Although it’s the second film in the franchise, Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark – but why did George Lucas make that decision?
Although this is the second film in the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was actually written as a prequel for an interesting narrative reason. After the resounding success that was The Raiders of the Lost Ark introduced Indiana Jones to the world, it wasn’t long before George Lucas and Steven Spielberg began work on a follow-up film. This follow-up was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dooman adventure that took the iconic archaeologist-adventurer to India to help recover a stolen sacred Sankara Stone.
Above all, cursed temple established a number of key traits for the franchise. He saw Indiana Jones recover and then lose another artifact (something that happens in every IndianaJones movie), and it cemented the idea that Jones has a revolving door of sidekicks that come and go with each new episode. Also, the movie was written as a prequel, and so it made no mention of the events of The Raiders of the Lost Ark – an odd choice, given the massive popularity of the first movie, but one that worked for cursed temple.
The reason George Lucas chose to make the film a prequel to The Raiders of the Lost Ark was actually surprisingly simple: he didn’t want to make another movie with Nazi villains. Originally George Lucas’ plan for Indiana Jones after The Raiders of the Lost Ark was a story involving the Monkey King, a mythical figure in Chinese history, but his request to shoot in China was denied. Unsure how to avoid using the Nazis as villains, Lucas decided to make the film a prequel set in India, thus making it much more plausible that the Nazis weren’t present to act as antagonists.
Why George Lucas didn’t want Nazis in Temple of Doom
Although Lucas hasn’t fully explained his reluctance to use the Nazis as antagonists for two sequel films, his most likely reasoning can be extrapolated from the context. The idea of using the Nazis twice in a row would have laid the groundwork for another IndianaJones franchise, one in which the main character is constantly opposed to the Nazis. This would have made Jones less of an adventurer and more of a representation of America’s war machine, standing up to Nazi villains and possibly hurting the character’s appeal to global audiences.
The variety of villains was important to the IndianaJones movies, which means Lucas’ instincts were clearly correct. By making the film a prequel and avoiding the use of Nazis in its story, Lucas did the IndianaJones the movies look a lot bigger than they otherwise would have. Setting cursed temple just a year before The Raiders of the Lost Ark helped achieve the atmosphere of historical grandeur better than IndianaJones perfected franchise.
Of course, do cursed temple a prequel also changed the perspective on Indiana Jones’ off-screen character changes, but it was ultimately for the best. Although George Lucas’ original story plans didn’t come to fruition, he stuck by his decision to steer clear of Nazi villains, which turned out to be a great choice. Introducing a different threat boosted by a different historical artifact helped Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom stand out from its predecessor, and it’s something that has undeniably helped lay the groundwork for the future of the franchise.