Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the fourth Indiana Jones film. It was released on May 22, 2008, the first Indiana Jones film to be released in nineteen years.
Set in 1957, the story sees archaeologist Indiana Jones kidnapped in Mexico by Soviets and becoming embroiled in their plot to harness the power of the Crystal Skull of Akator, better known as El Dorado, to gain the decisive edge in their Cold War with the United States.
The movie was released on DVD in 2008 and that same year it was the first of the Indiana Jones movies to receive a Blu-ray edition. The film received another Blu-ray release in 2012 as part of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures.
Prologue: Nevada, 1957
A prairie dog peeks into the outside world from its little hill and is nearly run over by a group of reckless driving youngsters. Said youngsters challenge Franklin and Roosevelt, two soldiers in the lead car of a US army convoy, to a race. Both cars race, but after a short while the army car and the trucks and other cars behind it veer right and drive up to a gate. Russians disguised as United States army officials gun down US soldiers guarding the gate to Hangar 51. Indiana Jones and George "Mac" McHale are pulled out of a car's trunk and are immediately surrounded by Soviet soldiers with guns. Indy initially refuses to answer if he has been there before or not and he is punched by Colonel Antonin Dovchenko. After refusing once more, the Colonel is about to hit him once more, when, out of one of the cars appears Dr. Irina Spalko, three times winner of the Order of Lenin. Irina tries to read Indiana's mind, but she says he is a "tough mind to read". As the group enters Hangar 51, the warehouse from the first film's ending sequence, Irina asks if Jones knows where a crate they are looking for can be found. Indiana requests gunpowder, since the box's contents are highly magnetized, and he uses it to guide him to the box. After they find its approximate location, Jones uses cracked shotgun shells to find the crate. When the crate is found and opened up, a humanoid form is seen wrapped in a silver material. Spalko cuts open the silver material, but before she can see the crate's contents, Jones hits a Russian and steals his gun, and he takes another gun using his whip and gives it to Mac.
Threatening to shoot Spalko, Indy is in complete control of the situation, until Mac turns his gun on his friend. Mac walks over to the Soviet side, and after Spalko asks if Jones has any "defiant last word" Jones simply replies "I like Ike" and he tosses the gun on the floor which causes it to fire, distracting the Soviets and giving the archaeologist the chance to get away. Spalko tries to drive off with the crate, and Jones tries to swing onto the jeep but misses and crashes through a truck's windshield, saying: "Damn! I thought that was closer.", and promptly knocks the drivers Jefferson and Grant out. Now, driving the truck, he begins to ram Spalko. Indiana jumps on the Doctor's car, throws her out of the car, and crashes into the corner of a wall of crates (in the process shattering the corner of the crate containing the Ark of the Covenant). Indy crashes his jeep into a car with Mac and Hoover inside and tries to escape, but an infuriated Dovchenko attacks him, and they fall through a skylight into an underground room with the rocket sled, which is activated when the Colonel is kicked through a glass pane into a control room. A few Russians and Mac arrive to help Dovchenko, but the sled is activated, incinerating several soldiers as Jones and Dovchenko are rocketed through a tunnel and out into the desert by the sled on which they were fighting. Meanwhile Spalko gets on another car, picks up Mac and congratulates him on a job well done.
Indy gets away because the ride leaves Dovchenko unconscious, and a squad of Russians give pursuit in a car. Stumbling through the desert, he finds "shelter" in a small town, but finds that there are no inhabitants other than various mannequins. When a warning siren sounds, Indy (and the three pursuing Russians Lincoln, Franklin, and Hoover) realize with horror that this is a "Doom Town", which is about to be destroyed by a nuclear bomb. The Russians get back in their car and speed away from the town, while Indy seals himself in a lead-lined refrigerator. Seconds later, the bomb detonates, and "Doom Town" is totally obliterated. The Russians and their car are ripped apart by the blast wave, but the fridge containing Indy is blasted across the desert, and protects him from the deadly radiation.
Surviving the blast, Indy is found and interrogated by the FBI, who accuse him of being a communist because he was an associate of George McHale.
As soon as Jones returns to the university, he is sent away on a temporary break, with full pay, because the FBI ransacked his office. His friend Dean Charles Stanforth had to quit his job to get Jones the offer he got. Indiana sadly states that the past few years have been very tough because both his dad, Henry Jones Sr. and the museum director Marcus Brody have passed away. Jones decides that there is nothing left for him at the university, so he buys a train ticket to New York. Shortly after boarding the train, however, he is confronted by Mutt Williams who asks him if he's ever met Harold Oxley. Mutt gives Indiana a letter that was sent by his mother, Mary Williams. Indy and Mutt discuss Oxley's situation when two KGB agents try to capture them, but a Greaser and Soc fight breaks out and the archaeologist and his new sidekick get away. A brief University campus chase starts, but it ends when one of the two pursuing Russian cars crashes into a statue of the now deceased Marcus Brody.
Following a series of clues left in a riddle written in a dead language by Oxley, Mutt and Indiana figure that the skull must be in Nazca. They visit the sanatorium where Oxley was held and they discover that he had drawn a location to Orellana's cradle, which didn't mean his birthplace, but his final resting place. Orellana, a conquistador, was believed to have been searching for the skull before vanishing mysteriously. They journey through the tomb, and in the process defeat two cemetery warriors who were Indigenous people wearing skulls as masks. One is killed when Jones blows a poisonous dart into his throat right when he was about to fire it, and the other is scared after it is hit with a shovel and when Jones threatens to shoot it.
