Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a 2008 adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, from a story co-written by executive producer George Lucas. Set in 1957, the fourth film in the Indiana Jones film series pits an older Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) against agents of the Soviet Union, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), in the search for a crystal skull. Indy is aided by his former lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the greaser “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBeouf), and fellow adventurer Mac (Ray Winstone). John Hurt and Jim Broadbent also play fellow academics.
The film was in development since the 1989 release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, because Spielberg and Ford disagreed over Lucas’ original concept. Screenwriters Jeb Stuart, Jeffrey Boam, Frank Darabont and Jeff Nathanson wrote drafts, before David Koepp‘s script satisfied all three men. Shooting finally began on June 18, 2007, and took place in New Mexico; New Haven, Connecticut; Hawaii; Fresno, California; and soundstages in Los Angeles. In order to keep aesthetic continuity with the previous films, the crew relied on traditional stuntwork instead of computer-generated stunt doubles, and cinematographer Janusz Kamiński studied Douglas Slocombe‘s style from the previous films.
Marketing relied heavily on the public’s nostalgia for the series, with products taking inspiration from all four films. Anticipation for the film was heightened by secrecy, which resulted in a legal dispute over an extra violating his non-disclosure agreement, and the arrest of another man for stealing a computer containing various documents related to the production. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released worldwide on May 22, 2008.
In 1957, Colonel-Doctor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and a convoy of Soviet agents posing as U.S. soldiers infiltrate a military base in the Nevada desert. They force Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to lead them to a crate in “Hangar 51“, which holds the remains of an extraterrestrial creature that crashed ten years before in Roswell, New Mexico. Jones attempts to escape during an alien autopsy, but is foiled by his partner Mac (Ray Winstone), who reveals that he is working with the Soviets. After a fight and an elaborate vehicle chase through the warehouse, Jones escapes on a rocket sled into the desert, where he stumbles upon a nuclear test town and survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator. While being debriefed, Jones discovers he is under FBI investigation because of Mac’s Soviet ties. Jones returns to Marshall College, where he is offered a leave of absence to avoid being fired because of the investigation. While leaving, Jones is stopped by Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) and told that his old colleague, Harold Oxley (John Hurt), disappeared after discovering a crystal skull near the Nazca lines in Peru.
In Peru, Jones and Mutt discover that Oxley was locked in a church-operated psychiatric hospital until Soviet soldiers kidnapped him. In Oxley’s former cell, Jones discovers clues to the grave of Francisco de Orellana, a Conquistador who went missing in the 1500s while seeking Akator (also known as El Dorado). Jones finds the crystal skull that Oxley hid in Orellana’s grave. The skull is elongated in the shape that indigenous peoples formed their own skulls into; the Soviets believe the skull is from an extraterrestrial life-form, holding great psychic power. The Soviets capture Indy and Mutt and take them to the camp where they are holding Oxley and Mutt’s mother, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), who reveals that Mutt is Jones’s son. The four escape from the camp, leading to a lengthy vehicle chase involving sword fights and several Soviet soldiers being killed by siafu ants. Mutt, Marion, Mac, Oxley, and Jones ride an amphibious vehicle over a cliff and down three waterfalls, eventually finding the Temple of Akator, a Maya-style pyramid in the Amazon rainforest. Claiming that he is a double agent working against the Soviets, Mac enters the temple with Jones and the group while leaving a trail for the Soviets to follow.
The group enters the temple and Jones uses the skull to open the door to a chamber tomb. Inside, thirteen crystal skeletons, one with a missing skull, are seated on thrones. When the Soviets arrive, Mac reveals that he lied about being a double agent. Spalko places the skull onto the skeleton, and it begins communicating to the group through Oxley using an ancient Mayan dialect. Jones translates this to mean that the aliens want to give them a great gift. Spalko demands to know everything, and the skulls begin firing knowledge into her eyes, causing her to shake. As a portal to another dimension appears over the room, Oxley regains his sanity and explains that the aliens are inter-dimensional beings who taught the Maya their advanced technology. Jones, Mutt, Marion, and Oxley escape from the temple, but Mac is sucked into the portal. The skeletons form into a single alien which continues to feed Spalko with knowledge; however, the knowledge overwhelms Spalko, causing her to ignite and disintegrate. The temple crumbles, and a flying saucer rises from the debris and disappears. Back home, Jones is made an associate dean and marries Marion.
Harrison Ford plays Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. To prepare for the role, the 64-year-old Ford spent three hours a day at a gym, and relied on a high-protein diet of fish and vegetables.Ford had kept fit during the series’ hiatus anyway, as he hoped for another film.He performed many of his own stunts because stunt technology had become safer since 1989, and he also felt it improved his performance. He argued, “The appeal of Indiana Jones isn’t his youth but his imagination, his resourcefulness. His physicality is a big part of it, especially the way he gets out of tight situations. But it’s not all hitting people and falling from high places. My ambition in action is to have the audience look straight in the face of character and not at the back of a capable stuntman’s head. I hope to continue that no matter how old I get.”
