CANNES (AFP): “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” saw Harrison Ford defy age and crack the whip one last time as one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year got its world premiere in Cannes on Thursday.
The star, who has vowed this will be the last time he dons the famous fedora, showed a rare bit of emotion as the Cannes Film Festival presented him with an honorary Palme d’Or on stage ahead of the screening.
“I’m very moved by this,” he said following a collage of clips from his many hit movies. “I just saw my life flash before my eyes.”
The fifth outing for the world’s favourite adventuring archaeologist, due for general release in late June, sees the 80-year-old de-aged by several decades using special effects that ate up a large chunk of its $294 million budget.
The extended flashback, that takes up the first chunk of the film, sees a younger Indy in World War II in an action scene on a Nazi train.
The film then flashes forward to 1969 with the professor on the brink of retirement and needing a fresh adventure.
He finds himself racing across Tangiers, Sicily and New York in pursuit of a former Nazi scientist, played with relish by Mads Mikkelsen, and a treasure that would allow him to travel through time.
British actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays Jones’s goddaughter, and joined the cast on the red carpet in Cannes.
It is the first of the five films — which began back in 1981 with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — not to be directed by Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg passed the reins to James Mangold, known for “Logan” and the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk The Line”.
He told AFP that Ford was still “pretty fit” for his age, but it was important to have a story that was “honest, and addressed time, aging and regret”.
The first reviews, however, were middling, with the Irish Times saying “nobody with a brain in their heads will compare (it) favourably to the first three films”.
But Britain’s Radio Times gave it four stars, saying it was “a little safe, but it’s an enjoyable, old-school action-adventure”.
– Long docs –
Oscar-winning “Twelve Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen was on the red carpet, having arrived in Cannes for his four-hour documentary about wartime Amsterdam, “Occupied City”.
Playing out-of-competition on Wednesday, McQueen’s doc wowed some critics while boring others.
Premiering at the festival just after Indiana Jones was “Black Flies”, a tense drama about New York paramedics starring Sean Penn, with an unlikely supporting role for ex-boxer Mike Tyson as his station chief.
There was another lengthy documentary showing on Thursday from a master of the genre, Wang Bing, who offers rarely seen insights into daily life in China.
His 210-minute film, “Youth (Spring)”, came from five years of footage of migrant textile workers around Shanghai and is a rare documentary in the main competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Documentaries have done well on the festival circuit recently, with “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (Laura Poitras’s film about big pharma) winning Venice last year, and “On the Adamant” (about a daycare centre for mentally ill patients) winning in Berlin in February.
There are 21 films competing for the top prize at Cannes — the Palme d’Or — including several previous winners such as Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, Germany’s Wim Wenders and two-time British winner Ken Loach.
Director gives ‘best version’ of Spielberg
It is no easy feat taking over an iconic saga like Indiana Jones, but new director James Mangold says he wanted to deliver the “best version” of what his childhood hero Steven Spielberg had done with the four previous films.
Mangold took the reins from Spielberg to deliver the fifth film in the franchise with “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, starring Harrison Ford, 80.
Legendary director Spielberg “has been a hero of mine all my life. I saw the first Indiana Jones movie when I was 17. It’s a big chair to sit in … but it was also a huge personal opportunity,” Mangold told AFP in an interview.
The director of “Girl, Interrupted,” “Walk the Line,” and “Logan,” Mangold said the final cut was “my best version of Steven, me kind of emulating my mentor and trying to tell a story. Of course, it’s still me, and not him.”
In a Hollywood seemingly saturated with superhero movies, Mangold said old-school action movies still had their place.
“I think maybe it’s not in fashion, but I think it’s refreshing to people,” in a time when “everything has to be so fast that it doesn’t even allow characters or the story to breathe,” said Mangold, warning of the danger of new visual effects being “over-used”.
However, “The Dial of Destiny” does not shun digital special effects, and one of the most impressive sequences was filmed in a studio.
The film opens with a flashback lasting about 20 minutes in which Ford is de-aged by around 40 years.
“You have to have a lot of money to do it,” Mangold said of the increasingly coveted technique.
“I’m not sure it has relevance in most films, you can do so much with make-up and lighting in other ways if those are your challenges”.
But, even though Ford is still “pretty fit” at 80, how do you deal with an Indiana Jones who should be long-retired?
“You have to be honest with the audience and part of this honesty is dealing with age”.
The point was to come up with a story that was “honest, and addressed time, aging and regret, and choice. What’s it like to be a hero in a time when you are not celebrated anymore?”
As for Mangold’s hero, Spielberg, he has given the latest film the thumbs-up.
“It’s really, really a good ‘Indiana Jones’ film,” Spielberg told Variety magazine in April.
“When the lights came up I just turned to the group and said, ‘Damn! I thought I was the only one who knew how to make one of these’”.
After walking the red carpet with his co-stars ahead of the premiere, Ford received an honorary Palme D’Or, the highest Cannes award.