) telling his old friend Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), “I miss the deserts, I miss the sea…” as we see montages of adventures past and present, including a street chase through what might be Cairo (?) in Sallah’s native Egypt.
Note: If the street chase is indeed set in Cairo, it could mean that Sallah’s offer to Indy for one last adventure might have a very personal motive, since Cairo is Sallah’s native city. We also know that Sallah is a family man, so it’s possible that one of his now adult-age children (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) might be in jeopardy.
We then see Professor Indiana Jones in New York City of 1969, with Harrison Ford playing the character at roughly his own age (Ford turned 80 in July of 2022).
Note: There is no mention of Indy’s wife, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), whom he romanced in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and ultimately married in 2008’s “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Nor is there any mention of their son, “Mutt” (Shia LaBeouf). I’m not sure if writers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and director/writer Mangold purposefully left them out of the trailer as a surprise for later on in the movie, or if they’re simply not included in this story. Given the critically-mixed reaction to “Kingdom…” it’s possible the writers are trying to distance themselves from the events of that movie, though I imagine they will at least acknowledge what happens to those characters.
“The sea” that Sallah misses is glimpsed in what almost looks like a scene from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” (the theme park ride and the movie series), as divers approach a skull artifact with a slithering eel winding through its facial sockets. Skulls in an Indiana Jones movie are par for the course, as they give a feeling of danger lurking at every turn—much like a Disneyland ride. Either way, it’s a very Disney visual.
Note: Later on in the trailer, we see a statue of what appears to be the Greek ocean god, Poseidon, which leads me to believe that the ocean plays a significant part in this new adventure.
We also see Professor Jones at the lectern, using an era-appropriate overhead projector. Despite his lifetime of unbelievable adventures, Indy is, like his late father Henry Sr. (Sean Connery), very much an academic. Given that we see him in New York, it’s possible that he’s uprooted from his old digs at the University of Chicago, or he’s simply guest-lecturing. Either way, his students in 1969 look more bored than enamored these days (Indy’s students seemed a lot more smitten with him in the late 1930s, when he was a lot younger).
Note: Those overhead projectors look exactly like the old Buhl overhead projectors I remember from school in the 1970s and ’80s (yes, I’m ancient…).
After Sallah laments how much he misses their old days of adventure, we see Indy telling his old friend that “those days have come and gone.” To which Sallah replies, “Perhaps…perhaps not.” It’s clear that Sallah is the catalyst for bringing Indiana Jones back into the adventure game.
Note: It’s really good to see Sallah return. I met John Rhys-Davies in person at a Planetary Society event in January of 2004 (we’re both members) and he was a delightful man, with a very warm sense of humor. He even posed for a selfie with my wife and I, after a chat. I told him during that meeting that the two best Indiana Jones movies featured Sallah, and that he’s a good luck charm. After “Temple of Doom” (1984) and “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” I stand by my opinion.
Over the course of this trailer, we catch glimpses of various new characters; one of whom is Indy’s new companion and goddaughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). I’m assuming she’s Sallah’s daughter. I could easily be wrong on this, of course.
Note: Phoebe Waller-Bridge was an absolute scene stealer in another Disney production; 2018’s underrated “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. In that film, Waller-Bridge played (via motion capture) Lando Calrissian’s sentient android companion, “L-3,” who fought for robotic rights, only to have her dying consciousness downloaded into the Millennium Falcon’s main computer—thus fusing her with the ship. While Harrison Ford didn’t play Han Solo in “Solo,” it’s kind of fitting that an out-of-CGI-costume Waller-Bridge is now playing the goddaughter of the Millennium Falcon’s pilot.
Another character glimpsed in the montage is an unnamed sea captain, being played by Antonio Banderas. Given that this character doesn’t yet have a name, all we know of him is largely through rumor at this point. From what I’ve gleaned, the character is an old friend of Indy’s. Given the banjo we see behind him, he’s a potentially colorful character too, despite his grim expression in the trailer.
Note: Antonio Banderas is well known for his roles in 1995’s “Desperado” (the sequel/remake of Robert Rodriguez’s 1992 low-budget sleeper hit, “El Mariachi”) and 1994’s “Interview With The Vampire,” where he played the vampire Armand.
During the montage, we also see a digitally de-aged Indiana Jones, wearing a stolen Nazi uniform he’s no doubt using to infiltrate enemy ranks during World War 2. Earlier (and later) in the trailer, we see a nighttime train chase, with Indiana and another new character named Basil (Toby Hooper), climbing atop the rail cars with Nazis in hot pursuit. At some point during these World War 2-era flashbacks, Indy is presumably captured and rescued.
