"This isn't an adventure," says the title character in "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny." "Those days have come and gone." And come again.
It must be said that "Dial of Destiny" is not what anyone would call an original movie, something that's also true of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which lovingly repurposed elements of classic movies. But it also must be said that director James Mangold's team captures not just the elements fans hope for — enormous puzzles, wily young rascals, picturesque settings, ciphers, thrilling escapes, a smidge of romance — but also the spirit of the three good movies in the series (let's just forget the lousy "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull").
One of the smartest decisions was to acknowledge that 42 years have passed since we met the snake-hating archaeology teacher in "Raiders." It's not clear how old Indy is supposed to be in "Destiny," partly because Harrison Ford — who still has a six-pack — doesn't look like most 80-year-olds. Jones is retiring from teaching in the film's present day, 1969, so maybe he's supposed to be 65? That would fit the blink-and-you'll-miss-it detail that he's in the middle of a divorce and recently lost his son, presumably in the Vietnam War.
He's grieving and crabby most of the time, perhaps because he isn't as nimble as he used to be when he found himself in the path of speeding boulders or a villain's bullets. But it's clear there's plenty of adventure left in Indy. He's on the trail of a Nazi madman (I probably don't even need to tell you he's played by Mads Mikkelsen, who always plays Nazi madmen). Mr. Psycho wants to acquire the "dial of destiny," a clock, created by Archimedes, that is said to grant its owner the power to rule the world. Which is nonsense, but an Indy movie needs something like that to get the plot going.
Much of the fun of this particular Indy comes from him having a more involved female counterpart than in previous films. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, from the brilliant "Fleabag," plays Helena, Indy's goddaughter, who also wants to get her hands on the dial. The women in other Indy movies seemed like they were written by someone who never met a woman but Waller-Bridge's intelligence and insouciance are perfect for Helena, a devil-may-care mercenary who knows her godfather's weaknesses and would cheerfully exploit them.
There's impressive stunt work in "Dial of Destiny," with thrilling set pieces that include one featuring everyone running atop a speeding train as well as a chase through jammed Moroccan streets. Even the de-aging special effect, a major distraction in movies such as "The Irishman," is fairly well done in flashbacks that feature Jones at the end of World War II, when he first dallied with Mikkelsen's artifact-nabbing character.
"Destiny" often feels like an "Indiana Jones' Greatest Hits" collection, especially in those flashbacks, so it may not attract new fans to the series. Although we've been told it's the last time Ford will don the rumpled fedora, "Destiny" definitely leaves room for additional adventures. These kinds of movies always do, of course, but "Destiny" is one case where I actually hope there will be more.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
*** out of 4 stars
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and smoking.
Where: In theaters Friday.