As they journey into a grave, a huge scorpion stings Mutt, but Indy tells him not to worry, with scorpions "the bigger, the better". The two continue and eventually find seven mummified beings at the bottom of the grave. They open one, and the corpse considerably disintegrates seconds after being exposed to the air (the mummified shrouds had preserved the corpse for several hundred years). Mutt and Indy soon discover that a second corpse has already been opened. Jones picks up some golden coins and these fly towards the corpse in the bandages. Mutt is given Francisco de Orellana's armor-clad corpse to hold while Indy looks for the crystal skull in the bandages. After he finds it, Mutt's blade is immediately pulled towards the skull. Both of them note that neither gold nor crystal is magnetic. As they emerge from the tomb, they find themselves surrounded by Soviets, including Mac, Dovchenko and Irina. Jones and Williams are taken to a Soviet camp in the middle of a jungle.
Ilha Aramaca, Brazil
A drunken Mac stumbles into the tent where Indy is being held with his hands and feet strapped down and talks about why he betrayed him, and, when Irina enters, Mac simply says that this is all "... Just like in Berlin." Irina suggests using the skull to control people's minds, to win the war using the greatest weapon of all: the mind. She states that the skull was not made by human hands, and proceeds to slice open an alien corpse found in New Mexico, the corpse she stole from Hangar 51; it is revealed that the alien's bones are made of crystal, just like the skull. Jones is about to be exposed to the skull's power by having him look into its eyes when Irina states that "It does not talk to everyone." A deranged Professor Harold Oxley who was also at the campsite (though he was enjoying himself as he danced around a raging camp fire) is brought in and Indy tries to talk some sense into him, but to no avail. After some exposition and a brief explanation of her plan to turn everyone in the world into a communist, the skull is put away, and, Mac, fretting over his friend's well being unties Indy, who breaks his nose with a single punch.
Spalko blackmails Indiana into helping her by first threatening to kill Mutt, who defiantly combs his hair and tells the Professor not to "Give these pigs a thing." and then by threatening Mutt's mother, who turns out to be Indy's old flame, Marion Ravenwood, who had also been kidnapped. Jones deciphers what Oxley has been saying and the clues he draws on some paper. Both Jones and Spalko partially locate the temple of Akator by figuring the Amazon river to be "the great snake" and that a dream Oxley had written about on his ideograms refers to a river called Sono, Portuguese for sleep/rest. While everyone is distracted, Mutt seizes the opportunity to punch a Soviet soldier and overturn a table, cuing the group's escape. Spalko and the soldiers are about to give chase but Mutt sets one of their tents on fire. When Indy and Marion fall into a dry sand pit, Mutt runs off to get something to pull them out with. While they are sinking Marion reveals that Mutt is Indy's son, to which Indy reacts by arguing with Marion about letting Mutt quit school, despite the fact that he had told Mutt that if it felt wrong then he shouldn't do it, he should've done what he wanted to do. Mutt returns with a huge rat snake and Marion easily climbs out, however, Indy has a harder time due to his phobia of snakes, so they call it a rope and Indy eventually makes it out. Oxley, told to get help, loosely interprets the message and leads Spalko and the soldiers as "reinforcements".
The next day, Spalko and some soldiers travel in a car through the jungle along with a small caravan of trucks and cars, one which is transporting Oxley, the Skull, Mac and some soldiers, all led by the beastly Jungle Cutter. In a truck at the tail of the caravan, Dovchenko guards their bound prisoners: Jones, Ravenwood, and Williams. Marion takes the time to tell Mutt that Jones is his real father. Mutt doesn't believe it, and Jones and Marion end up arguing about their past. Colonel Dovchenko, tired of the argument, eventually gags Marion. Jones and Mutt use the opportunity to kick the Colonel into unconsciousness. After freeing themselves, they take control of the truck, and Indy finds a RPG and blows up the tree wrecking vehicle, which surprises Spalko. Indy, Mutt and Marion leave the truck they were being held captive on after it is nearly split in two by the Cutter's blades, which were sent flying after the vehicle's explosion. A lengthy chase ensues after Indy, Marion and Mutt jump into a "duck" (an amphibious vehicle) to try and recapture the Stolen Skull, leaving the knocked out Colonel in a driver-less vehicle. Spalko has her soldiers drive towards the car with Oxley and Mac in it so she can retrieve the Crystal Skull. After Indy jumps from the duck to the other car, he punches and throws all the Soviets out except for one who clings to the back. Indy nails Mac a few times and as, he drives the car, Mac reveals he is really CIA. Spalko begins ramming into Indy's car and the back-hanging Russian climbs back up and manages to throw the skull at Spalko before finally falling of. Mutt and Marion drive by and Mutt uses one of Spalko's swords to retrieve the skull. Irina is finally forced to draw out her rapier as she engages Mutt in a battle for the skull. She beats him out and even wounds him right above his right eye. The skull ends up in Oxley's hands again after a brief scuffle and Irina unknowingly passes over to Marion's car. She is about to stab Ravenwood but she is suddenly thrown onto the car's hood after Marion slams the brakes. Spalko holds onto a gun that was on the duck's hood and she frantically begins to shoot at the windscreen, while Mutt fights the Soviet driver for the skull on another car. After regaining control of herself, Irina climbs further onto the hood and takes aim straight at Marion, who thinks fast and manages to throw the Soviet doctor onto another car. However this happens to be the car with Mutt on it and after a brief fight with him, Irina kicks him in the head while he holds her down and after kicking Mutt off her car (who lands on Jones' car), she retrieves the skull. Mutt meanwhile winds up getting tangled in some vines and is lifted onto a canopy away from Indy's car.
