Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Simon Emanuel   Director: James Mangold   Screenplay: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp and James Mangold   Cast: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Ethan Isidore, Toby Jones, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Boyd Holbrook, Oliver Richters, Nasser Memarzia and Karen Allen   Distributor: Disney

Grade: B-

Hollywood’s love of nostalgia feeds on itself: in 1981 “Raiders of the Lost Ark” aimed to recapture the spirit of 1940s serials, and now “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” seeks to recapture the mood of that picture and its sequels, especially the first three (the 2008 revival, “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” is generally regarded as a disappointment).  Whether a further installment in the series was desirable is a debatable proposition, but one could do worse than the one writer-director James Mangold and his many collaborators have come up with.  Though it’s little more than a succession of chases and goes really wacky in the home stretch, it offers lots of the energy the Indy franchise is famous for, and plenty of cheeky shout-outs to the previous movies.

It begins with a rip-roaring prologue set in 1944, in which archaeological adventurer Jones (Harrison Ford, de-aged in the now-familiar CGI manner, and pretty well) and his British colleague Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) infiltrate a German train in which a Nazi Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann) is carrying a precious—and purportedly powerful—relic, the Lance of Longinus (which supposedly pierced Jesus’ side as he hung on the cross) to Hitler (shades of the Ark of the Covenant, New Testament as opposed to Old).  But both Jones and Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a physicist working with Weber, determine that the lance is a forgery.

They determine, however, that another item among the loot is genuine—the Antikythera Mechanism (a gizmo actually discovered in a Roman shipwreck off Greece in 1901), attributed to the great inventor Archimedes and often characterized as some sort of ancient computer.  Here it’s endowed with mystical properties related to fissures in time that could make it a tool of time travel.  In the ensuing melee between the Nazis on the one hand and Jones and Shaw on the other, Jones saves the mechanism—but it’s only half of the Antikythera.  Shaw becomes obsessed with decoding its secrets, while Jones tucks the artifact away in the archives of the NYC university where he turns to teaching after his son is killed in wartime action and his marriage to Marion (Karen Allen) deteriorates.

A quarter-century later in 1969, the city is celebrating the moon landing and Shaw’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who’s also Jones’s goddaughter (and a suave grifter), shows up just as Jones is retiring to procure the Antikythera in order to auction it off for a tidy sum on the black market.  But so does Voller, now a bigwig in NASA, who wants it for his own nefarious purpose.  Along with his three henchmen, trigger-happy Klaber (Boyd Holbrook), hulking Hauke (Olivier Richters) and stoic black agent Mason (Shaunette Renée Wilson), he nearly captures Jones—who escapes on a wild ride through a ticker-tape parade for the astronauts on a stolen NYPD horse, the movie’s second big showpiece.  As for Helena, she takes off with the artifact.

Through the good agencies of his old friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Jones follows her to Tangier, where she and her young lieutenant Teddy (Ethan Isidore) are engaged in the auction.  Unsurprisingly Voller also crashes the party, leading to another prolonged chase, involving cars and auto rickshaws, through the city’s narrow streets.

Jones, Helena and Teddy now form a team, and take off for the Aegean, where they enlist another of Jones’s old friends, crusty ship’s captain Renaldo (Antonio Banderas), to help them dive to the wreckage of the Roman vessel for what they believe will be cryptic  instructions about how the Antikythera works and where its other half can be found.  Of course Voller shows up there too, only to be outmaneuvered Antikythera yet again.  But he and his fellow baddies pursue our heroes once more, this time to Sicily, where they all search for the underground tomb of Archimedes, where the secrets of the Antikythera will be fully revealed.

Thus far “Dial of Destiny” has been a wacky ride based on the sort of silly premise the Indy series has always been grounded on but still basically plausible, in a comic-book, forties-serial sort of way.  But once you introduce the possibility of time-travel into a scenario, like Chekhov’s gun it eventually has to be fired, and when it is, the picture goes absolutely bonkers.  Voller has plans for the Antikythera that could change the course of history, and not in a good way, but it turns out his calculations are off by a couple of thousand years, and everybody winds up in the midst of a chaotic scene where Nasser Memarzia shows up as a character we’ve heard much about but probably never expected to see.  It allows for Jones to deliberate gravely on what kind of future he’ll have, and for a feel-good coda in which, of course, sketchy people reform and good triumphs.

It’s impossible for the movie to match the sense of joyous retro-surprise that “Raiders” did back in 1981—a dupe can never match the original, as the earlier sequels proved.  But it does as well as can be expected, given the insurmountable hurdles; even the recycling of fondly remembered elements, like Jones’s fear of snakes, is less irritating than it might have been.  True, the last act is so absurd and illogical that you might grimace rather than smile, and here as elsewhere the visual effects supervised by Andrew Whitehurst are often a mite slapdash and the editing by Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland and Dirk Westervelt rather jumpy and dilatory, all at once.  But overall the look of the film—with an ostentatiously period production design by Adam Stockhausen and costumes by Joanna Johnston, and glistening cinematography by Phedon Papamichael—calls to mind an old colored comic strip in the Sunday papers.  And when things sag John Williams’ rousing score, with its familiar Indy theme, is always there to prod them along or add a tone of mournful regret.    

Waller-Bridges’ spunkily smug Helena can be irritating (a spin-off for her seems an unpromising prospect) and Mikkelsen’s one-note Nazi somewhat boring, but Isidore’s game sidekick is likable enough, and the rest of the supporting cast add flashes of energy—Jones is his usual reliable self—though both an almost unrecognizable Banderas and the expressionless Wilson are underused.

As for Ford, he brings a world-weary, seen-everything air to Jones that gives some genuine poignancy to what are probably the character’s final cinematic moments, both in the time-travel episode and the concluding coda.  With Indy even more than Han Solo, the octogenarian actor’s mere presence elicits a very real degree of audience affection, and though as a whole the movie comes across as an agreeable rehash of familiar tropes rather than a clever re-imagining of formula, you’ll likely be glad to have had the opportunity to spend a few more hours with Indiana Jones again before seeing him literally hang up that battered old explorer’s hat.