Note: The digital de-aging of Harrison Ford to appear as his 1980s-era self is quite good, at least in the trailer; the work is on a par with the equally impressive digital de-aging used to make Samuel L. Jackson appear as his 1990s-era self in “Captain Marvel” (2019).
In these 1940s flashbacks, we also see Nazis (“I hate these guys”), with a Nazi scientist named Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) opening a mysterious crate. The image brings to mind the original 1981 movie’s climax, when Nazi collaborator Belloq (Paul Freeman) opens the lost ark—causing the deaths of himself and his assembled Nazi pals. I’m assuming whatever is in the latest movie’s crate is also the reason behind the 1940s train car chase, and Indy’s capture, as well.
Note: Actor Mads Mikkelson’s career and knack for villainy exploded after his appearance as ‘Le Chiffre’ in 2006’s “Casino Royale.” The actor also a strong connection to Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars, as Mikkelsen played reluctant, Robert Oppenheimer-like Imperial scientist, Galen Erso, in 2016’s “Rogue One.”
Unlike the more two-dimensional Nazis of previous Indiana Jones movies, who were little more than evil targets to be wiped out, Voller is, according to rumor, a more complicated character. The former Nazi scientist plays a part in the movie’s 1969 story as well, as he is one of the 1,600 or so captured scientists at the end of the war who formed the basis for the American moon rocket program (see: Operation Paperclip).
Note: These Nazi scientists were pioneers in military rocket technology, as their V-2 rockets rained untold terror upon London and other targets. Captured V-2s (rechristened A-4s by the US Army) and their creators, such as Dr. Werner von Braun, formed the basis for the American intercontinental ballistic missile program, as well as the Saturn moon rockets. That said, I still love it whenever Jones punches a Nazi.
During the 1940s train car chase, we see yet another shot of a de-aged Indy in a train car, with some communications equipment in the background. The train chase brings to mind the Cross of Coronado incident from Indy’s teenage years (“The Last Crusade”), where the young Indy stole the Spanish artifact from a group of archeological looters, who pursued him across a train of circus-bound boxcars.
Note: 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is my personal favorite of the Indiana Jones movies, as the chemistry between Harrison Ford and his “father” Sean Connery was great fun to watch. It was also a stroke of genius to cast the former James Bond as Indy’s dad, since director/producer Steven Spielberg’s original ambition was to make a Bond movie, before his friend George Lucas persuaded him to make a new series starring his rogue archeologist character, ‘Indiana Jones’ (‘Indiana’ was named after Lucas’ pet Malamute, who was also the inspiration for the Wookiee Chewbacca, in “Star Wars”).
In another shot, we see what appears to be the titular “Dial of Destiny” bathed in golden light. The exact nature and purpose of the Dial is unknown, but presumably it holds some sort of fantastic mystical power which prompts Indy’s narration about faith…
Note: Personally, I’m glad to see the series returning to mystical artifacts. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” took an unwise detour into UFO mythology, with the creators of the Central American crystal skulls revealed to be inter-dimensional aliens. It was a hard right turn into sci-fi that felt somewhat ill-fitting compared to the more spiritual quests of the previous three movies, which featured the Lost Ark of the Covenant, a powerful Indian stone, of course, the Holy Grail itself. I love science fiction, of course, but I prefer my Indiana Jones movies to be more mystical (and I say that as an atheist…).
Over the trailer’s montage, we hear the older Indy saying “I don’t believe in magic, but a few times in my life… I’ve seen things I can’t explain. And I’ve come to believe it’s not so much about what you believe, it’s how hard you believe it.”
Note: We know from “The Last Crusade” that Indy is, ultimately, a man of faith, as he took a literal ‘leap of faith’ in that film. That he doesn’t believe in ‘magic’ still makes sense, however (despite seeing the wrath of God, inter-dimensional aliens, and being possessed by a Thuggee cult). Indy would more likely explain the things he’s seen as divine power, or some as-yet-unknown brand of technology. If you showed an iPhone or modern computer to a reasonably intelligent person from 1969, they would still recognize it as technology, not magic.
We also see a collection of Indy’s gear; the fedora, his trusted whip, and a series of maps. It also looks like his old leather jacket is stuffed into a bag. These elements are as iconic to the Indiana Jones character as James Bond’s Walther PPK, or Mr. Spock’s tricorder.