Dr. Spalko takes over the car she is on by pushing the Russian Driver into the back of the car. She then begins to ram the car into Indy's so he'll fall off the cliff they were driving next to, prompting the remaining Russian on Dr. Jones' car to jump of the car's back. She is about to drive the famed archaeologist off, even taunting him with a perfectly delivered "Do svidaniya, Dr. Jones". Suddenly Mutt, who got the idea from watching a group of monkeys, swings in on a vine and lands on Spalko's car, along with about a dozen or so monkeys that followed him. Mutt takes back the skull and jumps onto Indy's car, and they drive away from the cliff while Spalko is harassed by several monkeys. After stabilizing the situation and getting rid of all the monkeys by throwing them out of the car (even throwing one off the cliff in her rage), she keeps up her pursuit of the part-time professor.
Indiana, distracted by his recently arrived son who has finally nabbed the skull, crashes through some foliage and into a pile of dirt and some logs. Soon after Spalko and the soviet driver crash through the same foliage and nearly decapitate Indiana, Mutt, Oxley and Mac by driving over them as she crashes into another dirt mound. As the dust clears Indy and his gangs notice that Spalko is pointing her gun at them, however she hesitates when a large red ant bites her hand. Smashing the ant Spalko thinks that’s it, but soon a swarm of them file into the cars from beneath, revealing the dirt pile to be a colony of vicious siafu. Everyone starts running, and after a truck filled with Russian soldiers drives into the scene, Dovchenko, who survived, leaps out and attacks Indy. Mutt turns around to help his father, but Indy tells him to run, he’ll be fine. Marion appears, driving the badly beat up amphibious vehicle and tells Mutt and Mac to jump in. Both the driver and Irina flee, however the Soviet soldier just wasn't quick enough and he is devoured by the massive amount of ants after he succumbs to their biting. The Soviet doctor climbs onto a log but that just isn’t enough; the ants start climbing up the dried log. Noticing a vine above her, Spalko quickly jumps up and begins to climb up for her life.
While Dovchenko and Indiana duke it out, the ants begin to swarm around Oxley, who is just lying on the ground. When he pulls out the skull, however, the carnivorous insects go around the skull, as if it were creating some kind of barrier. The ants begin to pile up in an attempt to reach Spalko, and one even succeeds in climbing up her leg; however it meets a grisly end when it is crushed between her thighs. Jones and the Colonel fight inside the skull protective range, and, just when Indy is knocked down to the floor and it looks like the Colonel is winning, the archaeologist picks up a small log and beats up the Soviet Colonel until he falls back, right into the swarm of army ants. They all pile up on him and, when he screams, they even crawl into his mouth. Dovchenko is carried into the anthill and he disappears, along with the ant swarm, which almost takes Indy's fedora with them, but he repels them with the skull's power.
Indy picks up Ox and carries him to Marion and the car, meanwhile a small Soviet car comes to Spalko's aid, and she just drops down onto the passenger seat. The soldier loaded truck parks on the cliff's edge and all the soldiers and their leader begin to climb down some ropes that they just secured. Marion drives the car with all the good guys in it off the cliff, but it lands on a huge tree that was growing on the ravine's side. They are gently lowered in to the river below, and the tree recoils and hits the cliff wall, knocking down several Soviet soldiers. Realizing that when Oxley said, "Three times it drops." he meant that there were three waterfalls that lead to Lake Sono; everyone panics as the first waterfall approaches. In the end though, they all survive after they plummet through the three progressively higher waterfalls.
The group enters a cavern shaped like a human head with a waterfall sprouting from its eyes (Oxley had said that the temple was found by going "Through eyes I last saw in tears.") and they journey through a tunnel with paintings of beings with "elongated craniums". Ox holds up the skull in front a life-sized painting and there is a perfect match. It is read in the pictograms that the Ugha tribe was taught irrigation and agriculture by these beings. After going through a big stone chamber the group encounters some angry natives who chase them out of the cave and into the open. Oxley pulls out the Crystal Skull and the savage Ugha back away.
Spalko finds what appears to be a tracking device at the shore of the lake, and she looks up at the cave where another tracking device was probably dropped. Mac is upset by the fact that he hasn't seen any gold yet after climbing up a Mayan pyramid with an obelisk over key. Jones figures out that to open the "Palace of Eternity" the obelisk needs to move, so everyone begins to break some ornate stone heads that hung in a stone structure beneath the obelisk. Breaking a lot of the heads causes sand to pour out, and the obelisk to rise up. The group is sucked underground, but the stone steps on which they fell begin to draw back into the wall, so they are forced to run down the tube-like structure to avoid being impaled by the stone spikes waiting in the water below. No one makes it all the way down in time, so they all plummet about seven meters into the water; Oxley drops the skull and he frantically begins to look for it. Indy and Marion share a tender moment and are about to kiss when Mutt unexpectedly drops a heavily armored skeleton into Indy's arms. The skull is found and Mac steals some gold from an armored figure that was impaled on one of the spikes. Indy leads the way into the temple through a door on the side, and Mac is seen dropping a flashing silver and red tracking device on the ground.
Outside, the Ugha are brutally gunned down, and Spalko kneels to pick up yet another tracking device. Indy is very impressed by what is found in the chamber that they have just entered, artifacts from all over the world. Everyone eagerly looks around, Mutt exclaiming that the place was the mother load, and Mac commenting on how any museum in the world would sell its soul for the trove stored in there. Ox walks towards a huge red door, and Indy notices that a skeleton was carved in the middle of the door, so he borrows the crystal skull and he places it in the head part of the carving, where the skull fits snugly. A giant red arrow comes down on the door and each half retracts into its corresponding side, revealing a tunnel.
