The Indiana Jones films are known for their dynamic characters, mystical MacGuffins and meticulous set pieces, but some of the most intriguing concepts of the series never make it to the screen.
While Steven Spielberg practically reinvented the modern science fiction adventure film with Jurassic Park in 1993, very few people know that he almost got the chance to include dinosaurs in the first Indiana Jones prequel nearly 10 years earlier.
According to the 1999 book Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas, written by film biographer John Baxter, George Lucas originally pitched for Indy to travel to China, where he would race across the Great Wall on a motorcycle in the film’s opening scene and discover a “Lost World pastiche with a hidden valley inhabited by dinosaurs." However, Chinese authorities were not fond of their portrayal in the movie and refused Spielberg access to film there. Not wanting to rely solely on expensive sets, the duo shifted their focus to a newer storyline.
Various other plots were considered for the second Indiana Jones flick before production settled on The Temple of Doom, which showcased Indy fighting a religious cult that utilized black magic and child slavery to mine for sacred stones. Lawrence Kasdan, writer of the first Indiana Jones movie, refused to write the prequel, claiming, “It was horrible. It's so mean. There's nothing pleasant about it,” a sentiment reflected by the critical audience of the final product.
It’s odd to think what could have been had the dinosaur plot remained in the second Indiana Jones film. Since computer-generated images were still being developed in the mid-1980s, it’s safe to assume that the ancient reptiles would have been created with animatronics, latex suits and go motion—a type of stop-motion animation Steven Spielberg initially considered using for Jurassic Park—but would that have been too cheesy or wacky for an Indiana Jones movie? One could even question whether Spielberg would have wanted to take on Jurassic Park after including dinosaurs in this film.
While it’s not a perfect prequel, it’s safe to say that the dark and mystical Temple of Doom is a much better concept than the dinosaur movie, as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull proved that science fiction and Indiana Jones don’t always mix well.
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