The follow-ups to surprise movie hits are always the best. They’re either great second installments that continue to build the fictional world of the main characters – or they’re a more outlandish version of the first movie. Two prime examples of the latter are Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Back to the Future Part II. Good movie sequels they are, in spite of what many people say.
As a young kid in the 1980s, I was a huge fan of both franchises, and the second installment was actually my introduction to both. For many Millennials the first films that established these franchises were a little before our time so our benchmark was the second films of the series, which made the originals all the more better.
Despite what the critics think, if you’re looking for movies to watch, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Back to the Future Part II should be high on the list. Here’s why the delectable cheesiness of these “bad” part two movies is undeniable good.
More Exaggerated Characters
In part two of a franchise, the bad guys always seem to be more sinister than the previous film. This creative choice is understandable. You can’t have your hero fighting off a wimpier foe than the first go round. There’s also less character development in the second installment since audiences are already familiar with the protagonist. That means more time to build the story around a nefarious foe.
In the case of Back to the Future Part II, antagonist Biff is not only more exaggerated in an alternate reality rendition, but Marty McFly is also tasked with taking on the bully’s grandson Griff in the year 2015. As a powerful political player in the alternate reality, Biff is also given power beyond his physical stature.
But the antagonists aren’t the only ones to become more exaggerated in sequels. Temple of Doom gets the addition of an over-the-top female lead and a cute, mouthy kid sidekick. This compared to the more down-to-earth leading lady and sidekick in the original film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Who doesn’t love Jonathan Ke Quan, the actor who also went on to play Data in The Goonies?
Higher Stakes = Melodrama
Part two movies always seem to be melodramatic. The emotions are always higher because the stakes are higher. Who can forget the little slave children in Temple of Doom? Even Indiana Jones couldn’t hide his emotions.
This trend makes sense when you consider that the stakes have to be raised higher to keep viewers interested. If not, why would people watch the second installment? People want more, and too often directors go over the top rather than upping the stakes slightly.
In Back to the Future Marty McFly was trying to save his own fate. In Part II he’s trying to change the future for himself, his parents and his children. Anyone with a child will agree that adding a kid to the mix ups the stakes. Marty also has to go back in time to prevent Biff from creating an entirely new and more sinister universe where he becomes the richest and most powerful man in the state. Clearly, Marty didn’t learn his lesson about meddling with events in the first movie!
Trying to One Up the Spectacle
Let’s be honest here. There was no way Temple of Doom was going to one-up the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The scene is still iconic today for its cinematic mastery. Steven Spielberg hooked visitors from the first second with edge-of-your-seat suspense and amazing stunt doubles. Indiana Jones was instantly established as a bit of an academic roughneck with passionate pursuits and balls of steel.
Instead of taking on the dangers of ancient ruins in the jungle, Temple of Doom opens with a glitzy dance number followed by Indiana Jones in a swanky suit fighting off mobsters. He was more James Bond than adventurous archaeologist. The entire tone and production style of those first few scenes had to throw fans for a loop in the movie theater.
The movie went on to have special effects like ripping a beating heart out of a chest. These graphic scenes would play a major role in the development and introduction of PG-13 in the mid-1980s, which has become the “golden” movie rating in recent decades as more teens visit theaters while adults are going less.
The spectacle is much grander and a bit gratuitous. The same goes for Back to the Future Part II. The original had virtually no special effects while the follow-up is full of hoverboards and flying cars. However, Back to the Future Part II gets a pass since it was supposed to take place in 2015 when flying cars could exist.
In both part two films the movies relied a little more heavily on spectacle than storyline and character development.
Many critics like to tout the curse of the third movie, but for some franchises, the second film is the stumbling point. As cheesy as both these films were, it couldn’t overshadow the love for the originals. Even though Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Back to the Future Part II got mixed reviews, they both were box office hits. The originality and fun of the first installment was more than enough to get people in the theaters back in the 1980s, and people are still streaming them today. After all, all a franchise really needs is a great first film to get the sequel green lit. Easy!