Ford felt his reprise would also help American culture be less paranoid about aging (he refused to dye his hair for the role), because of the film’s family appeal: “This is a movie which is geared not to [the young] segment of the demographic, an age-defined segment […] We’ve got a great shot at breaking the movie demographic constraints.” He told Koepp to add more references to his age in the script. Spielberg said Ford was not too old to play Indiana: “When a guy gets to be that age and he still packs the same punch, and he still runs just as fast and climbs just as high, he’s gonna be breathing a little heavier at the end of the set piece. And I felt, ‘Let’s have some fun with that. Let’s not hide that.'” Spielberg recalled the line in Raiders, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage”,and felt he could not tell the difference between Ford during the shoots for Last Crusade and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Shia LaBeouf plays Henry “Mutt” Williams / Henry Jones, III, a motorcycle-riding greaser and Indiana’s sidekick and son. Frank Marshall said Mutt brings humor to the story because of his youthful arrogance, causing banter with the older and wiser Jones. Koepp credited the character’s creation to Jeff Nathanson and Lucas. LaBeouf was Spielberg’s first and only choice for the role. Excited at the prospect of being in an Indiana Jones film, LaBeouf signed on without reading the script and did not know what character he would play. He worked out and gained fifteen pounds of muscle for the role, and also repeatedly watched the other films to get into character.LaBeouf also watched Blackboard Jungle and The Wild One to get into his character’s mindset, copying mannerisms and words from characters in those films, such as the use of a switchblade as a weapon.Lucas also consulted on the greaser look, joking that LaBeouf was “sent to the American Graffiti school of greaserland”. LaBeouf pulled his hip’s rotator cuff when filming his duel with Spalko, which was his first injury in his career. The injury got worse throughout filming until it pulled his groin.
Cate Blanchett plays the villainous Soviet agent Irina Spalko. Screenwriter David Koepp created the character. Frank Marshall said Spalko continued the tradition of Indiana having a love-hate relationship “with every woman he ever comes in contact with”. Blanchett had wanted to play a villain for a “couple of years”, and enjoyed being part of the Indiana Jones legacy as she loved the previous films. Spielberg praised Blanchett as a “master of disguise”, and considers her his favorite Indiana Jones villain for coming up with much of Spalko’s characteristics.[Spalko’s bob cut was her idea, with the character’s stern looks and behaviour recalling Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love. Blanchett learned to fence for the character, but during filming, Spielberg decided to give Spalko “karate chop” skills.LaBeouf recalled Blanchett was elusive on set, and Ford was surprised when he met her on set outside of costume. He noted, “There’s no aspect of her behavior that was not consistent with this bizarre person she’s playing.”
Karen Allen reprises the role of Marion Ravenwood, under the married name of Marion Williams, who appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Allen was not aware her character was in the script until Spielberg called her in January 2007, saying, “It’s been announced! We’re gonna make Indiana Jones 4! And guess what? You’re in it!” Ford found Allen “one of the easiest people to work with [he’s] ever known. She’s a completely self-sufficient woman, and that’s part of the character she plays. A lot of her charm and the charm of the character is there. And again, it’s not an age-dependent thing. It has to do with her spirit and her nature.” Allen found Ford easier to work with on this film, in contrast to the first film, where she slowly befriended the private actor.
Ray Winstone plays George “Mac” McHale, a British agent whom Jones worked alongside in World War II, but has now allied with the Russians due to his financial problems. The character acts as a spin on Sallah and Rene Belloq — Jones’s friend and nemesis, respectively, in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg cast Winstone as he found him “one of the most brilliant actors around”, having seen Sexy Beast. Winstone tore his hamstring during filming. “I keep getting these action parts as I’m getting older,” he remarked. Like John Hurt, Winstone wished to see the script prior to committing to the film. In interviews on British TV Winstone explained that he was only able to read the script if it was delivered by courier, who waited while he read the script, and returned to the US with the script once Winstone had read it. His reasoning for wanting to read the script was, “If I’m gonna be in it, I want to be in it.” He also stated that once filming was completed he had to return the script, such was the secrecy about the film. He has since been presented with a copy of the script to keep.
John Hurt plays Harold Oxley, Mutt’s surrogate father and an old friend of Indiana, whom he lost contact with in 1937. Six months prior to the events of the film, he went insane after discovering the crystal skull, which commanded him to return it to Akator. Frank Darabont had suggested Hurt when he was writing the screenplay. The character is inspired by Ben Gunn from Treasure Island. Hurt wanted to read the script before signing on, unlike other cast members who came on “because Steven — you know, ‘God’ — was doing it. And I said, ‘Well, I need to have a little bit of previous knowledge even if God is doing it.’ So they sent a courier over with the script from Los Angeles, gave it to me at three o’clock in the afternoon in London, collected it again at eight o’clock in the evening, and he returned the next day to Los Angeles.” Hurt only appears in the film’s second half.
Jim Broadbent plays Dean Charles Stanforth, an academic colleague and friend of Jones. Broadbent’s character stands in for Marcus Brody, whose portrayer, Denholm Elliott, died in 1992. As a tribute to Elliott, the filmmakers put a portrait and a statue on the Marshall College location, and a picture on Jones’ desk.
Joel Stoffer and Neil Flynn cameo as FBI agents interrogating Indiana, in a scene following the opening sequence. Alan Dale plays General Ross, who protests his innocence. Andrew Divoff and Pavel Lychnikoff play Russian soldiers. Spielberg cast Russian-speaking actors as Russian soldiers so their accents would be authentic. Dimitri Diatchenko plays Spalko’s right hand man who battles Indiana at Marshall College. Diatchenko bulked up to 250 pounds to look menacing, and his role was originally minor with ten days of filming. When shooting the fight, Ford accidentally hit his chin, and Spielberg liked Diatchenko’s humorous looking reaction, so he expanded his role to three months of filming.
Sean Connery turned down an offer to reprise his role as Henry Jones, Sr., as he found retirement too enjoyable. Lucas stated that in hindsight it was good that Connery did not briefly appear, as it would disappoint the audience when his character would not come along for the film’s adventure. Ford joked, “I’m old enough to play my own father in this one.” A picture of the character is seen in Indiana Jones’ house and it is revealed that he died.