“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” gets a bad rap, and I won’t sit here and tell you the movie is some unfairly maligned classic. No, I will freely admit the movie has its problems — the script is weak, the adventure isn’t as thrilling as what’s come before, and most of the stabs at comedy fall flat. But here’s the thing: while it’s not a great movie, it is a Steven Spielberg movie. And a so-so Spielberg movie is still better than a movie made by almost anyone else. That might sound like hyperbole, but I believe it to be true. There’s some stellar filmmaking at work in “Crystal Skull,” be it in the way Spielberg frames his shots (Indy looking at that mushroom cloud is one of the best images in the entire franchise) or stages his big action beats.
Yes, there’s some wonky CGI (did the movie really need to open with a cartoon prairie dog?), and yes, the subplot about interdimensional beings (or aliens, if you want to keep it simple) isn’t very interesting. But there’s still plenty to love in “Crystal Skull.” Heck, even the hated Mutt Williams isn’t all that bad when you sit down and give his character a chance. I think James Mangold’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is an enjoyable adventure romp, but for my money, any Spielberg movie is still better than what Mangold can do on his best day. I don’t mean that as a knock against Mangold, who makes good movies overall. I just think it’s a factual statement. (Chris Evangelista)