Ready to have your mind-hole blown? Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yeah, let that sink in.
Okay that's probably not news to many of you but it sure as shit was news to me. It does explain a lot though. The disappearance of Karen Allen. The sudden and horrible presence of Indy's two new sidekicks. It's almost worth pretending that this was the first Indiana Jones film just so you can credit the series' creators with having the good sense to get rid of the two side characters and essentially pretend this film never happened. Why? Because it's a goddamn train wreck.
George Lucas made a push for the film to be a prequel because he didn't want Nazis as the villains. First mistake. He turned in a treatment and Lawrence Kasdan who wrote Raiders immediately said no. He seems to be the only one who was thinking clearly. Since then even Spielberg has come out and said he doesn't look positively on the film. Spielberg wanted Karen Allen to return as Marion Ravenwood and possibly introduce Abner Ravenwood (the young man portrayed by Shia Labouf in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). It hurts to know these ideas were shot down by Lucas. One, because I love Karen Allen in these films and two, because this means that we would've got a different young actor to portray Abner which is something we can all agree would've been wonderful.
It's a shame. Having Marion and Abner in the place of Willie Scott and Short Round would almost immediately fix this film for me. The plot isn't the issue. Sure the film's portrayal of Indian and Hindu culture is astoundingly bad, but I'll let most of it slide if it means I don't have to listen to Kate Capshaw and Jon Ke Quan bray like a pair of carnival animals for the first hour and fifteen minutes of this film. Alright I'll try not to openly bitch anymore. Thats not what this article is supposed to be about.
Spielberg does a great job again of approaching the genre with the campiness that made its predecessor so wonderful to watch. They even took it a step farther by making the film much darker in tone (It contributed heavily to the creation of the PG-13 rating). The film has some wonderful moments. The opening in the Chinese Nightclub. The escape from the gangsters that immediately follows. And the mine cart sequence when Indy and gang escape the Temple of Doom at the film's conclusion. All really entertaining stuff. What's funny is all three of those scenes were cut from Raiders of the Lost Ark. They wouldn't quite fit into the first films narrative and were reused for Temple. It makes sense that they're far and away the best parts of the film but it hurts to know that they built an entire film out of scraps and ill-judged crap.
The film spends its first hour wandering around aimlessly trying to make jokes. And fails in the process. I can't blame the writing on Spielberg since he had little to do with it but its really a shame he didn't put his foot down more. From everything I've seen and read, Spielberg's contributions would've changed the film's shape completely for the better. So for that I have to blame him a little. But the brunt is still on George Lucas. Why? Because its just so easy. Spielberg's final ruling on the film is that "there's not an ounce of my own personal feeling in Temple of Doom". Really Steve? Then why do it?