ByGrant Hermanns, writer at
I know way too much about movies, my mind is like a walking IMDB, only not perfect. Don't forget to hit up my Twitter: @grantheftautho
Grant Hermanns

It's been over 35 years since archaeologist and adventure seeker Indiana Jones was first introduced to the film world and after four romps of fighting Nazis, Communists, and rival treasure hunters, the world is ready for his return to the big screen.

One of the longest-running debates between fans is which is the best film in the franchise. Most argue that it's hard to top the 1981 original Raiders of the Lost Ark, but others find that the comic chemistry between star and Sean Connery in The Last Crusade was unbeatable.

The debate that doesn't exist with most fans is which is the worst film in the franchise, as the consensus is nearly unanimous that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was easily the weakest entry in the franchise. Many cited the outrageous elements of the film as a major issue, particularly the scene in which the titular hero escapes a nuclear explosion by hiding in a refrigerator.

However, the franchise's director and co-writer recently opened up and revealed that contrary to many fans' feelings, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is actually not his least favorite in the franchise, but is instead the second entry into the series, the 1984 prequel Temple of Doom.

The film, set in 1935, follows Indy, his young sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan, who then went on to star in The Goonies) and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw of Just Cause) as they venture into northern India and try to help return a mystical crystal from a Thuggee cult to a small village while also rescuing the village's children.

The Tone Took A Dark Turn That People Weren't Ready For

In creating the story for the film, co-creator/executive producer looked to change the villains to something other than Nazis (as it was a prequel, after all), and found it in the Thuggees, an Indian cult known for worshiping the Hindu goddess of destruction, Kali, and for acting as highway robbers during the 1930s. Lucas added a high priest and some human trafficking to the mix and the result was the second film in the franchise.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a box office hit, making over $333 million on a $28 million budget, but though its reviews have turned more positive over the years, at the time they were very mixed. Many of the dissenting reviews focused on the film's change in tone from the previous entry, focusing on a much darker tale and with certain scenes that bordered on the gruesome.

As it turns out, Spielberg agrees with some of these opinions. His distaste for the film can be traced back to 1989, around the time of release for the third film in the franchise, The Last Crusade. In "Forward on All Fronts," Spielberg talked about not being "happy with Temple of Doom 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."

With nearly 30 years gone and another entry in the book, Spielberg's distaste for the film still hasn't wavered, according to documentary filmmaker Susan Lacey, who spent a lot of time with the director for her upcoming documentary, Spielberg.

Generally speaking, it makes sense why the film was his least favorite in the franchise. For starters, the darker tone really was quite jarring compared to the previous entry, Raiders of the Lost Ark. The child trafficking and human sacrificing really was a change of pace for most, with a majority of the victims having their beating hearts ripped out by the hand of the Thuggee high priest. The darker tone and violence even helped create the PG-13 rating.

The Supporting Characters Were Also Weak

Short Round and Willie [Credit: Paramount Pictures]
Short Round and Willie [Credit: Paramount Pictures]

In addition to the tone, the supporting characters were some of the weakest written, when compared to the rest of the films. Supporting heroes Short Round and Willie were criticized for being reduced to a couple of non-helpful and constantly screaming characters who either get in the way of his heroics or act as hostages.

Personally, I agree with Spielberg on his feelings about Temple of Doom. It really lacks the lighthearted fun of the other films in focusing on the darker mystical elements and though it has a few solid action sequences, it doesn't feel as grand an adventure as the rest.

The fact Spielberg would choose to re-watch Kingdom of the Crystal Skull over Temple may come as a shock and disappointment to fans who found the most recent installment to be the worst in the franchise, giving the film a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Marion Ravenwood [Credit: Paramount Pictures]
Marion Ravenwood [Credit: Paramount Pictures]

However, the film does have a lot of positive things going for it. Not only is the titular adventurer once again pitted against Eastern European villains — only this time Soviets, not Nazis — it also featured the return of fan-favorite heroine Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). It also did well to recapture some of the clever father-son awkwardness from The Last Crusade by introducing Indy's long-lost son, Mutt ().

Sadly for fans, there's still just under three years to go before the fedora-donning hero will grace the screens with Spielberg once again at the helm. Even with the mixed consensus from audiences on the previous entry, hopefully Spielberg will continue to deliver on the fun and excitement of the previous few films.

Are you looking forward to the next adventure in the Indiana Jones franchise? Which is your favorite film in the series? Let us know in the comments below!


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