By Michael Kaye
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (Review)
Welcome back to Flashback Cinema! Sorry it's been a long time since I've done one of these, I've been busy over the last month with a whole bunch of new releases. Over the next couple days I'm going to finish covering the original Indiana Jones trilogy, which I started a couple months ago with Raiders of the Lost Arc. Today we're actually taking a step back in time with the prequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Here's the story. A skirmish in Shanghai puts archaeologist Indiana Jones, his partner Short Round and singer Willie Scott crossing paths with an Indian village desperate to reclaim a rock stolen by a secret cult beneath the catacombs of an ancient palace.
If I'm to be honest, this is my least favorite of the original trilogy. It's still great as a standalone action adventure film, but it's not as tight as Raiders, nor is it as fun as The Last Crusade. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast, for the most part, was great. Even at the franchise's low points, Harrison Ford is still awesome for perfectly embodying the character of Indiana Jones. His charismatic performance alone would have been enough to carry me through to the end. I'm not sure if this is an unpopular opinion or not, but I think his sidekick Short Round, played by Jonathan Ke Quan, is awesome. Sure, his voice can get a little grating, but unlike Willie, played by Kate Capshaw, at least he's actually helpful. Amrish Puri is pretty intimidating as Mola Ram, the leader of the Thugs who performs rituals of human sacrifices in the name of the Hindu goddess Kali.
It's a Steven Spielberg film, so no matter what, you know you're going to have a lot of well crafted action scenes throughout. The ones that stick out the most are the escape from the plane crash in the beginning by way of the inflatable raft (which is equally as ridiculous as the "nuking the fridge" scene from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), the discovery of the booby traps hidden in Pankot Palace, and Indy cutting the bridge in the third act.
On paper, I like the idea of setting this movie before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The reason Spielberg gave for this decision was that he didn't want to reuse the Nazi's as the villains, which I can respect. Besides, I'm always so fascinated whenever I see ancient civilization like this one in movies and TV. I mean, without this film we probably wouldn't have gotten some of the best episodes of DuckTales, including "Too Much of a Gold Thing." This movie also takes on a darker tone, much like The Empire Strikes Back. However, there are a few downsides to that, which I will cover in my negatives.
Finally, John Williams's score is amazing. Yeah, I know, I'm going to sound like a broken record every single time I say that, but come on, how can you not love what he does in this film. I love the opening musical number, with Capshaw doing an incredible job singing a Mandarin version of "Anything Goes." I also love how dark and suspenseful the music becomes whenever we're in the temple, witnessing the human sacrifices.
As far as negatives go, these are just a few stumbling blocks that stop this movie from being perfect.
The first problem is the tone. This is just a personal preference, but I don't think we needed to see the franchise go down this darker path. Not that the other movies didn't have their dark moments, I mean, remember the scene in Raiders where we see a guy's face get melted off? But what bugs me the most about the tone in this film is that the silly moments just stick out like a soar thumb, even right down to Indy bringing along a child on this adventure.
But like I said before, at least Short Round was a fun character who actually served a purpose. What the hell did Willie do aside from constantly whining and complaining about everything, and getting captured by the Thugs? She was also so much more clingy than Marion, who was an awesome character with or without Indy. Thank God this is the only time we ever see Willie in the franchise, while Marion makes a triumphant return later on in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
I still very much enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but it's just a few inches away from being perfect. Honestly though, when you have the winning combination of Spielberg, Lucas, Williams and Ford, any complaints are merely nitpicks in the grand scheme of things.
I'm very curious to hear what you guys have to say about this one. Have you seen the Temple of Doom, and if so what did you think? Also, how does it rank for you in the Indiana Jones franchise? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, which concludes this Flashback Cinema look back at the Indiana Jones trilogy with The Last Crusade!