Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the background

‘Dial of Destiny’s Third Act Gamble Has Exciting Implications for a Different Franchise Entirely

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has a lot to live up to—the legacy of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’s original Indiana Jones trilogy is undeniable. On top of that, it needs to surpass the high expectations that set its predecessor, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, up to fail. And, by releasing at the beginning of a summer blockbuster season packed with some incredible heavyweights, Dial of Destiny needs to make itself stand out from the crowd. For better or worse, director James Mangold did take a big swing to do just that—arguably, the biggest risk the franchise has ever taken.

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Despite Dr. Jones’ (Harrison Ford) insistence that he doesn’t believe in magic, he’s seen some strange and unexplainable things in his lifetime. He’s seen the faces of Nazis melt off after opening the Ark of the Covenant, conversed with an ancient knight, and witnessed the Holy Grail save his father’s life, just to name a few. Some might say that Indiana Jones has seen it all—and they would have been right, until Dial of Destiny.

Indiana Jones may be an explorer and an adventurer, but above all, he is a historian. He loves history, the mystery and subjectivity of it, and the way it reveals human nature. To their credit, James Mangold and his co-writers Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and David Koepp have taken that cornerstone of Indy’s character and created an entire third-act climax around it. And while this third act does require a certain level of suspension of disbelief, I’d argue that it is the perfect culmination for Indiana Jones’ character arc—a reward, of sorts, for his dedication to preserving and sharing historical knowledge.

**Major spoilers ahead for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny!**

The titular Dial of Destiny, otherwise known as the Antikythera mechanism, is based on a real-life historical object over 2,000 years old. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the ancients used the Antikythera mechanism to track the position of the Sun and the Moon, predict eclipses, and even confirm when events like the Olympics were meant to take place. Though in real life, the creator of the mechanism is unknown, one theory has attributed it to Archimedes, and this is the theory that Dial of Destiny runs with. And, of course, to make it more Indiana Jones compliant, instead of simply charting the position of celestial bodies, the Dial in the movie can predict actual fissures in time.

That’s right, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny sees Indy and his new companions, goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and aspiring but well-meaning thief Teddy (Ethann Isidore), travel through a wormhole in the sky to the Siege of Syracuse in 213-212 BC. During the Siege, the Romans invaded the city of Syracuse to take control of the island of Sicily. Notably, Syracuse was being protected by weapons invented by Archimedes, and in the movie, Archimedes created the Dial so that help would come from the future to save his city. But, alas, as the rules of time travel state, changing the past affects the future, so Helena knocks Indy out cold after he makes the bold and rather brave decision to stay with Archimedes in ancient times.

Strangely, Indy’s hesitance to return to his reality is understandable. Stood in front of one of the greatest minds of all time, Indy actually gets to experience history in Dial of Destiny, as opposed to just reading and speculating about it. It’s one of the most emotional scenes in the entire film—even more so, I feel, than when Indy explains why he and Marion separated—because this is a man past his prime, who’s worked so hard for so long, learned so much, who realizes that everything he could ever read will never stack up to genuinely experiencing history with his very own eyes.

As I was watching the film, I could feel James Mangold’s appreciation for history shining through. Indy doesn’t just reckon with his own legacy. Mangold has brought a franchise that relies entirely on history and fantasy to its logical conclusion. There is no Indiana Jones without history, and there is no humanity without history, either. This is an important thematic thread that I believe Mangold is primed to carry with him as he embarks on his next big project: Star Wars.

Announced at Star Wars Celebration 2023, James Mangold‘s next production sees him head over to a galaxy far, far away. But he won’t be dealing with the tragedy of the Skywalker family, the cyclical conflict of the dark side vs. the light, or the troubles of the New Republic. No, Mangold is set to take audiences on a journey to a time mostly unexplored in the Star Wars franchise–approximately 25,000 years before the Skywalker saga even takes place.

Inspired by The Ten Commandments, Mangold’s Star Wars epic will dive deep into the origins of the Force and perhaps even explore the beginnings of the Jedi religion. This is completely new territory for Lucasfilm’s biggest franchise—previous Star Wars ventures have stuck to a few well-known decades of Star Wars history. But with the High Republic publishing initiative, which takes place around 200 years before the events of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, it seems Star Wars is more willing than ever to explore its galaxy’s expansive history.

James Mangold’s depiction of history in Dial of Destiny makes me feel like he is the man to take on the difficult and complex task of unraveling the mysteries of the Force and the origins of an entire religion. He’s not afraid to take big swings; Dial of Destiny sets itself apart from its predecessors not necessarily because it is a better movie but because it isn’t afraid to take on a bold new idea and explore Indy’s character in the most ludicrous way imaginable. Star Wars needs that, too. The franchise has been taking small steps into becoming more daring, but a movie set 25,000 years before anything we’ve ever known, rendering fan service and nostalgia completely unusable, is exactly what the galaxy needs.

History affects all of us. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny depicts its larger-than-life hero as utterly moved and overwhelmed by the impact of his latest misadventure and how everything, despite millennia in between, can still be connected. I want to see that in Star Wars, too. I want to know more about ancient mystics, their prophecies and traditions, and their exploration of the Force, and understand how that influenced the Jedi Order as depicted in George Lucas’ films.

These big, never-ending franchises need to take risks to stay relevant, and be bold in their storytelling. And James Mangold, no matter what you may think of his final product, is willing to do exactly that.

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)


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Author
El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.