Say the words "Indiana
Jones" to an Indiana Jones devotee and the
images conjured up in their hatted heads are widely
varied. Say the same words to the average film
buff or just the honest Joe on the street and
the response is surprising.
Most die-hard Indy fans have volumes of images,
quotes, and favorite moments in their mental library.
The words "Indiana Jones" mean everything
to them. Every scene in every film has something
memorable to offer and suddenly a three hour conversation
about the intrepid archaeologist begins.
For the normal person or casual
fan, the response this writer found was markedly
different. "When you hear the words Indiana
Jones, what do you think of?" was the question.
Some Indy fans said things like "The whole
truck chase," while others picked minute
moments from such sequences. "I like it when
he hits the motorcycle with the truck," for
For the non-fans, the responses were broader and
more simplistic, with an interesting commonality.
Many remembered Indy "running from the boulder"
of course, but the vast majority also recalled
"the guy who rips out people’s hearts,"
and "the eyeball soup and monkey brains,"
and "'You call him Dr. Jones!'" There
were many mentions of "the rope bridge"
Interestingly, after these initial impressions,
the snakes and Indy’s father eventually
crept into the conversation. While Raiders
of the Lost Ark is "the first one...
that one with the snakes," and Indiana
Jones and the Last Crusade is the most
beloved film for the non-fan because of the comedy
and Sean Connery, Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom is the film
that defines Indy for many causal fans, and this
is something that Indy’s creators have taken
of the Forbidden
Eye ride at Disneyland.
Die-hard fans of all franchises
often feel slighted by the creations they support.
They accuse the latest installments and licensed
collectibles of pandering to the common person
rather than the true believer. What many fail
to realize is that the common person, the non-fan,
is the one that makes or breaks the success of
a creative idea. If normal people do not buy it,
it fails. Hence, Hollywood
shoots for the broadest audience.
With Indiana Jones, Lucasfilm
has capitalized on the indelible and somewhat
infamous images of Temple
of Doom time and again. This is most evident
in the Indiana Jones
and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride
in California. For starters, the name of the ride
incorporates the word "temple" and the
exterior of the ride building looks like something
of a Thuggee fortress. While waiting in line,
patrons pass spiked chambers with skulls suspended
from them, a clear reference to the spiked room
in Temple of Doom.
When the ride begins, the Indy music starts up
and not surprisingly, the majority of the cues
are from the score from Temple
of Doom. The mine cart-like ride sends
the participants twisting and turning through
a room of bugs into a cavernous temple with a
massive statue, countless skulls and a deep lava
pit that can only be traversed when the ride takes
one over a rickety rope bridge. While the boulder
and the snakes make their appearances, Temple
of Doom is the real influence for this
All three of the recent original video games based
on Indiana Jones incorporate elements from Temple
of Doom. Fate
of Atlantis is filled with lava pitted
temples, Indy swings across a number of such pits
in Infernal Machine,
and in both Emperor’s
Tomb and Infernal
Machine Indy traverses rickety rope bridges
and wields the machete sword that Harrison Ford
carried in the climax of Temple
of Doom. Infernal
Machine even includes a whole level in
which Indy travels by mine cart to various areas
of a tomb.
Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is literally
a prequel to Temple of
Doom. Wu Han makes his first appearance
and there is a mention at the end of the game
of Indy’s assignment for Lao Che.
The image of a battered Indiana Jones in a ripped
shirt with a massive blade, swinging over pits
with his whip is the quintessential image of Indiana
Jones. During the ad campaign for Last
Crusade, a Pepsi
promotional poster painted by Drew Struzan incorporates
an image of Indy from Temple
of Doom rather than the film it is promoting.
Yet, in spite of all this, Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom is the underdog
of the series, the film most commonly disliked
or at best, liked least, by many fans and non-fans
cart level in the Indiana
Jones and the Infernal Machine
and a rope bridge moment in the
Considering the massive popularity
of Raiders and Last Crusade,
Temple of Doom’s influence
on people’s perceptions is surprising...
or is it? At first glance, it is a riddle, but
look just under the surface and the answer is
staring right back in defiance. When Raiders
of the Lost Ark hit theatres in 1981,
it was wildly successful as everyone knows, and
the anticipation for the sequel was huge.
However, unlike Lucas’ Star Wars
series, Raiders of the Lost Ark
was not as heavily merchandised. There was a board
game or two, some Kenner action
figures that did not sell very well, and standard
fare like posters and the soundtrack record. When
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
slammed into theatres in 1984 it was a totally
different ball game.
