Before George Lucas and Steven Spielberg gave us Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Temple of Doom was arguably the least liked film featuring swashbuckling archeologist Indiana Jones. There are numerous reasons why people dislike Temple of Doom (which, admittedly, has become more respected with the passage of time), but the most common refrain is that it was “too dark.”
Spielberg and Lucas have revealed that the darkness in the film was very personal, and tied to failed romantic relationships both had experienced at the time. However, the story of Mola Ram and his Kali-worshipping Thuggee was not what either man had originally envisioned for Indy’s second adventure. Instead, the duo originally planned for the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark to take Dr. Jones to China – where he’d eventually discover a hidden valley filled with dinosaurs. Say what?
It’s true. John Baxter’s 1999 book Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas points out that Lucas originally pitched a China-based adventure that featured a motorcycle race across the Great Wall and the discovery of dinosaurs – but plans were nixed when the Chinese government objected to how the country was portrayed in the script.
It’s too bad we’ll never know what Indy meeting up with a T. rex would have looked like, but in some ways we figure things worked out for the best. Early ‘80s technology probably wasn’t quite ready to create realistic looking dinosaurs, although we imagine Spielberg and Lucas would have pushed ILM for its best efforts. Plus, had Spielberg made his dino flick with Indy, we probably wouldn’t have ever gotten Jurassic Park – and that would have been a pretty huge loss for movie fans. Indy could (and has) had all kinds of fantastical adventures even without running across the great beasts of the past – but Jurassic Park pretty much needed dinosaurs in order to work. It seems unlikely that Spielberg would have returned to that well a second time -- and it's hard to imagine anyone else doing Jurassic Park as well as he did.
Which would you have rather seen, the Temple of Doom we got, or an Indy prequel where the explorer uncovered a valley filled with creatures thought to be long extinct? We know one thing – the bullwhip wouldn’t have been all that useful against the great reptiles, that’s for sure.