Is Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny about time travel? Theory explained

Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones 5, titled Indiana Jones and the Dial of DestinyLucasfilm

Indiana Jones 5, titled Indiana Jones and the Dial of the Destiny, will pit Harrison Ford’s beloved archeologist against Nazis one last time – but is time travel involved in his final adventure?

The Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail, Akator and proof of extra-terrestrial life – all extraordinary discoveries, all lost to time to keep people safe. That’s the Indiana Jones way.

Next year, Ford will reprise his role for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, his final, swashbuckling outing as the whip-wielding hero against the backdrop of the Space Race.

After the first trailer was revealed at CCXP 2022 last night, people have two questions: what is the Dial of Destiny, and is Indiana Jones 5 about time travel? Let’s dig into the theories.

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Indiana Jones 5: What is the Dial of Destiny?

There’s good reason to believe the Dial of Destiny is a time travel device, sought after by both the Nazis and Indiana Jones.

In an interview with Empire Magazine, Mads Mikkelsen described his Nazi villain Voller as “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,” he said.

That same article also described Indiana Jones as a man “out of time”, further hinting at time travel elements.

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The Dial of Destiny itself isn’t seen in the trailer – unless it’s hidden in plain sight – but there are other teases that we may be traveling back in time as part of the story, and we’re not just talking about flashbacks.

Is Indiana Jones 5 about time travel?

The official answer: we don’t know, but comments from the cast and crew involved in Indiana Jones 5, leaked set photos, and the new trailer seems to indicate time travel is involved… somehow.

Time travel in the sequel has been rumored for some time now, especially since behind-the-scenes photos of a New York parade revealed the movie takes place around the Apollo 11 moon landing.

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It should be noted: some people seem to forget Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936, and they’ve tricked themselves into misremembering the franchise unfolding in the present day. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was set in 1957, and prior to the Dial of Destiny, that’s the furthest we’ve gone time-wise.

Leaked set photos and rumors

That confusion aside, there are definite hints: firstly, leaked set photos appeared to show Ford’s Indiana and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s goddaughter Helena with Roman soldiers in centurion armor. Even as a flashback, this time period would vastly predate Indiana, nor would it make sense for Helena to be around.

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Another photo – which appears to have vanished online, despite Redditors’ claims – allegedly shows Ford next to a younger stand-in, implying we’ll see him travel back in time to meet his younger self.

While unconfirmed, rumored reports claim Anthony Ingruber has been cast in Indiana Jones 5, an actor who earlier played Ford’s younger self in The Age of Adaline.

The trailer

Secondly, Indy gives a huge tease in one quote from the trailer: “I don’t believe in magic, but a few times in my life, I’ve seen things – things I can’t explain. I’ve come to believe it’s not so much what you believe, it’s how hard you believe it.”

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While the trailer unveils a “Raiders-era” de-aged Ford, the balance of scenes from the past and the movie’s present seems a bit off to just be flashbacks.

Speaking to Empire, director James Mangold outlined how the opening minutes of Indiana Jones 5 will reintroduce the character to fans as they best remember him: in his Raiders of the Lost Ark prime.

“I wanted the chance to dive into this kind of full-on George-and-Steven old picture and give the audience an adrenaline blast… and then we fall out, and you find yourself in 1969,” he said.

The sequence will follow Indy in a “castle swarming with Nazis,” the outlet reports, before shifting to the movie’s primary timeline during the Space Race.

“So that the audience doesn’t experience the change between the ‘40s and ‘60s as an intellectual conceit, but literally experiences the buccaneering spirit of those early days… and then the beginning of now.”

The outlet wrote how the movie “finds our hero in 1969, living against the backdrop of the space race – but the American effort to beat the Russians to the moon brings with it some uncomfortable truths for Indy.”

Ford said: “I just thought it would be nice to see one where Indiana Jones was at the end of his journey if a script came along that I felt gave me a way to extend the character.”

Mangold kiboshed fake news of seemingly disastrous test screenings, which spread nonsense rumors of Waller-Bridge’s Helena taking over from Indy at the end of the movie after traveling back in time. This doesn’t necessarily mean time travel isn’t involved at all, but take everything with a pinch of salt over the next few months.

Time travel has been mentioned in Indiana Jones before

Time travel isn’t a novel concept in the world of Indiana Jones, if you look at the novels.

In Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx, the titular hero says: “I have had some unusual experiences, in which miracles seemed possible. Time travel, even.”

The cover of Indiana Jones and the Secret of the SphinxAmazon

In Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants, an account from Merlin alleged he was capable of traveling across time by honing the powers of the Omphalos and Stonehenge. Given the latter structure essentially functions like a large sundial, and the title of the fifth film is “the Dial of Destiny”, this could be read as another clue.

Finally, in an interview with Max McMcoy, the author behind many of the Indy novels, he revealed he wanted to include time travel more prominently and significantly in Secret of the Sphinx.

“Originally, I had written a time-travel sequence for the last book, but only portions of it survived. Nobody was thrilled with it,” he told The Indy Experience.

“They kept saying, ‘but this is science fiction.’ And I’d say, ‘Yes, what do you think the other stories are?’ They aren’t just adventure. Remember when Belloq described the Ark as a ‘radio transmitter for talking to God?’ Now, that sent chills down my spine.”

One thing seems to be certain: fortune and glory await.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny hits cinemas on June 30, 2023. Find out more here.