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You can say whatever you want about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but one thing that you cannot deny is that it might just be the most fascinating of the Indiana Jones movies… so far, at least. The reason I believe this is because I (like I am sure many others did) walked out of the long-awaited, 2008 fourth installment of the iconic franchise starring Harrison Ford as the whip-cracking, adventurous archeologist wondering, “Why are there aliens in this movie?”
Well, we actually have the answer to that and a few other burning questions you may have about the controversial sequel (that might be a little misunderstood in retrospect) with these behind-the-scenes facts, starting with how its star got the boulder rolling on getting the film into production.
Harrison Ford Convinced Steven Spielberg And Co. To Make A Fourth Film
The final shot of 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade sees Indy, Prof. Henry Jones, Sr. (Sir Sean Connery), Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot), and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) riding into the sunset in a seemingly perfect conclusion to the saga. Well, as Steven Spielberg recalls on a making-of documentary about the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on the Indiana Jones movies Blu-ray collection, that was exactly his intention. He had no interest in continuing with the franchise until Harrison Ford expressed interest in another sequel, citing the fans as a major reason for it.
In a 2000 interview with an Italian newspaper (via Archive.Today), Spielberg also cited his own children as a major influence on his decision to revive the franchise, for which George Lucas already had an idea that was out of this world.
George Lucas And Steven Spielberg Argued Over Making Indiana Jones 4 An Alien Movie
In the same Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull featurette, George Lucas says he envisioned the film as a 1950s sci-fi thriller (to reflect the movie’s actual time setting) that would see Harrison Ford’s character take on extra-terrestrial invaders. Steven Spielberg then chimes in, claiming he was resistant to the idea of putting aliens in an Indiana Jones sequel, considering the prevalence of the subject throughout the E.T the Extra-Terrestrial director’s career, and at the box office at the time.
Lucas later suggested, instead of extra-terrestrials, that the creatures would be “inter-dimensional beings,” which Spielberg then accepted as a compromise and later explained that the Star Wars movies creator has always been the storyteller for the Indiana Jones series and that things were not about to change for this new installment.
E.T. And Star Wars Easter Eggs Are Hidden On The Akator Set
Say, speaking of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the Star Wars movies, there are hidden references to both of those blockbusters throughout the first three Indiana Jones films - such as in Raiders of the Lost Ark, during the Well of Souls sequence, where you see a hieroglyphic of R2-D2 and C-3PO appear. As the aforementioned making-of doc reveals, that tradition would continue with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Academy Award-nominated production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas points out that when creating the individual tiles that line the inside of the Temple of Akator (in which the crystal alien skeletons are held), one tile bears an illustration that resembles E.T. and another that is inspired by R2-D2 and C-3PO.
Hawaii Doubled For The Jungles Of Peru On The Crystal Skull Set
Another tradition that is prevalent to almost all of the original three Indiana Jones movies (but not always on purpose) is that they are rarely filmed on location, with Tunisia doubling for Cairo on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and how Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was actually filmed in the Southern Asian country of Sri Lanka instead of India, after its government demanded too many script changes. Once again, that tradition was honored on the set of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford mentions in the behind-the-scenes doc that the chase sequence set in the Peruvian jungle was really shot in the jungle of Hilo, Hawaii.
Sir Sean Connery Passed On Reprising Henry Jones In Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also breaks the tradition of introducing a new love interest for Indy - a la Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott or Alison Doody as Elsa Schneider - with the return of Karen Allen reprising her role from Raiders of the Lost Ark as Marion Ravenwood. In an alternate reality, Marion wouldn't have been the only familiar face from the franchise who would have appeared in the film, as the late Sir Sean Connery was reportedly asked to play Indy’s father, Prof. Henry Jones, Sr., who was relegated to a mention of his passing instead. The then-retired actor did not accept the opportunity for a cameo, feeling his character was “really not that important” to the story of the new film.
John Rhys-Davies Was Asked To Make A Green Screen Cameo For The Ending Wedding Sequence
John Rhys-Davies, whose other most famous role is Gimli from the Lord of the Rings movies, also passed on an offer to reprise his character, Sallah, in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for a similar reason. When asked if he would appear in the upcoming Indiana Jones 5, the Welsh actor told Digital Spy that he would love to if given something meaningful to do with the role, followed by this explanation of why you did not see him in the fourth movie:
Sallah is, indeed, one of the most beloved staples of the Indiana Jones franchise, having first appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark before returning in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Considering all of the reasons why Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would prove to disappoint quite a few fans, I would have to agree that an appearance by John Rhys-Davies that brief would have only added more fuel to the fire.
Indy’s Explosive Drive Through Area 51 Crates Was Achieved With Air Cannons
To shift to a more positive subject, one of the least disappointing aspects of Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the action sequence at the beginning of the film, set in a warehouse in Area 51. One of the coolest things about the scenes (as well as other sequences throughout the film) is how much of it is filmed practically, such as the moment in which Indiana Jones drives a car through a huge stack of crates, sending a huge mess of shrapnel to explode around him.
A crash like that could easily be achieved with CGI these days, but on the making-of doc, special effects coordinator Daniel Surdick (whose other credits include most of the Marvel movies) explains that air cannons shooting 5000 gallons of compressed air contributed to the blast.
The Same Ark Of The Covenant Prop Used In Raiders Appears In Crystal Skull
As cool as that crate explosion is, my favorite moment from the Area 51 sequence is the fun little cameo made by the Ark of the Covenant, which is seen inside a broken crate. What fans may not have initially realized is that the Ark we see in Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the exact same prop that was originally built for Raiders of the Lost Ark. In a short doc on the Blu-ray set about the various props used in the sequel, property master Doug Harlocker presents the Ark and mentions that he “brought it down from [Lucasfilm] archives” for its brief, but revered, appearance.
The Crystal Skull’s Buzzing Sound Was A Recording Of A Parking Lot Lamp
Doug Harlocker also has comments about the design of the titular artifact from Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which boasts an ominous presence throughout the film that is achieved mostly by the foreboding murmur constantly emitting from it.
Another featurette about the post-production work on the film features an interview with the franchise’s long-time sound designer, Ben Burtt, who reveals that the sound of the Crystal Skull is literally the buzzing sound of a lamp from a parking lot. The two-time Oscar-winner (who is also the voice of WALL-E) explains that he happened to have his recorder with him when he decided to capture the buzzing sound, which later made it into the film.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will likely continue to have its critics, but at least the story behind it is chock-full of fun behind-the-scenes stories. Not to mention, director James Mangold’s upcoming Indiana Jones 5 has already garnered plenty of attention for its own behind-the-scenes mishaps, meaning that it will undoubtedly achieve the same fate, even if it does not achieve the desired acclaim that previous Indiana Jones movies did.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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