Everyone climbs in, and, as they examine the thirteen crystal skeletons, all of them sitting in ornate gold thrones, Ox moves towards the one with no head. Just as skeleton and head are about to be reunited, a gun clicks in the background and Mac is seen pointing his gun at Ox, forcing him to back away from the skull. Indy asks Mac if he's a triple agent and Mac just retorts by explaining that he just lied about being CIA. Just then Spalko and four Soviet soldiers walk in to the chamber, and the Russian doctor comments on how beautiful the skeletons are. She also notes "They are a hive mind, of separate bodies but of a single mentality."
Irina takes the missing skull and puts it back where it belongs, this causes the once headless skeleton to straighten, taking the upright pose of the other twelve. It is then that Harold Oxley begins to talk in Mayan. Indy translates and explains that the skull is "Grateful for being returned, and that it would like to give them a gift." Irina asks the Crystal Skeleton to grant her knowledge as the gift that they had offered, repeating the same line over and over "I vant to know, I vant to know". Mac takes advantage of the fact that everyone is distracted and he slips out into the previous chamber, where he is about to escape, but is held back by his greed. True to their word, the skeletons transfer all their knowledge into the doctor's mind, their eyes begin to emanate smoke, and the room begins to rotate. A portal opens up above the room, and Marion notes that it is "the eyes, Indy, it's the eyes". Mutt asks if the skulls are aliens, and Oxley, now sane again, states that they are "Interdimensional beings in point of fact". Indiana throws Ox and Marion out of the chamber, and then waits for the passage to rotate back into position so both he and Mutt can escape. They barely exit the chamber before the portal begins to lift up pieces of the room, along with the four surviving soldiers, who are sucked in by their weapons and ammo belts. After nothing is left in the chamber except for a tall column in the middle, where Spalko is standing receiving streams of knowledge, the still rotating skeletons begin to converge, starting form the left, into one. Indy, Mutt and Marion run to escape the now collapsing temple, however Mac is still trying to gather treasure.
Indy turns back and shouts at him, saying that they have to leave "... Now, damn it!" Unfortunately Mac trips, and being covered in gold, is not able to get up without being sucked in by the portal. Indy throws the whip for him to hold on to. Mac is humbled by this act. As more and more of the temple is absorbed, he decides that he'll no longer slow down his friend’s escape, saying "I'll be all right." He lets go of the whip and is sucked into the portal. Meanwhile, all the skeletons have merged into one being, and Spalko is still taking in all the wisdom being given to her, however her psychic link made her far too fragile and her body was far too weak to sustain all the knowledge being sent to her. She asks for it to stop, but the being silently refuses to. It becomes apparent that it knew Spalko's evil intentions, which explained why the skull would not speak to her previously. Its eyes turn green and it gives a menacing look as it continues to transfer knowledge. A raging fire starts in Spalko's brain and emerges through her eye sockets. The inferno rapidly spreads to her whole body, disintegrating her. Indy and the rest of the group run through the temple while giant stone wheels wreck what remains. Soon they find themselves at a dead end, and with the sound of raging water in the distance, their chances look slim. However, the water fills up the tunnel, and, by keeping themselves afloat, everyone makes it out all right.
Just as Indy stands up, a giant dark gray saucer is seen taking off from the base of the temple, lifting many pieces of rock and tossing them around or turning them into dust. Finally in a flash of light, the saucer disappears, and the floating pieces of debris drop to the empty valley floor below. Parts of the upper rim keeping out the river water give way, and immediately fill up the void where the temple once stood. "Like a broom to their footsteps", states Harold Oxley. Jones beckons Marion to sit on his lap, and both of them hug; When Mutt insists that they should move before it gets dark, Jones gets him to stay by calling him "junior". Mutt, in response, calls Indiana "dad", which confuses Oxley.
Epilogue: Back at the United States
Back at the University, (the presumably reinstated) Dean Charlie Stanforth is running in a white suit; he stops and praises a man who is painting the words "Professor Henry Jones Jr.: Associate Dean" on a door's glass, however, Stanforth wants the letters to be much bigger. Indy and Marion get married and Mutt watches gladly as his parents embrace in a lovely kiss. Everyone in the church stands up and cheers, and, just when Mutt is about to snap the first photo, the church’s doors burst open and the wind lifts Indy's fedora off the coat rack and leaves it at Mutt's feet. Mutt bends over to pick it up, and just as he is about to try it on, Indy takes it, smiles, and puts it on himself. Everyone then leaves to attend the reception as the credits roll. Mutt remains for a moment, combing his hair. He finally joins the rest, carrying his leather jacket on his back.
- Indiana Jones .... Harrison Ford
- Irina Spalko .... Cate Blanchett
- Marion Ravenwood .... Karen Allen
- Mutt Williams .... Shia LaBeouf
- "MAC" George Micale .... Ray Winstone
- Professor Oxley .... John Hurt
- Dean Charles Stanforth .... Jim Broadbent
- Dovchenko .... Igor Jijikine
- Russian Suits ....
- Russian Soldiers ....
- General Ross .... Alan Dale
- Taylor .... Joel Stoffer
- Smith .... Neil Flynn
- Minister .... VJ Foster
- Student in Library .... Chet Hanks
- Lettermen ....
