Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom permanently changed the Indiana Jones franchise thanks to several key factors. Although the 1984 film is often laden with criticisms from fans of the series, the truth of the matter is that Temple of Doom created new opportunities to mold both Indy’s character and the manner in which the series could play out. Without these elements, the franchise would have felt and looked considerably different over the years, the likes of which arguably would’ve had a negative overall effect on the series.
Though it arrived three years after the tremendously successful release of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom is actually a prequel, taking place one year prior to the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Stylistically, it’s a very different film from Raiders of the Lost Ark and hasn’t aged nearly as well. Today Temple of Doom is often criticized for its racist tropes and cultural misrepresentation, which are unfortunately prevalent throughout the film. Yet despite these obvious unpleasantries, there are worthwhile aspects to Temple of Doom. For better or worse, the film’s impact on the franchise was a considerable and important one.
Temple Of Doom Embraced Humor
There’s little doubt that the primary focus of the Indiana Jones series has always been action and adventure. These two elements are first and foremost at the start of every entry in the series and harken back to the movie serials of 1930s and 40s Hollywood. At the same time, however, Indiana Jones fans are well familiar with the ability that the films have to add in the odd quip or goofy moment. The franchise’s willingness to not take itself too seriously is briefly seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but overall the tone of that film remains serious with an emphasis on Indy’s commitment to a very significant task with far-reaching consequences.
Temple of Doom continues this trajectory, but the film is far more willing to play with the material in hopes of mixing lighter fare with the daunting task Indy faces. Regardless of how these attempts land – the dinner scene in the palace is downright racist – there are far more efforts to make Temple of Doom comedic. This recipe, albeit honed to a greater degree, can also be seen in Last Crusade and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In retrospect, it is Raiders of the Lost Ark that comes off as the most serious of the franchise, a fact that keeps some Indy fans only interested in that initial entry.
Indiana Jones’ Ingenuity In Getting Out Of Trouble Became More Creative
Watching the opening moments of Raiders of the Lost Ark is undoubtedly a true cinematic treat. Every minute unfolds breathlessly into the next, captivating viewers with a sense of intrigue that isn’t often found in modern action-adventure films. While this sequence has obtained a legendary status over the years, it really just involves Indy fleeing as fast as he can after everything has quite literally collapsed around him. The film continues to offer numerous high-octane moments, the likes of which quite typically require Indy to physically fight his way to freedom. It’s fun stuff indeed, but Temple of Doom took a different approach.
Temple of Doom delivers arguably the strongest opening sequence of the series. This is a different side to Indy, and it’s clear that Spielberg understood that after the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the ante needed to be upped in terms of action. Whether using a rolling gong as a shield or jumping from a crashing plane on an inflatable raft, Indy has to rely heavily on his ingenuity to escape certain death throughout Temple of Doom. These are very implausible scenarios, but Temple of Doom was the template for the series and Indy films continued this trend beyond the simple escapes Raiders of the Lost Ark offered.
Temple Of Doom Gave More Insight Into Indiana Jones As A Person
Over the years, the action-adventure genre hasn’t typically placed a major emphasis on character development. This isn’t to say that films in this genre are lacking strong characters, but rather that these are films in which edge-of-the-seat thrills are expected first and foremost. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, audiences are introduced to Indiana Jones first as a steely-nerved explorer and later as a professor of archeology. The film hints at a past that involves some complex relationships, but overall, Indy’s character takes second place to the task of stopping the Nazis and recovering the ark of the covenant.
In Temple of Doom, one of the first aspects of Indy that audiences see is his relationship with Short Round. This is very much a father/son type of bond, with Indy clearly having a soft spot for the young orphan. Even more of Indy’s character is revealed throughout the film as his willingness to show respect to other cultures is considered (despite the inherent real-life disrespect the film actually gives off). The real Indy is slowly but surely being revealed here and this continues into Last Crusade by highlighting his own relationship with his father, as well as his complicated relationship with Marion in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bit by bit, Indiana Jones has become more than a fortune and glory seeking cliché.
Temple Of Doom Confirmed The Franchise’s Willingness To Go Over-The-Top
Throughout Raiders of the Lost Ark, the film feels as though it went to great lengths to assure audiences that the story being told was in fact, steeped in historical accuracy. There’s an implicit tone to the film that’s invested in keeping things exciting but rational. This aspect changed considerably with the release of Temple of Doom. The success of Raiders of the Lost Ark brought with it a certain understanding of who Indiana Jones was and what should be expected of him. It makes sense then, that with Temple of Doom there was a desire to take things to a new level and thereby deliver new levels of thrills.
In creating these bigger thrills, what Spielberg did (whether inadvertently or not) was to provide audiences with some genuine over-the-top moments. The escape from the plane at the film’s start, the mine cart race, the cutting of the rope bridge – these may elicit groans from some Indiana Jones fans today, but this brand of action became the norm for the series from Temple of Doom onward. Perhaps the greatest evidence of this comes in Crystal Skull’s now infamous fridge escape. Some might argue that Temple of Doom’s willingness to take things over the top is the worst legacy it imparted on the franchise, but it’s still hard to deny that the film has impacted the franchise in a major way.
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