Although Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom is the second movie in the franchise, its plot is actually a prequel. The interesting narrative reason makes it the best decision for the stakeholders. Following the huge success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas started the second project. The follow-up, The Temple of Doom, shows the iconic archeologist cum adventurer in India recovering a stolen sacred Stone, Sankara.
Importantly, Temple of Doom set a few key characteristics for the franchise. It featured Indiana Jones recovering and losing another artifact, something that happens in every Indiana Jones movie. It is how Indian Jones enjoys a revolving door of sidekicks who enter and exit the franchise in each installment. Moreover, since the film was a prequel, it did not mention the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is a strange choice considering the original film’s popularity. However, everything worked out fine for Temple of Doom.
The reason behind the making of this prequel is surprisingly simple: George Lucas didn’t want to make another plot with Nazi villains. After Raiders of the Lost Ark, his original plan was to narrate a story with the Monkey King. Monkey King is a Chinese historical, mythical figure. However, his request to take the project to China was denied. So, since Lucas was head bent on avoiding Nazi villains in the next movie, he settled on setting the prequel in India. Eventually, Lucas made it plausible to not present Nazis antagonists in the movie.
Lucas doesn’t explain his hesitation to use Nazis in antagonist roles for two films. But the context can help us understand his likely reasoning. The use of Nazis twice in one film would have set the stage for a new Indiana Jones franchise, with the title character continually pitted against Nazis. This would have made Jones less adventurous and more representative of America’s war machine. It would have also damaged Jones’ appeal to global audiences.
The variety of antagonists plays a significant role in the Indiana Jones movies, proving Lucas’ instincts very correct. By making the Temple of Doom a prequel and not using Nazis villains, Lucas made the franchise feel much bigger than expected. The plot of Temple of Doom is set just a year before the first movie. It helped the franchise to better achieve the aura of historical grandeur that Indiana Jones perfected.
Although Temple of Doom was made as a prequel, it also changed the view on Indiana Jones’ offscreen character changes. However, this was ultimately for the best. Although George Lucas’ original story plans did not materialize, he stood behind his decision to abandon Nazi villains. Insisting a new threat triggered by a historical artifact helped Indiana Jones and its prequel stand out from their predecessors. This was something that undoubtedly helped to lay the foundation for the franchise’s future.