- Slugger .... Sasha Spielberg
- Diner Waitress .... Nicole Luther
- Malt Shop Teen .... Sophia Stewart
- College Brawlers ....
- Teenage Boy .... T. Ryan Mooney
- Teenage Girls ....
- Fast Speaking Inmate .... Carlos Linares
- Shouting Inmate .... Gustavo Hernandez
- Sanitarium Nun .... Maria Luisa Minelli
- Cemetery Warriors ....
- Cave Warrior .... John Valera
- M.P. in Guard Hut .... Kevin Collins
- M.P. Sergeant .... Robert Baker
- Adkins (Mentioned only) (FBI file)
- Marcus Brody (Pictured and mentioned only)
- Vere Gordon Childe (Mentioned only)
- Francisco de Orellana (Remains)
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (Mentioned only) (as Ike)
- Sallah Mohammed Faisel el-Kahir (Pictured only)
- Elyea (Mentioned only) (FBI file)
- Hargrove (Mentioned only)
- Heinrich (Mentioned only)
- Victoriano Huerta (Mentioned only)
- Howard Hughes (Mentioned only)
- Henry Walton Jones, Senior (Pictured only)
- Nikita Khrushchev (Mentioned only)
- Vladimir Lenin (Mentioned only)
- McGuinness (Mentioned only) (FBI file)
- Michaelson (Mentioned only)
- John Milton (Mentioned only)
- Robert Oppenheimer (Mentioned only)
- Abner Ravenwood (Mentioned only)
- Samarin (Mentioned only) (FBI file)
- Willie Scott (Pictured only)
- Joseph Stalin (Mentioned only)
- Tibbetts (Mentioned only) (FBI file)
- Pancho Villa (Mentioned only)
- Colin Williams (Mentioned only)
- Jimmy Keegan
- Soviet Special Forces
- Book-carrying student
- Deirdre Stanforth
- Don Stanforth
- Maggie Stanforth
- Joe College
- Iago (Remains)
- Isidro (Remains)
- Gaspar (Remains)
- Rogelio (Remains)
- Oleos (Remains)
- Diego (Remains)
- United States of America
- Berlin (Mentioned only)
- Cuba (On map)
- Havana (On map)
- Egypt (Mentioned only)
- Flensburg (Mentioned only)
- Jamaica (On map)
- Leipzig (Mentioned only)
- London (Mentioned only)
- British Museum (Mentioned only)
- Mexico (On map)
- Mexico City (On map)
- Scotland (Mentioned only)
- Skara Brae (Mentioned only)
- Spain (Mentioned only)
- Trujillo (Mentioned only)
- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Mentioned only) (FBI file)
- Ark of the Covenant
- Crystal Skull of Akator
- Roswell Remains
- Mitchell-Hedges Skull (Mentioned only)
- British Museum Crystal Skull (Mentioned only)
- Francisco de Orellana's Death Mask
Vehicles and vessels
- Book of Common Prayer
- Good Humor Ice Cream
- Dry sandpit
- Hound Dog
- King Cool
- Marion's letter
- Mirror of the Gods: Ancient Astronomy and Celestial Navigation
- Mutt Williams's cap
- Mutt Williams's jacket
- Mutt Williams's knife
- Oxley's first letter
- Oxley's letter
- Oxley's riddles
- Pan American Airways
- Rocket sled
- Shake, Rattle and Roll
- Wake Up Little Susie
Behind the scenes
- "It worked like this: George and Steven have a rough discussion about the story. George goes off and creates the basic story line. It goes back to Steven for comments and approval. And then when those two have satisfied each other, then it comes to me and I get to have my say about it. That entire process? That takes about... 18 years."
- ―Harrison Ford[src]
Sean Connery turned down making a cameo appearance as Henry Jones, Sr., finding 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, "As I told Sean, I’m getting old enough to play my own father, so we don’t need him anymore."
Marcus Brody did not appear in the film because Denholm Elliott died in 1992. Pat Roach, who had played henchmen in the previous three films, had passed away following cancer in 2004. John Rhys-Davies was reported in April 2007 as having not been asked to return as Sallah but in a later interview with TheForce.net, Rhys-Davies revealed that he was offered a small cameo and declined, feeling that the role was too small and dismissive of the character.
The film is the most 'remotely separated' than the other three: in timeline (set in the 1950s rather than the 1930s), in production time (19 years after the Last Crusade) and in concept (introducing aliens and source for the 'ancient astronaut' theory instead of mythical/religious themes. The novel Indiana Jones und das Schiff der Götter and video game Indiana Jones and his Desktop Adventures are Licensing canon sources which explored aliens). It's also the only movie where Pat Roach does not appear (due to his passing from cancer in 2004); furthermore, it is the only installment where the main plot starts right from the opening of the film, and does not feature an unrelated introductory sequence.
The narrative features and references original events and personalities that take place during the 'gap' between the trilogy and the new film, like the events of the World War II and the relationship between Jones and the original characters George McHale and Harold Oxley.
However, there are numerous references to established canon. The Ark of the Covenant has a 'cameo' of sorts, and we learn that the warehouse building it was stored in (seen at the end of the Raiders) is Hangar 51, where the introductory sequence takes place. There are also references both to Marcus Brody and Henry Walton Jones, Senior, who are mentioned to have passed away before the events of the sotry, and themes from previous films make an appearance, Marion's theme, Henry Jones Sr.'s theme and Ark of Covenant's theme.