No fewer than three posters were made for the
movie theatres alone. Wendy’s
gave away posters as well, while LJN
produced action figures, another board game hit
the shelves, Aladdin made two
metal lunch boxes, and Atari
created an arcade game with real voices from the
film thrown in for effect. Stetson Hats threw
in for licensing rights to Indy’s famous
lid and sold brown fedoras commercially during
the summer of the film’s release. Not even
Last Crusade had a merchandising
campaign comparable to the second film.
The "Trust him." poster.
Just compare the tag lines of all
three films in the series and it is evident which
one had the most attitude. The Raiders
tag lines were mainly to let the audience know
that Spielberg and Lucas were involved with quotes
like "From the creators of Jaws and Star
Wars comes the ultimate hero." Last
Crusade placed heavy emphasis on Indy’s
father with the lines, "The man with the
hat is back, and this time he’s bringing
his Dad." and "Have the adventure of
your life keeping up with the Joneses." Temple
of Doom didn’t emphasize the director
or the guest stars, it emphasizes Indiana Jones.
One poster simply said "Trust him,"
showing Indy with the sword over his shoulder
and a confident grin on his face. But the tag
line for the main campaign poster of Temple
of Doom became the Indiana Jones marching
song. "If adventure has a name, it must be
The anticipation was high and Temple
of Doom was on its way to being remembered,
but not as its creators expected.
It was a film that would live in
infamy upon its release. It was not a bomb, as
the box office gross of well over $100 million
attests, yet it was not what the public was expecting
and controversy came from all sides. The film
was notably darker than the original, as the creators
intended, with Indy confronting a sacrificial
cult that killed innocent people and enslaved
children in graphic detail. Parents were outraged
by the gore, the scares, and the dark atmosphere.
Critics and fans were unsure of the slightly zanier
humor and the less dignified supporting characters.
Actually, when compared with Temple of
Doom, Raiders of the Lost Ark
arguably lays claim to a darker and more frightening
story due to the lack of humor to offset the darkness
and the horrific climax with screaming Nazis melting
before the viewers’ eyes, but the audiences
in 1984 had spoken, and loudly. Temple
of Doom was too much.
In the wake of the film, the Motion Picture
Association of America at Steven Spielberg’s
suggestion created the PG-13 rating for films
like Temple of Doom, which were
too intense for young children, but not scary
or obscene enough to warrant an R rating. Five
years later, Indiana Jones and the Last
Crusade would get the PG-13 rating, but
interestingly it was the most tame and unoffending
of all three films.
The second, controversial film in the Indiana
Jones series lives in the memories of the audience
and has defined Indy’s character and exploits
for the public. A combination of its heavy ad
campaign and its cinematic infamy have contributed
greatly to its influence on how people remember
Indiana Jones. Additionally, it is often the case
that the sequel of a Spielberg or Lucas trilogy
is the defining film for the series.
The most famous misquoted line
in history is "Luke, I am your father,"
which is a paraphrase of Darth Vader’s "No,
I am your father," from The Empire
Strikes Back, the second film in the
Star Wars series. Everyone who
remembers Back to the Future
recalls two items, the flying Delorean and the
Hover Board, both of which made their appearance
in Back to the Future: Part II.
Taking this idea of the second film outside Spielberg
and Lucas, just look at the Superman
films with Christopher Reeve. What do most people
remember? "Kneel before Zod!" Superman
fighting the three criminals, which takes place
in Superman II.
The same can be seen in video game series as well.
Yeah, Mario Bros. was first,
but Super Mario Bros. is the
one that defined the Italian plumber as the mushroom-eating,
high-jumping, fireball-throwing adventurer. Likewise
of the Tomb Raider series, in
which the first action figure and some of the
most famous photos are of Lara Croft in the Sola
wetsuit, which takes place in Tomb Raider
The second film or game in a series
has the opportunity to define a character that
the first film does not. The first of any series
is often preoccupied with necessary exposition,
leaving the sequel free to let the main characters
do what they do best, and in Indy’s case,
it’s swinging over lava pits with his whip,
chopping bridges in half over high chasms, and
fighting off evil with his bloody knuckles, be
they Nazis or Thuggee cultists.
Regardless of how you feel about the first sequel,
whether you love it or absolutely hate it, Temple
of Doom’s go-for-broke action,
controversy, and heavy merchandising did something
in the mind of the public that Raiders
of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade
only supplemented. In 1984, it gave adventure
a name that from then on had to be Indiana Jones.