It’s ironic that “Star Wars” took so many cues from “The Last Crusade,” considering that the movie’s predecessor, “Temple of Doom,” doesn’t fall into any of those same traps. The film takes place a year before the events of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but it makes few attempts to explain anything about how Indiana Jones ended up the way he is in the first movie. Here, Indiana inexplicably has a heartwarming father/son relationship with the young Short Round, and develops a relationship with Kate Capshaw’s Willie Scott, a woman who’s never mentioned in “Raiders” despite her and Indy ending “Temple of Doom” on good terms.
What ever happened to Short Round and Willie Scott? We never find out, and we don’t need to find out. The movie is comfortable letting its audience fill in the blanks. It trusts us to understand that life for these characters keeps moving even after the credits roll, that they aren’t living life on autopilot between films. The lack of answers makes the world of the “Indiana Jones” series feel so much larger than it otherwise would.
Of course, “Temple of Doom” was easily the most controversial of the original three “Indiana Jones” films, mainly due to how dark and mean-spirted it is, so it makes sense that this would be the film George Lucas would be the least likely to take any lessons from. It’s a shame though, because when it comes to avoiding those soulless, predictable prequel clichés that have grown so common in modern blockbusters, “Temple” did it best of all.