The movie also has references to newer canon as well: in a scene, Jones narrates his meeting with Pancho Villa to Mutt thus making a connection to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series — although in the episode Mexico, March 1916 Indy isn't seen acquainted enough with the Villistas to the point of being taught Quechua by them. The movie continues the concept of the video game Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine that introduced the Soviets as the 'new' villains after the Nazis and the game depicts the Babylonian god Marduk as a thousands-of-years old, interdimensional entity. It is not known whether the game has been a direct inspiration. In the film, Indy mentions that he has looked for "El Dorado" in the past, but came to believe it was just a legend. The comic "Good as Gold" has a story wherein Indy's search for El Dorado leads to a fake golden temple in Bolivia designed by the Incas to trap conquistadors looking for the city. Again, it is not known if the comic provided the film with inspiration. The novel Indiana Jones und das Gold von El Dorado also sees Jones travel to Bolivia and depicts another variation on the El Dorado legend.
Notably, there is even a Star Wars reference, when Jones speaks the famous catchphrase "I have a bad feeling about this."
Some German critics have commented on a scene near the beginning of the movie in which Indiana Jones says that he might teach in Leipzig next, which, being in eastern Germany, was inside the Soviet controlled German Democratic Republic in 1957. However, this line may have been meant to be ironic.
Prior to the film's release, an internet report claimed that Spielberg re-used some of the alien costumes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind for the film. This was later hinted at by the film's visual effects staff.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2008, ahead of its worldwide May 22 release date. It was the first Spielberg film since 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to premiere at Cannes. The film was released in approximately 4000 theaters in the United States, and dubbed into 25 languages for its worldwide release. More than 12,000 release prints were distributed, which is the largest in Paramount Pictures' history. Although Spielberg insisted his films only be watched traditionally at theaters, Paramount chose to release the film in digital cinemas as part of a scheme to convert 10,000 US cinemas to the format.
Howard Roffman, President of Lucas Licensing, stated the film would have a large marketing campaign, which he attributed to it being "nineteen years since the last film, and we are sensing a huge pent-up demand for everything Indy". Paramount will spend at least $150 million to promote the film, whereas most film promotions range from $70 to 100 million. As well as fans, the film also needed to appeal to younger viewers unimpressed by an older Indiana. Licensing deals include Expedia, Dr Pepper, Burger King, M&M's and Lunchables. Paramount sponsored Marco Andretti's car for the 2008 Indianapolis 500, and his racing suit was designed to resemble Indiana Jones' outfit.
The Boston-based design studio Creative Pilot created the packaging style for the film's merchandise, which merges Drew Struzan's original illustrations "with a fresh new look, which showcases the whip, a map, and exotic hieroglyphic patterns". Hasbro, Lego, Sideshow Collectibles, Topps, Diamond Select, Hallmark Cards, and Cartamundi will all sell products. A THQ mobile game based on the new film was released, while a Lego video game based on the past films was also released, along with a series of Lego / Indiana Jones mini-epics directed by Peder Pedersen, starting with Raiders of the Lost Brick (2008). Stern Pinball will release a new Indiana Jones pinball machine, designed by John Borg, which will feature all four movies and many interactive toys. From October 2007 to April 2008, the reedited episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles were released in three DVD box sets.
Random House, Dark Horse Comics, Diamond Comic Distributors, Scholastic, and DK will publish books, including James Rollins' novelization of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a two-issue comic book adaptation written by John Jackson Miller and drawn by Luke Ross (Samurai: Heaven and Earth), children's novelizations of all four films, the Indiana Jones Adventures comic book series aimed at children, and the official Indiana Jones Magazine. Scholastic featured Indiana and Mutt on the covers of Scholastic News and Scholastic Maths, to the concern of parents, though Jack Silbert, editor of the latter, felt the film would interest children in archaeology.
Frank Marshall remarked, "In today's information age, secrecy has been a real challenge. [...] People actually said, 'No, we're going to respect Steven's vision." Fans on the internet have scrutinized numerous photos and the film's Lego sets in hope of understanding plot details; Spielberg biographer Ian Freer wrote, "What Indy IV is actually about has been the great cultural guessing game of 2007/08. Yet, it has to be said, there is something refreshing about being ten weeks away from a giant blockbuster and knowing next to nothing about it." To distract investigative fans from the film's title during filming, five fake titles were registered with the Motion Picture Association of America; The City of Gods, The Destroyer of Worlds, The Fourth Corner of the Earth, The Lost City of Gold and The Quest for the Covenant. Lucas and Spielberg had also wanted to keep Karen Allen's return a secret until the film's release, but decided to confirm it at the 2007 Comic-Con.
An extra in the film, Tyler Nelson (cast in the role of a dancing Russian soldier), violated his nondisclosure agreement and gave an interview to the The Edmond Sun (Oklahoma) on September 17, 2007, which was then picked up by the mainstream media. Spielberg has yet to decide if he will cut Nelson's scene. At Nelson's request, The Edmond Sun subsequently pulled the story from its website. On October 2 2007, a Superior Court order was filed finding that Nelson knowingly violated the agreement. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
A number of production photos and sensitive documents pertaining to the film's production budget were stolen from Steven Spielberg’s production office. An official of the Indiana Jones production reported the missing items to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on September 24, 2007. Marvin Levy, Steven Spielberg's spokesman, said the director was concerned that the thieves would try to sell the materials, and on October 2, the people believed to be involved in the burglary sent out e-mails to several entertainment gossip websites offering to sell the images. According to IESB, TMZ.com obtained some of the stolen property and was on the verge of running the story on its TV division until Paramount lawyers stepped in. After Paramount was notified about the emails, they contacted sheriff's investigators. A member of the online press helped the detectives by posing as a potential buyer and setting up a meeting in West Hollywood. When the seller arrived, he was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property. On October 4, Roderick Eric Davis, age 37, was charged with one felony count of receiving stolen property. He later plead guilty to two felony counts and will serve two years and four months in jail.
