Indiana Jones films have always blended the line between relatively grounded scenes talking about archeology with intense, lively action, and moments of pure supernatural fantasy – from the Nazi fusion of the Ark of the Covenant to the immortal knight of the last crusade.
FRONT SPOILERS FOR “INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DATE”
Even with the shift from the supernatural to more scientific leanings with the two recent movies, he still maintained that distinction. While that wasn’t a problem with Spielberg’s original trilogy, the fourth and fifth movies have been criticized for their end acts that potentially go too far.
With the fifth film, the titular dial sees Indiana and others travel back in time to Syracuse in 212 BC and speak to Archimedes before returning to the present. The film makes it clear from the outset that the dial is not a time machine – one of the revelations being that it only traces cracks in time that trace back to a single point and place in time, the time of its invention.
The film’s director, James Mangold, had to shoot down one of the craziest online rumors of recent years – suggesting the film would end with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character Helena Shaw using the device as a time-travel-style machine to effectively insert itself into the events of the previous films and become the new “Indiana”.
Speaking to The Ringer recently, director James Mangold clarified that the end of the film we have is the one that has always been there and would never end otherwise:
“It’s the ending we wrote two years ago… When you start writing anything, you don’t know exactly how you’re going to land it. You just keep working. And there were times when I thought, I thought maybe they’d end up going back to Germany and he’d stop Mads from doing what he was doing, but I felt like we had already done it with the opening.
The other big moment that sparks debate is Dr. Jones stating that he wants to stay in the past, until Helena knocks him out and brings him back to the present. Mangold says he never intended to leave Indiana Jones in the past:
“It felt like it would have been kind of time warp suicide and kind of dark. Like, is he really going to be happy? Even Phoebe says, with leeches and blah blah blah, watching people transport manure in carts and slaves? No… This all sounds more like the impulse of a guy who doesn’t know why he would go home.
The result is that he reunites with Marion in the final moments of the film, partly resolving the issues that have unraveled their marriage. The ending led to debates online, with Polygon going so far as to say that it “bends the franchise into navel-gazing ouroboros.”
The arguments will no doubt continue, but one person who has already weighed in is original “Indiana Jones” writer George Lucas himself.
Slashfilm found an archived 2008 interview that Lucas did with Total Film in which Lucas says he tried hard to maintain the idea that even with otherworldly elements in those films, it was “founded on a kind of reality”. While a golden box of flesh-melting ghosts walks the line of credibility for him, the timeshift is a step too far:
“The point is, if you believe in the Ark of the Covenant, if you believe it has a relationship with God, if you believe it strikes people – which is absolutely true in a certain code of reality – then everything makes sense. But you can’t invent something, like a time machine. That’s not what it’s about. It’s supernatural mysteries, not actions- adventures where you have no historical or archaeological context.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate” is now in theaters worldwide.