Note: Indiana’s overall look is also surprisingly time-proof as well; it looks just as fitting on a rugged, two-fisted archeologist/adventurer from the 1930s as it would on a rugged, two-fisted archeologist/adventurer from the late 1960s.
There’s another shot of Indy and Helena nearly getting squashed by a large sphere in a cave full of statuary. That near-miss is, of course, a visual homage to the large rolling stone that nearly crushes Indy in the opening scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and is one of the defining visual moments of the movies. One of the statues looks like Poseidon, the mythical god of the sea (as well as storms and horses) in ancient Greek mythology. That we saw a diving expedition earlier in the trailer suggests that the Dial of Destiny might involve Poseidon, or perhaps the lost content of Atlantis (?). Once again, I’m just spitballing here…
Note: Both the Greek god Poseidon and Atlantean lore would feel much more at home in an Indiana Jones movie than aliens. If these are the subjects of the movie, then I look forward to seeing them explored.
Another action set piece shown throughout the trailer is Indy being chased during a ticker-tape parade in 1969—presumably for the Apollo 11 astronauts returning to Earth from the moon in July of that same year. We see someone leveling a gun at Indy, before the seventy-something professor jumps on a police horse, and escapes. Never a dull moment with Indiana Jones…
Note: The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, nicely chronicled in the 2018 film “First Man”, most likely ties in with the former Nazi scientist Voller, who now works for the US rocket program, and is presumably one of Dr. Werner von Braun’s team. Voller is a character from Indy’s own past as well, as evidenced in the train chase scenes sprinkled throughout the trailer as well. I’m guessing the de-aged Indy flashbacks from the 1940s are the opening prologue of this new movie.
Speaking of chases, we also see the older Indy in another shot from the street chase glimpsed earlier in the trailer. This chase takes place in the hot, desert streets of an as-yet-unspecified city (once again, my guess is Cairo). We also see another closeup of Helena (whose blouse sleeves appear to be ripped off) and a vintage Mercedes, as well.
Note: It’s still a bit difficult for me to accept that 1969—the year I turned three—was 53 years ago (!). That means there is a longer gap between this movie and our present day than there was between the original movie’s 1936 setting and its 1981 release date. I’m going to have to change this site’s name to “Musings of an Old Fart” pretty soon…
Another shot in the trailer sees Indy riding his stolen steed into the dark reaches of the New York subway system. From the looks of the clip, it appears that Indy is riding his horse directly into the oncoming lights of an approaching subway car…
Note: 1969 was a time when the New York subway system was less gentrified than it is today. I haven’t ridden a New York subway in about six years, but my last trip in one was a lot nicer than those seen in movies and TV shows of that era (see: 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy,” or 1974’s “The Taking of Pelham 123”).
In this final scene of the trailer, Indy and Helena are negotiating with a roomful of tough, international black market-types. When asked how Helena and Indy are involved, Helena assures the group that he’s “nobody,” just as Indy proudly contradicts “she’s my goddaughter.”
Note: The very last scene glimpsed in the trailer looks like it might take place just before the car chase in the desert street, as we see Helena wearing what appears to be the same red blouse she’s wearing in the getaway car, but without the ripped-off sleeves.
As the surly group begins to get rowdy, Indy breaks out his trusted whip and tries to restore order… which doesn’t work, of course, as every single person in the room pulls their pistols on him and begins shooting—just as he ducks behind the head of the table. Harrison Ford’s facial expression as he’s confronted by the armed mob is priceless.
Note: This moment of comic gun-play is a reversal of a similar scene from the 1981 original, where, during a street chase in Cairo, Indy is confronted by a master swordsman who whips out an impressive set of blades—before an exhausted Indy simply shoots him dead with a single round from his pistol. That Indy still believes his trusted whip will once again save the day gives this older version of the character an almost Don Quixote-esque quality that is endearingly funny, and in keeping with a guy who is just “making it up” as he goes along.
“Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip.”
While I haven’t seen a movie theatrically since February of 2020, this may be just the sort of movie that will get me out of my comfortable home chair and digital home theater. “Indiana Jones” movies are almost primal theatrical experiences, and I do hope that Disney resists the impulse to make a dozen new made-for-Disney+ spinoffs right away (as we’ve seen with Marvel and Star Wars). I miss the days when going to see such a movie was an event, and not just a tie-in for a new TV series. Going to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” theatrically four years ago reaffirmed that feeling for me. Even watching “Last Crusade” not long ago on my HD projector and 7 ft. screen, I was reminded of how uniquely cinematic Indiana Jones’s adventures are.
Looking forward to June 30th, 2023.