Shooting Fish in a Barrel: Analyzing Temple of Doom


The main Indiana Jones trilogy is essentially a conversion narrative in which the hero never converts… which is a little strange. Why bother with that narrative if you’re not going to fulfill it? Indy also exists in a universe where all the religions are seemingly true, based on the very real powers each movie’s main artifact displays.

Leah Schnelbach takes apart the religious references of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which in addition to being a bad movie, manages to get everything wrong about the religion at the heart of it.

The earlier installment of the series explores the superficial treatment of the Lost Arc.

There is no discussion of the Ark as a religious artifact, no thought of the impact this find would have on Biblical studies, anti-Semitism, the rise of Nazism in Europe, people’s individual faith… nothing. Indy doesn’t call in a cavalcade of rabbis to help. It’s never considered that maybe a Judaic Studies program should be funding this mission. Frankly, I find this really weird.

EDIT: The final installment discussing Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was originally meant to be a wacky horror/action/comedy that sent Indy to a haunted Scottish castle, which is, in my opinion, one of the great lost films of the 80s, because that would have been AMAZING. But since Steven Spielberg had just worked onPoltergeist, he and Lucas decided to try a new direction. How about an opening story about a more Arthurian version of the Grail, still set in Scotland, followed by a hunt for the Fountain of Youth in Africa? This could be fun…. except that it gradually morphed into Indy battling the Monkey King and finding the Peaches of Immortality….while still in Africa, even though the Monkey King is really blatantly Chinese, and his great epic, The Journey to the West, only takes him as far as India, and he’s not really a villain in the story per se, and how exactly were you planning to incorporate the Buddha, and oh, yeah, why is Indy battling a cannibalistic African tribe, at which point I have to set my love of this series aside and ask, did you guys literally look at all the racist elements of Temple of Doom and say, “Surely we can top this” because that’s how it’s starting to seem.