Movie #10 2021: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Surprise! I went back-to-back Indiana Jones on you. Although, I am yet to see The Last Crusade, so bear with me on that one…

As with Raiders of the Lost Ark, this film delights us with an entirely new story. The only thing that links them really is the fact that Indiana is back, and we already know some of his backstory. This time, Indy has arrived in India, and a desperate village there have asked him for help in recovering a lost mystical stone. After agreeing, our hero finds himself amongst a secret cult that have been harbouring the stone for their own benefit and – with the help of a beautiful woman and a young boy known as ‘Short Round’ – he takes it upon himself to stop their evil plot and return it to its rightful owners.

The opening sequence? Better than any James Bond movie. How many Bond movies have I seen? Okay, I’ve only seen one. But I can’t imagine a single one of their action sequences would impress me as much as this did.

Don’t get me wrong: I was not impressed by the entire movie. It’s weird to me that the scriptwriters set feminism back ten years by going from Karen Allen kicking ass in Raiders to making Kate Capshaw’s character so vapid and inconsequential in this one. Especially since one of the scriptwriters was George Lucas, who gave us the wonderful Princess Leia. Thankfully, Capshaw manages to bring some depth to a character that was clearly written for comedy and “eye candy”, giving her dire material the finger in the best, classiest way.

On top of that, there are a lot of racial and cultural stereotypes in this movie. It was the early-eighties after all. I’m glad however that the story continues to take place across the globe, rather than just being set in the West. In that regard, the costuming (both suits and saris) are really beautifully done at least, even if it’s not exactly the most politically correct film you’ll see in this day and age.

The script is way less focused and tight in comparison to the first movie; for the first 50 minutes, relatively little happens. But once John Williams’ score begins to thrive when our heroes reach the titular temple, it’s just as exciting and mysterious as its predecessor. The sequence in the temple itself is one that will stick in my mind forever, proving to me exactly why Dr. Jones is such a pop culture icon even today.

On paper, forcing Indy to drag a little kid around with him for the whole movie sounds dire, but Jonathan Ke Quan acts the hell out of his part and I wish he were in more films! (Harrison is obviously excellent as always.) This cast really do give it their all here, even if they were more than likely aware that it wouldn’t be as great as the first effort.

Despite my gripes, Temple of Doom is still good, it’s just not as utterly brilliant as the previous film. And I’m still looking forward to the third!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is available to stream on Sky Cinema, Now TV and Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

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