Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDbs Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull can be found here.

In the order of release they are Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and this movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). In the order in which they occur, however, the chronology is Temple of Doom (1935), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1936); The Last Crusade (1938), and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (1957).

Nineteen years, the same as the real-life gap between the films' releases.

The crystal skulls in the film are the skulls of inter-dimensional beings that came to Earth to learn about its culture and peoples. There were thirteen such beings, which were worshipped as gods by the ancient Mayans, centered in the mythical city of El Dorado (aka, the City of Gold). Years ago, one of the skulls was taken from the city by an explorer, only to be discovered by Professor Oxley (John Hurt) during the time period of the film. A team of KGB agents, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), are trying to take the skull back to its original source in the ancient city. The skull, it is learned, isn't inactive, and can create psychic connections to certain people who stare into its eyes. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), upon staring into its eyes, learns that he must return it to the ancient city. Indy and crew return the skull, only to discover the skeletons of the twelve other beings and one headless skeleton. Upon being placed upon the spine of its rightful owner, the thirteen skeletons merge together into a single entity. Believers in the crystal skulls attribute all sorts of abilities to them, ranging from the skulls being psychic amplifiers to tools of death to repositories of ancient knowledge. See more here. Even though this doesn't seem to be an established lore or myth-type artifact, such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, there has been literature written on the subject and actual Mayan/Aztec artifacts of this nature found. This also explains why Aztec/Mayan pyramids have been placed at Indiana Jones fan conventions, Comic-Con, etc.

Co-producer George Lucas admitted in an MTV video clip that he has been obsessed with these antique crystal skulls ever since he began doing research for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV-series that premiered in 1992. "We did The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," he said, "and in the process of that, one of the scripts we were working on was about a crystal skull. I became fascinated with it there." Lucas also revealed on the red carpet for the American Film Institute's 40th anniversary at the ArcLight, "We've been through lots of different versions the last 14 years, with five different writers. There's just a lot of aspects that seem to fit into our kind of a movie...I think this is actually better, it's up there with the Ark of the Covenant," he declared of the fourth film's "McGuffin" (a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock to describe an object which drives a film's plot). "Sankara Stones and the Holy Grail were a little tough, but I think this time we've really got a great one." Lucas emphasized that The Crystal Skull is shaping up to be the best Indy flick since the first one, even going so far as to call it tonally most like Radiers of the Lost Ark. Co-producer Frank Marshall mentioned this concerning the Crystal Skulls: "The theory is they are shaped by higher powers or alien powers or came from another world, or an ancient Mayan civilization had the powers." More information about the crystal skulls can be found here and here.

As the film does involve Roswell/Area 51 and saucer-shaped spaceships, it has largely been disputed that the body that is found at Roswell/Area 51 and in the temple at the end are aliens. However, in the film, Oxley corrects Mutt, when asked if they are aliens, by saying, "Interdimensional beings, in point of fact." He also tells Indy they come from "the space between spaces." The original concept that was talked of for many years was that they would be aliens, since the film took place in the 1950s timeframe, planning to utilize the concept of aliens and B-movies. However, according to the DVD documentary, Steven Spielberg was against the concept, explaining he had done his 'alien films' already with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. The 4th film was still favoring aliens when Independence Day came out, which Spielberg used as an example to say that the 'alien' angle would probably not work, since ID4 used it in a very entertaining way. Some years after this, Lucas proposed dropping the alien concept, and asked Spielberg about the idea of making the aliens into 'inter-dimensional beings.' Instead of creatures travelling through outer space, they'd travel between dimensions. To keep the 'Area 51' aesthetic, the inter-dimensional beings were made to resemble aliens. In "The Complete Making of Indiana Jones: The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films," George Lucas explains that for the inter-dimensional beings, time functions differently for them and us. What could be hundreds of years to us could be minutes or hours to them.

There is nothing in the film concerning the Fountain of Youth, although the fabled "City of Gold" plays a major role in the film, as it is the location where the titular crystal skull must be returned. However, the gold is not actual gold. As Indy states at the end of the film, the word for "gold" also translates as "treasure," that treasure being the knowledge the inter-dimensional beings collected.

They filmed in the US, most filming was shot in Hawaii, New Mexico, Connecticut, Mexico City and the jungles of Peru. See here for more details.

Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) makes her return in this film, revealing that Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) is Indy's son.

Mutt was probably conceived in 1936, which is the year Raiders of the Lost Ark takes place, meaning that he was born in 1937, making him around 20 years old in The Crystal Skull (though it is not necessarily evidence of details in the film, actor Shia LeBeouf was 21 at the time the film was made). It is unlikely that Mutt was conceived any later than 1938 as Marion was not around at the time of The Last Crusade which took place that year. Indy actually introduced Marion to Mutt's future stepfather, who was an RAF pilot killed in WWII shortly after they were married. There is a scene in The Crystal Skull in which Marion and Indiana argue over Mutt on issues such as fatherly absence, paternity and step-parenthood. It is likely Marion's pregnancy was unplanned, and she discovered her pregnancy after she and Indiana had broken off their relationship.

Indy teaches at the fictional Marshall College, named after co-producer Frank Marshall. Marshall stated that "had my last name been Yale it would have been called Yale College!"

Professor Henry Jones: Nineteen years have passed since Indy and his father (Sean Connery) embarked on their adventure together in The Last Crusade. In the interim, Professor Jones has passed away. The real-world reason is that Sean Connery had retired from acting by the time the film was greenlit, and while expressing some regret, he still chose to remain retired, stating that "retirement is just too damned much fun."

Marcus Brody: In the film, Indy states that Brody (Denholm Elliott), like Indy's father, died years prior. Elliott, in fact, is deceased. However, most likely as a reference to Marcus, "Brody's Barbershop" has been identified in a production shot of a set for the fourth film. Additionally, a portrait of Brody hangs in the hall of the archeology department at Marshall College. There is also a large statue in the university grounds of Brody, which is rammed into and unfortunately beheaded by the Soviets.

Sallah: John Rhys-Davies, who played Sallah, was quoted as saying that he would've loved to return but was informed by George Lucas that, as the adventure does not see Jones go to the Middle East, Sallah isn't needed in this film.

According to director Steven Spielberg here, "...the effects work was approximately 70% practical and 30% CGI, although the computer-generated work will be obvious." CGI was mostly used to enhance the look of the jungle-sequence, simulate backgrounds (done by matte paintings in the previous films) and the ending sequence with the flying saucer.

Despite many rumors concerning a CG-created whip (such as here), the DVD features make it clear that Harrison Ford wielded an actual whip, just as he had done on the original three films.

Indy cracked his whip about as much as in previous films. He used it twice in the warehouse: once to disarm one of Spalko's men and when he used it to swing from a light fixture. Indy also used it to try and save the life of his friend/enemy Mac, but ultimately failed at the task.

Most notably, there are, as Indy puts it, "big damn ants" that chase the heroes and villains as they fight one another through the jungle. Indy identifies the ants as "siafu," which are native to Africa and can't actually move as rapidly as seen in the film. They are commonly known as army ants. Mutt has a run-in with scorpions--a possible nod to what his "feared" critter might be and which recalls the tarantulas that covered Sapito in the opening of Raiders. And of course, there is a snake. Finally, there is a troop of monkeys that help Mutt and attack the Russians.

Was the snake CGI?

Despite what has sometimes been claimed elsewhere, such as here, the snake Mutt uses to pull Marion and Indy from the sand pit was not a CGI effect. The DVD behind-the-scenes features show the filming of this scene with a real python, and Shia LaBeouf describes the difficulty in hitting a mark with a live snake.

No; he never really gets the chance. The only time is when he's outside the tomb with the blow-dart assailants, but they are too agile and run away. He is never really in a fight where it is economic to use his gun as a weapon, he's almost always held at gunpoint or in a close-quarters fight, using his fists or a shovel. He does use a RPG to destroy a Russian vehicle, which could have killed dozens of people.

Presumably to let Mutt have a piece of evidence that Ox was still alive, enough to make sure Mutt would lead them to Indy. At some point during his captivity Ox was most likely to have mentioned Indy as being one of the only other people qualified to perform the service Ox himself was performing. Their motives were almost identical to those of why they 'let' Marion call Mutt. Indy explains in the movie they did it because they knew Indy would come looking for Ox, and they needed Indy to figure out the clues and lead them to the origin of the Crystal Skull.

This refers to the fourth dimension. Definition in the American Heritage dictionary: "Time regarded as a coordinate dimension and required by relativity theory, along with three spatial dimensions, to specify completely the location of any event." There is a plausible theory in astrophysics that the fourth dimension may exist, which is utilized by the UFO in the film as the propellant engine to travel through the space/time continuum, as Nobel Prize winner in Physics Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity, summarily explains: "An attempt at visualizing the fourth dimension: Take a point, stretch it into a line, curl it into a circle, twist it into a sphere, and punch through the sphere." For more information on how physicists are attempting to discover the fourth dimension by complex mathematical investigation, read the Science Daily article "Scientists Predict How To Detect A Fourth Dimension Of Space" here.

At the climax of the film Irina asks the aliens to give her knowledge of all things, and is subsequently destroyed. There are 3 possible reasons this occurred: (1) The aliens, being psychic, sensed Irina's evil intentions and destroyed her for them. This theory is supported by the malevolent look on the alien's face as she disintegrates, (2) The aliens do exactly as she asks, but her primitive human brain is ill-equipped to handle the sudden surge of cosmic knowledge, causing her brain and (as a result) her body to spontaneously combust. This theory is supported by her yelling out "It's too much!" during the info-absorbing process, and 3) It was actually both. The alien was willing to grant whoever returned the 13th skull 'a gift.' Sensing that Irina's intentions were both for greed and evil, he gave her exactly what she wanted, knowledge of all things, even though it killed her, which is why of course all our heroes make it out alive. They were respectful of the aliens' powers and chose to leave with their lives instead of being granted any form of powers.

The most conventional reason, however, may be associated with Irina's line that the aliens are " One being, physicaly separate but with a collective consciousness; more powerful together than they could ever be apart." Knowing this, add the alleged fact that Irina has some sort of "psychic" ability with the notion that the collective being seen at the end can read her thoughts, and it's apparent that it would realize that Irina had no intentions of using their "gift" for any good purpose, thus destroying her for the greater good. (Of course, as an aside, it's worth noting that while Irina claims to be a mind reader, she never actually demonstrates any such power; her one attempt to do so fails. It's entirely possible that she, like the average claimant of psychic powers, was faking the ability to gain greater status.) Also, given that Indy tells us that the inter-dimensional beings' treasure is knowledge, it would indicate that the skull, being intelligent and possessing wisdom, refused to communicate with Irina (remember she had to use both Ox and Indy to communicate with the skull and the combined being speaks Mayan through Ox at the end of the movie), knowing through its psychic ability, that she has always had ill intentions. This adds up to her never being the intended recipient of the gift from the inter-dimensional beings to begin with.

Indy states that the aliens were archeologists. The likely explanation is that the extraterrestrial beings were time-travelers, traveling through the time-space continuum to acquire the "priceless" artifacts. i.e., widely diverse statues, jewelery, pottery, and structure artworks ranging from Sumerian to Early Egyptian to Roman to Early Chinese, etc.. Extraterrestrial beings are presumed to be always curious, hence visiting Earth to investigate organic life and gain knowledge by contact with the human race in ancient times as well as to acquire artifacts as gifts or by theft.

Mac (Ray Winstone) claims he defected to Soviet side for the handsomely lucrative sum as an asset in the search for invaluable treasure that the Soviets pursue in hope of consolidating great power to dominate the world in Stalinist Communism onslaught. As the fight continues in a particular sequence, Mac tries to mend the fence by claiming he is a CIA "double agent" to gain Indiana's trust, perhaps to exploit Indiana's gullibility. Mac once again betrays Indiana by dropping the tracking devices while following Indy's team in service of the pursuing Soviets, greed being the motivating factor that defines Mac's personality as a self-serving traitor. It is a fitting end to Mac's life as the result of an avaricious appetite when he became trapped in the vacuum due to an inordinate time spent searching for gold necklaces to grab, instead of escaping with haste. Mac and Indiana may have been friends as traveling archaeologists, but the fact remains Mac was not interested in discovery of artifacts for preservation and "right of return," but contrived to become rich by selling the 'priceless' artifacts to wealthy collectors willing to pay a large sum of money. He had sided with the Soviets to find instant wealth the easy way and still retain the Soviets' trust as a cleverly deceitful agent.

Tyler Nelson was an extra that broke his NDC (non-disclosure contract) by leaking out important information about the movie before its release. Although, since he never had a copy of the script, and the fact that the only plot points he overheard were: "Shia is Ford's son," "Karen Allen is in the film," "Russians capture Indy and dance around the fire, and they interrogate him (tying him to a chair) and ask him about a Crucifix Skull"... basically the leak consisted of elements that were already known and elements that aren't true. A spokesman for Steven Spielberg has been quoted in saying that "he (Tyler) will never work in this town again." The lawsuit against Nelson has been settled. For more information, see: here and here.

Lucas came up with the plot device (the crystal skull), and is credited with writing the story. He also served as Executive Producer. According to Spielberg, Lucas was on set for a total of nine days. Although Lucas suggested that Spielberg shoot the movie with digital, Spielberg used film, as he has on all of his previous movies. Read here. There are also a few nods to the Lucas-created television series Young Indiana Jones, as well as the many period references within the scenes and dialogue which call to mind Lucas's early film American Graffiti.

It is from the soundtrack to 'Children of Dune' by Brian Tyler, and it is track number 4, called 'The Revolution.'

Apparently there were some minor adjustments that they made, for the MPAA approved US general trailer viewing audiences, to remove some weapons. See here and here. This French video here describes all the differences between the US and International versions as well.

In The Last Crusade, both Indiana and Henry Jones drink from the grail, an act which is supposed to grant them immortality. However, in Crystal Skulls, it is revealed that Henry died, presumably of old age, between films, and Indiana is noticeably older than he was in the previous film. The reason for this was explained in The Last Crusade. After they drink from the grail, the grail knight explains to them that the grail grants ever-lasting life, but the grail itself could not pass the holy seal in the cavern, which implies that drinking from the grail once wouldn't grant you immortality but may keep you from aging. You'd have to keep drinking from the grail to stay immortal. Since both Indy and Henry left the temple soon after drinking, they would have lost the benefit of immortality. In the TV show, 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles', which aired in the mid 90s after Last Crusade was released, Indy was still alive in the present day, which would have made him 90 something years old. It was hinted at the time that the grail had contributed to his longevity. However, even there, Jones was depicted as aging more or less normally (indeed, Harrison Ford himself appeared in an episode taking place partly in the 1950s and wore makeup to appear older). It's clear in Crystal Skull that neither Indy nor his father is immortal.

What did the critics say?

The film has mostly received positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 245 reviews (Avg rating being 6.9/10), with a 61% (US) rating from selected notable critics.

"Nuke the fridge" is a phrase coined from a scene in The Crystal Skull where Indy survives a nuclear explosion by hiding inside a refrigerator. It refers to the point in the movie where the plausible has crossed over into the absurd, forcing the audience to suspend their belief in any supposedly reality based on the movie. It is similar in meaning to the television colloquialism "jump the shark." See: Nuke the fridge.

As depicted in the film, surviving a nuclear blast inside a refrigerator is theoretically possible, according to two physicists on the web series Reel Physics. The only event that broke the laws of physics was when the refrigerator was flung past the car before the blast-wave hit; in reality, the blast would have traveled much faster than the fridge. George Lucas himself claimed that he pitched the idea to several physicists while writing the screenplay, and some of them rated the chances of survival as '50-50'. Indiana Jones is known to have beaten odds much worse than that.

The Indiana Jones films are modeled after old matinee serials of the 30s and 40s. The adventurers in the old serials sometimes survived impossible situtations because the medium was created for entertainment, and as a result, reality took a backseat. The Indiana Jones films have all taken liberties with what's possible and impossible in return for entertaining action and adventure. Some of the more outlandish examples include Indy and friends jumping from a plane and landing safely with a rubber boat, making a jump in a mine cart and landing precisely on the tracks again (without the cart overturning or spinning in mid-air), and outrunning a flood in the caves in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Steven Spielberg himself has said in an interview that he wanted to include a nuclear explosion in the movie, since it takes place in the fifties, when the threat of nuclear war was an ever-present fear. The type of serial-like adventure that the films portray is not everyone's cup of tea, but they do harken back to a more innocent time in filmaking.

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