When Lucas conceived of Temple of Doom, he imagined the film would stand within the Indiana Jones franchise much like The Empire Strikes Back stood within the Star Wars saga. The darker and grittier middle child that was more experimental and adult-oriented. Something that could steer the direction of the entire future franchise down an unexpected course, despite the intention of each film to be standalone adventures.
But where The Empire Strikes Back succeeded in its dark tone, Temple of Doom was much more controversial. The film was too dark for many audiences and especially the MPAA, who refused to give the film a PG rating. Knowing that an R-rating would kill the film in its cradle, Spielberg and Lucas worked with the MPAA to design an entirely new rating system, creating the PG-13 rating.
Temple of Doom's legacy within the Indiana Jones franchise remains a black sheep. Its middling performance revealed that it was more than the pure spectacle that drew audiences into the franchise. But was it deserving of its lukewarm reception?