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Steven Spielberg directed all of the Indiana Jones movies so far — but he doesn’t like all of them. In the 1980s, Spielberg had some kind words to say about the movie. Years later, he dismissed it. This raises an interesting question: Did audences react to the film the way Spielberg did?

Indiana Jones in a cave
Indiana Jones | CBS via Getty Images

The ‘Indiana Jones’ movie Steven Spielberg described as both dark and ‘buttery’

The original Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, has some dark moments, some comedic moments, and a whole lot of adventure. The sequels didn’t always try to mimic the tone of the original film. For example, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is far darker than the first film while Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is more humorous.

According to Ain’t It Cool News, Spielberg discussed the darkness of Temple of Doom around the time of the film’s release in 1984. The film includes human sacrifice, child slavery, and a cult dedicated to a death goddess. Spielberg wanted the film’s lighting to mirror the darkness of the film’s story.

A trailer for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

“In many ways, the visual style of the film was conceived when George told me the story, which was a very rough sketch of the movie he wanted us to help him construct,” Spielberg said. “Once you’re underground, there’s no sunlight seeping through. I wanted to paint a dark picture of an inner sanctum.” Despite this, Spielberg still saw Temple of Doom as a buttery popcorn movie.

“[Temple of Doom] is a popcorn adventure with a lot of butter,” he opined. “A movie about a kind of life that is totally unattainable, where you wake up at one o’clock in the morning after seeing it and say, ‘That’s impossible. I don’t buy it.’ But you bought it when you were watching it, and that’s all that’s important.”

Why Steven Spielberg disliked the movie

Spielberg felt the film was credible but he later dismissed it for interesting reasons. “I wasn’t happy with the second film at all,” Spielberg told the Sun-Sentinel in 1989. “It was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific. I thought it out-poltered Poltergeist.” He added, “There’s not an ounce of my own personal feeling in Temple of Doom.” It’s notable Spielberg disliked the film for being too dark when he intentionally made it dark.

A Poltergeist trailer

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How the public reacted to ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’

So did the public react poorly to Temple of Doom? According to Box Office Mojo, Temple of Doom earned over $333 million in theaters. That’s particularly impressive since the movie had a $25.3 million budget. However, Box Office Mojo reports the original film in the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, earned over $390 against a $18 million budget. The public didn’t like Temple of Doom as much as Raiders of the Lost Ark, but they didn’t outright reject it like Spielberg.