George Lucas anticipated negative fan reaction, saying "We're not gonna have adoring fans sending us e-mails saying how much they loved the movie. We're gonna have a bunch of angry people saying, 'You're a bunch of assholes, you should never have done this. You've ruined my life forever.". Several people close to the franchise were given advance screenings of the film, including Sean Patrick Flanery, who felt "It's the same vibe, the same feel. They didn't miss a beat. People are going to love it. It's what everybody's been waiting for."
The film's world premiere at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival was preceded by some negative signs but many positive remarks and a 3 minute standing ovation; several early internet reviews had been critical of the film, and the last blockbuster to premiere at Cannes, the 2006 film The Da Vinci Code, was panned by critics. However, the press preview before the nighttime premiere was described as receiving "mixed reviews" by Agence France-Presse, and Reuters described early online reviews as "mostly positive".
The film has received generally positive reviews from film critics. As of November 1, 2017, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of critics had given the film positive write-ups, based on 261 reviews, with a 53% rating of audience score and a 69% rating from selected notable critics. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though the plot elements are certainly familiar, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull still delivers the thrills and Harrison Ford's return in the title role is more than welcome". At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 67, based on 35 reviews. Yahoo! estimated an average rating of B from 15 reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, stating that "I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you." James Berardinelli gave the film 2 stars out of 4, stating the "wisest course would have been to leave movie-goers with their memories".
In a manifesto published on May 22, 2008, the organization of Communists of Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast criticized the film for "caricature and miserable representation of Soviet soldiers and an intelligence officer, who are cynically and mercilessly exterminated by the American loner superhero Indiana Jones".
Both the governments of Peru and Mexico criticized the film for its historical errors, with the former having tried to boycott it for this reason. Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos historian Hugo Neira said the the film was a "barbarity"; while Peruvian Chancellor José Antonio García Belaúnde recommended not going to see the film and compared the film with the historical inacurracies of Wolfgang Petersen's Troy.
Box office performance
The film will need to gross at least US$400 million to make a profit for Paramount. Unlike other film franchises, they are only the distributor of Indiana Jones, which is copyrighted by Lucasfilm, and their original deal entailed they would only earn 12.5 percent of the film's revenue. As the $185 million budget was larger than the original $125 million estimate, Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford turned down large upfront salaries so Paramount could cover the film's costs. Paramount will only see a profit beyond its distribution fee if it grosses over $400 million. At that point Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, and those with smaller profit-sharing deals will also begin to collect their cut.
Home video release
A toyline for this film was released by Hasbro on May 1, 2008.
- By June 3, 2003, the script by Frank Darabont was being reported as being complete. But in April 2004, the project was officially shelved once more after George Lucas rejected the script by Frank Darabont earlier. In media reports Frank Darabont indicated he was "disappointed" with the decision.
- The crew members returning from the first three films are Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, John Williams, Michael Khan, Frank Marshall, and Kathleen Kennedy. The only crew members of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to return for this film are George Lucas (story/executive producer on both projects), Frank Darabont (wrote an earlier script, which contributed to the final David Koepp script), Ben Burtt (sound designer and supervising sound editor), Jake Garber (special makeup effects artist on both projects), Paul Huston (matte artist), Christopher Scarabosio (additional sound designer and sound re-recording mixer), Gwendolyn Yates Whittle (sound editor on the series and adr supervisor on the film, as well as assistant sound editor on Willow and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Matthew Wood (assistant sound editor on the series, and worked with sound database tools on the film), and publicist Lynne Hale.
- Several publicity stills and on-set videos have been released on the internet during the build-up to the film's release.
- Frank Darabont's screenplay featured cameos from Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), but did not include a son for Jones, as rumored.
- Spielberg and Ford initially felt that the crystal skulls were "too connected" to the previous films.
- According to Paramount Pictures executive Rob Moore, the film will be released on both the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats as part of its eventual home video release. The film will make its pay-TV debut on Showtime, and will air on USA Network in 2011, as part of a deal with Paramount to repeatedly broadcast the previous films to promote the film in May.
- George Lucas intended to unveil the title with the teaser trailer, but Shia LaBeouf announced it earlier at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards on September 9, 2007. Although the film's title was chosen in October 2006, five fake titles (The City of Gods, The Destroyer of Worlds, The Fourth Corner of the Earth, The Lost City of Gold and The Quest for the Covenant) were registered with the Motion Picture Association of America to distract fans from the true title.
- The film showcases Indiana's home, which was only previously seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. As nineteen years (both fictional and real) have passed, the filmmakers decorated the sparse living room with numerous artifacts Indiana has collected during his travels. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas said this was done to hint at the adventures he might have had in-between the first three films and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There are also photos of Sallah, Marcus Brody, Willie Scott, Henry Jones, Sr., and Jones' Egypt adventure from the pilot episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
- John Williams stated on the 2003 DVD documentary The Music of Indiana Jones that he hoped to return to write the score for the film, as he did for the previous three. He began scoring the film in February 2008, and ten days of recording sessions wrapped on March 6, 2008 at Sony Pictures Studios. The soundtrack features a continuum, an instrument often used for sound effects instead of music.
