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Indiana Jones 5 Title Meaning, Explained: What is the Dial of Destiny?

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones 5.

Nearly fifteen years since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and we’ve finally gotten our first glimpse of Harrison Ford back in action as Indy in the trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Also starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, and Antonio Banderas, the fifth film had already been announced and teased, but the last week’s trailer premiere marked the first proper glimpse fans got of the film – as well as its title.

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In keeping with tradition – the fifth Indiana Jones film follows previous naming conventions, and has a subtitle: like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade. As we learned from last week’s trailer, the subtitle for Indy five is The Dial of Destiny – a mysterious-sounding title that seems to hint at the film’s possible plot, or at least its MacGuffin. But even with a trailer’s worth of footage to dissect, the question remains – what exactly is the Dial of Destiny?

The bad news is, there’s no concrete answer quite yet. Given just how famous the Indiana Jones franchise is, most specific plot details (or at least, major spoilers) tend to be held under lock and key. That being said, though, between behind-the-scenes footage, trailer clips, and quotes from cast and crew, there are a few educated guesses that can be made as to what the Dial of Destiny is, and how it could be involved with the plot of Indiana Jones.

Luckily for us, there’s an established precedent among the Indiana Jone franchise: the films don’t just invent artifacts for him to find. All of the previous entries in the franchise have featured historical artifacts and items that really existed (or at least, are speculated to have existed) – the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, and the faux mesoamerican Crystal Skulls are all MacGuffins based on items of interest to actual archeologists.

As such, it’s worth speculating that the so-called Dial of Destiny could be an item that already existed – or at the very least, is an item that is speculated to have existed, and that could hold significance in existing mythologies and cultures. When it comes to which mythology that might come from though, it’s anyone’s guess, though we do have on major clue – the dial itself.

Admittedly there isn’t 100% confirmation that the above item in question is the titular Dial of Destiny, it would certainly be a coincidence if the film’s first trailer featured Indiana Jones reverently clutching more than one dial-shaped item. So, assuming that the circular object in the trailer *is* the dial, that gives us a closer idea of what it might be based on. The item itself feature a series of what look like interlocking mechanical pieces and circular shapes engraved with lines and markings that seem to be representative of constellations.

Though there are certainly plenty of historically significant sundials, an item that feels like the most likely candidate as the inspiration is the fabled Greek Antikythera Mechanism. The impressive piece of machinery has been referred to as the “first computer”, and was speculated to have been used to predict eclipses and track planetary movements: purposes that would’ve helped ancient Greeks keep track of time.

The other major element to consider when speculating about the Dial of Destiny is the Dial’s role in the film’s plot – especially if rumors are true that time travel could play a significant role in the film. We know for sure that we’ll be seeing young Indy again – and though allegedly the de-aged Harrison Ford footage is just being used for the opening sequence, there’s still heavy speculation that time travel will feature in Indy 5.

Also adding fuel to the fire of the time travel theory and how it could help discern what the Dial of Destiny is was a recent quote from Mads Mikkelsen. In an interview with Empire, Mikkelsen shared exclusive details about his character Voller: “He’s a man who would like to correct some of the mistakes of the past. There is something that could make the world a much better place to live in. He would love to get his hands on it. Indiana Jones wants to get his hands on it as well. And so, we have a story.”

Between a dial that looks like the Ancient Greek way to keep track of time, a villain desperate to get his hands on the dial to correct the mistakes of his past, and heavy speculation that the plot could involve time travel, my best bet as of right now is that the Dial of Destiny is a modern interpretation of the Antikythera Mechanism that could allow Indy and the others to travel back in time. Of course, though, this is all just speculation – the only way to truly find out the secrets of the Dial of Destiny is to catch Indiana Jones 5 when it hits theaters next year.

(images via Lucasfilm)

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Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates

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