- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a successful film at the time of release, but it hasn’t aged well compared to the rest of the franchise.
- The film’s portrayal of Indian culture is disrespectful and shows a caricature of real practices and beliefs.
- The character Short Round is both beloved and polarizing, with some finding his dialogue grating or offensive while others appreciate his endearing and likable qualities.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a contentious film, aging perhaps the worst out of the original trilogy and the extended catalog. The second installment in the Indiana Jones movie franchise, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was actually a prequel to the first film. Harrison Ford’s charisma was always given plenty of scenery to chew in the pulp action series, but Temple of Doom provided a particularly dazzling backdrop to his adventures with the enigmatic Thugee cult in India. Much about the film doesn’t work, either in retrospect or even when it was released.
The first movie to capitalize off the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom established many mainstay elements the series would go on to celebrate. Dr. Jones’ rotating cast of sidekicks and his retrieval and loss of important artifacts are key characteristics that have gone on to be repeated in every film thereafter. While Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a success at the time of release and is still nostalgic, it’s hard to deny the aspects of the Steven Spielberg movie that aged particularly poorly compared to the rest of the Indiana Jones films.
10 Short Round Is A Polarizing Character
Short Round is Indiana’s favorite sidekick to many, the plucky young pickpocket surviving the perilous streets of Shanghai’s underground making a great foil to the stoic Dr. Jones. Ke Huy Quan’s enthusiastic and quick-witted performance as a kid made for an endearing and likable addition to the roster of Harrison Ford’s allies, enough for many to continue to call for Quan’s return as the character in later films. However, others found Short Round’s dialogue grating or even offensive, and his portrayal came under fire from some critics for being a stereotypical Asian character.
9 The Film’s Portrayal Of Indian Culture Wasn’t Respectful
Set in India, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom pit Indiana Jones against the Thugee cult to retrieve the ancient Sankara stone. However, the film took little care to accurately portray any semblance of real Indian culture, showing audiences a caricature of India’s real religious practices and beliefs. The culture shock of Indiana Jones viewing the country through a distorted Western lens was frequently played for laughs, worsening the movie’s depiction of India to the point where the Indian government didn’t allow them to film in the actual country, leaving Spielberg to film in Sri Lanka instead.
8 Temple Of Doom Doesn’t Have A Strong Villain
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was originally going to be a direct sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but George Lucas opted to make the film a sequel simply to avoid pitting Indiana Jones up against Nazis two films in a row. Unfortunately, the Thugee cult somewhat squanders this opportunity. The Thugee’s goals aren’t immediately clear, and their human sacrifice and child labor make them cartoonishly evil. Their leader, Mola Ram, doesn’t even show up until nearly halfway through the film, his presence being felt little outside of the Temple itself.
7 Willie Is A One-Dimensional Damsel In Distress
Between the dynamic and street-smart Marion and the duplicitous yet capable Elsa Schneider, Willie Scott has tough competition when it comes to great characters that serve as a love interest for Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, Willie is by far the least interesting of the three, the depth of her personality reaching its limit at being captured, shrieking in fear, and being disgusted by the jungle. While Stephen Spielberg’s own relationship with Willie’s actress, Kate Capshaw, flourished during filming, her character remains Indiana Jones’ single biggest romantic dud.
6 The Temple of Doom Is Too Dark
Upon release, one of the biggest criticisms of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was its unusually dark tone compared to its predecessor. Between slavery, crime, human sacrifice, and the overall unpleasantness that permeates the biting humor, many parents of the 80s were shocked at just how much the film lived up to its name. The action-adventure romp was so surprisingly disturbing that Indiana Jones created the MPAA’s PG-13 Rating, despite the movie itself being released as PG. Re-watching all the Indiana Jones films today, Temple of Doom‘s tone shift creates a jarring whiplash of despair that following films don’t revisit.
5 Temple Of Doom’s Comedy Leaves Much To Be Desired
A healthy dose of comedy has always been a key component of the formula that made the Indiana Jones movies so popular as entertaining pulp adventure flicks. Yet in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the laughs, in particular, are a sore spot of contention, relying on gross-out humor and jokes of questionable taste that use supposed Indian cultural practices as a punchline. The comedic offerings of the film are poorly defended by nostalgia, the rote, childish humor not aging well.
4 Temple Of Doom Isn’t Very Connected To The Other Indiana Jones Films
Indiana Jones’ adventures in the Temple of Doom occupy a strange place in the chronology of the series. While the film is a prequel, the events are so disconnected from the greater character arc of the intrepid archeologist that many first-time viewers don’t even realize that the movie takes place before Raiders of the Lost Ark. When re-watching the entire Indiana Jones pentalogy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom stands out as a particularly disconnected self-contained adventure, with no references to speak of to future or past installments.
3 The Events Of The Film Are Nonsensically Strung Together
Dr. Jones, Willie, and Short Round’s escape from the gangster Lao Che simply happens to land them in the midst of the village of Mayapore, Indiana agreeing to help them out of obligation rather than seeking out the stones himself. Even the Thuggee’s relationship with Pankot Palace is confusing, given that the palace clearly has ties to the cult, yet exposes them to Indiana and his companions, whom they treat as honored guests. The resultant muddled plot seems like more of an afterthought meant to string together the action setpieces than anything else.
2 The Raft Drop Is A Sloppy Indiana Jones Action Scene
No bigger crack in the veneer of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom‘s veneer plot is bigger than the infamous raft drop. Nearly outdoing the indestructible refrigerator of the fourth film, Indiana Jones, Willie, and Short Round’s survival of an 8,000-foot drop from a passenger aircraft via an inflatable raft suspends disbelief beyond even the boundaries of the fantastical series. Watching the film today, it’s hard not to cringe at the contrivance, the invisible hand of George Lucas practically guiding Indiana and company down from the heavens after writing them into a corner.
1 Spielberg Himself Says Temple Of Doom Is His Least Favorite
For all the faults Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has, nothing can completely remove the film from its special place in the history of the Indiana Jones franchise. That being said, Steven Spielberg’s admittance of Temple of Doom being his least favorite in the trilogy could come close. The legendary director has elaborated that the film’s horror-like atmosphere had little of his signature personality within, making it a finished project he was less than proud of. The fact George Lucas was dealing with personal issues, including going through a divorce while writing, certainly doesn’t help the film’s case either, making Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom a contentious offering.