- Because of anticipation, the first teaser trailer was delayed to February 14, 2008, on which it debuted on Good Morning America, and was subsequently released on the internet and in theaters with The Spiderwick Chronicles the same day. Spielberg spokesman Martin Levy explained, "[Indy is] such a well-known character that it's not like you have to get out there and introduce something new [...] We also want[ed] to keep a lot of the surprises. That's part of the fun." Reaction to the trailer was generally positive, with criticism over the number of alleged computer-generated effects. A shot of Indiana Jones and Mac was digitally altered for the American version so that the surrounding soldiers' guns are pointed down. Mac's belt, Indiana Jones' breast pocket and a background soldier's gun were computer-generated into the shot. Critic Drew McWeeny wrote, "What we're left with as our first glimpse in 19 years of this character that is so much a part of the film lives of a generation is this distracting, fuzzy, fucked-with image that will be fixed in the film anyway." The American flag is not seen in some versions of the international trailer. According to Paramount, it has been the most-watched trailer in the company's history, with around 200 million views online in its first week alone.
- A screening was held on the same day in Oklahoma City, to the benefit of a local children's hospital.
- This is the first film in the series to be rated 12A by the British Board of Film Classification. The previous films were rated PG, which was before the creation of the 12 certificate.
- Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is set 19 years after Last Crusade (1938-1957), which is also the difference between the film's releases in real life (1989-2008). This was intentional to make Indy about the same age as Harrison Ford.
- This is the first Indiana Jones film to feature the Lucasfilm, Ltd. logo in the beginning. The logo is featured before the Paramount logo (which is now a 1950's design) so the "mountain" can fade into the film, which in this case is a prairie dog hill.
- During the scene in Hanger 51, when a Russian goon blows up a circuit box to gain entrance to the warehouse, a sound effect used in Star Wars is heard.
- David Koepp, one of the screenwriters, makes a cameo as the Soviet soldier whose glasses fly off his face onto the magnetized container holding the alien remains.
- After wresting control of the Hanger 51 jeep from Spalko, with Indy crashing the vehicle into a wall of crates, one of the soviets' screams was the same as Boba Fett's when he fell into the Sarlacc Pit in Star Wars VI : the Return of the Jedi
- Just before the Jet Sled scene, an electronic LCD countdown timer can be seen. These do not exist in 1957.Unless this was a TOP Secret invention.
- When Indy climbs up on the rock with the map, seeing the floor is carved out in the same design from above, it's like in the 3rd Indy film where Indy climbs up on the stairs to see huge letters on the floor.
- None of the Soviets wore their uniforms that reflected the real ones of that era. The only real Soviet tools in the film were the AK-47s.
- When Indy and Mutt first arrive in Peru, Indy tells Mutt that he fought with Pancho Villa as seen from the Young Indiana Jones episode.
- During the scene in the Nazca graveyard, one of the attackers shoots a poisoned dart at Mutt which sticks in the shovel he is holding. This scene mirrors on the one in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy's torch is hit by a similar dart while trying to reach the golden idol.
- During the university motorcycle chase, the car driven by the thugs crashes into the statue of Marcus Brody and knocks off the head causing Mutt to laugh and Indy to scowl at him. The scene is similar to the motorcycle in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy crashes a Nazi bike and laughs and has his father scowl at him.
- After Mutt created the distraction to try to escape the Russians at the campsite in Peru, Indy tells Mutt of his plan, "This is intolerable!" This is a reference to what Indy's father, Henry Jones, Sr. told him numerous times in The Last Crusade.
- When captive by the Russians in a truck, Indy, Marion, and Mutt bicker back and forth about personal issues culminating with taking out the Russian guard by kicking him. This appears to be a mirror to the scene in The Last Crusade where Indy and his father argue back and forth about the diary and a personal issue, specifically "junior", ending with Indy taking out the guards.
- When Indy & Mutt kicks out Dovchenko, he fell over unconscious onto the truck floor facing the rear. A bit later on when Indy, Marion and Mutt started jumping off the truck onto a jeep, we see Dovchenko waking up, facing the front of the truck!
- When Indiana Jones says "Drop dead" to Dovchenko, Mac has his hands down. When Dovchenko slaps Indy, his hands are up. When they zoom in on Mac, his arms are down again.
- The music that plays over Indy's escape from the warehouse is the same as his escape from the Hovitos in Raiders, known as Flight from Peru (both being the mini-adventure at the start of the film).
- The shots of Marshall College upon Indy's return at the start of the film are replicas of Raiders, right down to the music, car driving by, and the dean walking up to and entering the classroom (the dean's shot was also imitated in Last Crusade, however this time Indy's desk has plenty more artifacts stacked on it as an in-joke).
- The scene where one of the attackers try to shoot a dart at an unsuspected Mutt only for Indy to shoot it right into the attacker's throat mirrors the same trick Bugs Bunny used in the Looney Tunes short "Bushy Hare".
- During the jungle chase scene, the amphibious vehicle is constantly shown having its machine gun's ammunition box disappearing and then reappearing until the machine gun is knocked off in the waterfall.
- When Spalko first fires the AK-47 at the protagonists, the sound of the weapon ceasing fire does not match up with when Spalko stops firing. Instead, the weapon's sound effects drag on even after Spalko lowers the weapon.
- During the hive mind scene, Indy comments "I have a bad feeling about this...", a running gag in the Star Wars series and twice used by Harrison Ford's character Han Solo.
- In the first three Indiana Jones movies, Indy wears his satchel strap under his jacket. In Crystal Skull, he wears it over.