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SYFY WIRE Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

5 things we learned from the long-awaited first trailer for 'Indiana Jones & the Dial of Destiny'

Indy's back, and there's a lot to think about.

By Matthew Jackson
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

This week, Disney and Lucasfilm finally released the trailer for the much-anticipated Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, just days after we got the first plot details for what looks like Harrison Ford's final adventure as Indiana Jones.

As you might expect for an Indy movie, Dial of Destiny's first footage is full of adventure and humor, but there's also something else lurking in this teaser, something a little more wistful and contemplative than the rollicking adventures we know and love. 

There's also, of course, a lot of teasers regarding the plot, the title McGuffin, and what exactly draws Indy back out into the world for one last adventure. So, let's talk about it. From Indy's supporting cast to the Dial itself, here are four key thoughts we had after watching the Dial of Destiny trailer many, many times. 

Let's dig in.

Dr. Jones moving on (or trying to)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

The trailer opens with voiceover from Indy's old friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), who laments that, in their old age, he and Indy don't go on adventures anymore. They've certainly been through a lot together, and at times faced what seemed like certain death, but the danger isn't what Sallah remembers. It's the adventure, the discovery, and the joy of sharing it all with a dear friend. While Indy might share the same fond memories, he doesn't seem to share Sallah's desire for just one more adventure. "Those days have come and gone," he says, resisting Sallah's attempts to lure him back out in the world.

Later in the trailer, we see Dr. Jones back in the classroom, still teaching eager young students about the joys of discovery and uncovering the past, and he seems, if not joyful about it, then at least resigned to it. As the film picks up, it's been more than a decade since the events of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and it's clear that Indy has at least made an effort to move on from his old life. Why he's so set on that, and what pushed him in that direction, is something we'll have to wait to learn, but it's immediately striking to see an Indy who doesn't want to go running off after some artifact at the drop of a fedora.

Indy and belief

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

Indiana Jones has been through a lot. He's found the Ark of the Covenant, he's drank from the Holy Grail, he's survived a death cult, and he's even found proof of alien life, and that's just the four adventures that we've seen. Now, as he nears the end of his life, he's got a lot to reflect on, and he does right in the midst of this trailer. Though he claims he doesn't believe in "magic," Indy also emphasizes that they key is not "what you believe" but "how hard you believe in it." It's an interesting thought, and while we might be quick to scoff at his claim that he doesn't believe in magic, it's important to remember the context in which Indy experienced all of these things.

Setting aside aliens, who are biological and not magical, Indy's adventures so far have boiled down to questions of faith and knowledge. It's why he closed his eyes when the ark opened, why he survived the trials in the quest for the Grail, and so on. So now, at a time when man is looking to the stars and there are still plenty of wonders left to find on Earth, what does Indiana Jones believe? Are there more frontiers for him to cross, or is he too set in his ways to ever find new things to put his faith in? It's a more existential question that doesn't necessarily factor into the plot, but it'll still be interesting to ponder in the context of the whole movie.

A different kind of family affair

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

Family and Indiana Jones films have been linked for quite a while at this point. Indy spent many of his early adventures hanging out with Marcus Brody, who may as well have been a second father to him, and we've seen him go on adventures with both his own father and his wife and son. Marcus and Henry Jones Sr. are both dead at this point in the timeline, and while we have no idea what happened to Marion and Mutt right now, we do know that the film will focus heavily on the relationship between Indy and his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), an adventurer in her own right who seems like she might be Marcus' daughter.

Waller-Bridge told Empire that Mangold based her character on Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve, which means we can expect plenty of gumption and energy, and the trailer shows us that Helena is more than ready to throw herself into just about any adventure. It also shows us that she might not always be 100 percent on board with Indy tagging along in her life. However their dynamic plays out, giving Indy a younger explorer to hang out with will inject plenty of energy into the film, and Waller-Bridge's prowess as a comedic performer will keep the energy light and flowing.

The past comes back

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

A constant theme running through the Indiana Jones films is the weight of history and the consequences for tampering with the relics of the past and attempting to use them for your own selfish gain. Whether we're talking about the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, or the Dial of Destiny, so much of the battle at the heart of these films relies on one man standing up against those who'd rather trample all over history than respect it. So maybe it's no accident that Dial of Destiny will begin with a trip to the past, sending Indy back to a Nazi-packed castle in 1944 where he'll be doing...well, we don't know, but we know that Harrison Ford was digitally de-aged to pull it off, and that it'll be a sequence laden with action and adventure.

Cut to 25 years later in 1969, and Indy is still dealing with the looming threat of Nazis who aren't ready to let their vision for the order of the world go, and there's a pretty clear line we can draw there, particularly right now. The past can't be ignored, or swept away. It always comes back one way or another, and Indiana Jones understands that better than anyone. The question now is how he faces it. 

The Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

So, now we come to perhaps the biggest lingering question in any Indiana Jones movie: What is the title McGuffin, and what does it actually do? Well, we don't know much about the Dial of Destiny yet, but something Mads Mikkelsen -- who plays the villainous Nazi scientist Voller in the film -- told Empire definitely rings in my head when I think about it.

“He’s a man who would like to correct some of the mistakes of the past,” Mikkelsen said. “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.”

The name "Dial of Destiny" recalls "Spear of Destiny," the legendary lance that pierced Christ's side which has been tied to stories of Nazis and the occult in the past, but we're not just talking about a magical object that makes you more powerful if you possess it. The world "dial" suggests turning, and Mikkelsen's comments on his character's motives suggest some kind of turning back the clock to a tipping point, a time when things could be changed. So, is Indiana Jones going to finally face honest-to-God time travel in this film? Alternate universes, a strange remolding of reality? Whatever the Dial does (or supposedly does) it feels like an object unlike anything else we've seen in an Indy movie before.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is in theaters June 30.