Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
The follow-up project to the very successful "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" proves that not every sequel is flawless.
The movie opens in 1935 in Shanghai—a deal is being made. We see three men sitting at a table, they are waiting for a certain Dr. Jones (Harrison Ford returning to the role). Equally suave and clumsy, Indiana Jones soon joins them; but in the stereotypical way...things start to turn sour quickly. Double-crossings and the quintessential dumb blonde exacerbate the situation until Jones is fighting a group of twenty or so villains in a room filled with balloons while trying to find the antidote to the poison that he just drank.
The situation just keeps getting more and more outlandish as each minute ticks by—punches lead to kicks which lead to screams which give way to jumping out the window into a moving car.
The stunts, as in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" are very impressive and bring back thoughts to Buster Keaton (though he was never as bloody as this movie gets).
We meet Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), an American showgirl who somehow managed to find herself in China in the 30s. This woman is despicable—there is not one scene with her in it that didn't make me cringe at the awkwardness. She is written so flatly and with such disdain. A gold-digger, beauty obsessed, dumb girl: Willie jumps from scene to scene with only screaming and broken nail comments in her repertoire. These could have intended as funny...I can't think of anyone who would find them humorous.
Once escaping the men who seem important in the first five minutes but will fade from the movie entirely, Indiana Jones and his side kick Short Round bring our increasingly annoying showgirl onto a getaway plane that is conveniently being piloted by the bad guy's hired muscle.
A few hours later, the pilots have dumped the fuel and jumped ship...er, that's is, plane. Inflating the emergency raft and diving from the sky leads to an intense ride down the side of a mountain into India.
There the unfortunate trio meet a starving people who tell them of a magical stone that brought prosperity to their land. This stone was stolen from their village and now resides in a temple (of doom) some few hundreds of miles off. Now, without the stone, the village is starving and in need of samurai...I mean, Indiana Jones (I don't know how you could even confuse Kurosawa and Spielberg).
Dr. Jones's heartstrings are pulled—you see, he's really a nice guy—and he decides to go fetch back the stolen stone.
While Indiana Jones is an archaeologist, he never runs out of adventures to have.
The need for that typical kiss is needed in "Tempe of the Doom"—but it is so unbelievable because Jones and Willie essentially hate each other. Perhaps it's just the sexual tension, but I doubt it.
Even more so than "Raiders of the Lost Ark", this movie deals heavily with the supernatural and the worship of sacred objects. Although this isn't the Ark of the Covenant, it's just three out of five somewhat roundish rocks.
If all five of the rocks are collected, it would give the wielder unlimited power...at least, that's what I assume because everyone's looking for the other two and won't give a reason why.
World domination is the attraction for the bad guy, though it isn't clear exactly who the villain is until the movie is almost over.
Also present and accentuated is the gross-out factor. The film doesn't hold anything back from its cartoonish gore...it's actually not that effective at all.
Where the film really succeeds is in its stunts and sets. The stunt work is just as exciting as it was in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"...maybe even more so.
The movie's chase scene is well-timed and well-executed.
There is no historical reference to "Temple of Doom" and this is where I think the film lost its footing. The first movie had Hitler chasing a relic to rule the world—this one has the Thuggee chasing five stones. It feels racist and unneeded.
Spielberg treats everyone else other than his three main characters as comical and stupid foreigners.
One scene that exemplifies this is a feast scene: Willie and Short Round are freaked out by the courses that are being laid before them. There's a steamed snake with the live babies still inside (we see the squirming things go down one man's throat), then there's baked beetles (which are devoured and then induce belching), a red soup full of eyeballs, and a monkey's head with brains for desert (it is served inside the furry cranium, coconut-style). It is gross to Willie and Short Round; but to the other insensitive foreigners, it's a delicious feast.
If only for Willie's screaming and screaming and screaming, the movie gets on your nerves.
It is commendable for its production, and pitiful in its plot.
Spielberg can make an action movie, I'll give him that. I just wished he'd picked a different project.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones