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Steven Spielberg Made This 'Indiana Jones' Movie to Apologize for 'Temple of Doom' Disaster

Indiana Jones has whipped his way through four unique adventures over the last 40 years, with a fifth due in the future. Despite its legendary status in the film community, some movies, like Temple of Doom and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, are not well-received. Steven Spielberg is aware of this, and when he prepared for the franchise’s third chapter, he looked at his failures in the previous one to make The Last Crusade a bona fide success story. 

What is ‘Indiana Jones’ about?

A collaboration between two behemoths of the industry, Spielberg, and Star Wars creator George Lucas made Raiders of the Lost Ark as their love letter to yesteryear’s adventure serials. With a pulpy throwback to these globetrotting series, the paid reached into their creative databases to make something truly spectacular. It paid off. 

When Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered, it was a massive hit. Flying high after the success of both Spielberg’s early hits and Lucas’s Star Wars wave, the film had massive expectations.

Add to that a box office star in Harrison Ford, and it’s easy to see why the film was a massive hit upon release. However, when Temple of Doom, a prequel to Raiders that brought Indy to an underground cult, fans were not as enthusiastic. 

Despite holding a soft spot in the hearts of many, the sequel seemed smaller and more quaint despite its massive budget and far-out setting. Audiences missed Marian and some of the other characters who made the first film a success. Nostalgia has helped correct some of this, but at the time, it was viewed as a step back from what made the original special. 

Since then, audiences have gotten The Last Crusade, a high point in the eyes of many, and Crystal Skull, which is a new low point to a modern audience. However, in Temple of Doom, Spielberg sees the issues and used them as an inspiration for the universally-beloved third film. 

Spielberg opens up

Spielberg has never been one to shy away from self-criticism, and this was no exception. Temple of Doom might have been an essential film to him in many ways — it brought in the PG-13 rating that he’d long lobbied for and helped him meet his wife, Kate Capshaw — but the film itself is, in his mind, a mess.

According to Mental Floss, Spielberg did not hesitate when speaking about the second Indy film. “I wasn’t happy with the second film at all. It was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific. I thought it out-poltered Poltergeist. There’s not an ounce of my own personal feeling in Temple of Doom,” the Oscar-winner said. 

While the film has many of the adventure and charm that people expect from an Indiana Jones film, it lacks the magnitude, often resorting to things more worthy of a horror movie like the aforementioned Poltergeist. However, it is also another example of a problem that Spielberg has acknowledged many times before. 

The set back thankfully didn’t stop him from making other sequels

From Jurassic Park to Indiana Jones, Spielberg has never shied away from his belief that sequels can be challenging. While the first film is always an audacious project that requires introspection, the thought of making one that resonates with audiences with no preconceived notions creates a headspace that is hard to emulate in a sequel. 

He spoke about this in a quote collected by Indiana Jones fan site The Raider

“The danger in making a sequel,” Spielberg said, “is that you can never satisfy everyone. If you give people the same movie with different scenes, they say, ‘Why weren’t you more original?’ But if you give them the same character in another fantastic adventure, but with a different tone, you risk disappointing the other half of the audience who just wanted a carbon copy of the first film with a different girl and a different bad guy. So you win, and you lose both ways.”

This hasn’t stopped Spielberg from taking risks, however. It’s part of what makes him a beloved filmmaker. While Temple of Doom, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and his lone Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World, have detractors, Spielberg’s audacity to do such fascinating projects explains that, while there are missteps, he isn’t afraid to take a risk while also acknowledging his pitfalls. Perhaps, this is why he’s finally stepping away from the director’s seat for Indiana Jones 5, slated to release in July of 2022. 

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