Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

“Nothing shocks me: I’m a scientist.”

Temple Doom Poster

Synopsis:
A year before his adventures battling the Nazis for the Ark of the Covenant, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) finds himself helping an Indian village recover its “magic stone” — and its kidnapped children — from a cult of bloodthirsty Shiva worshipers.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is overly generous in his assessment of this disappointing follow-up (actually a prequel) to Steven Spielberg’s rollicking Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The first and most egregious problem with Temple of Doom is the casting of Kate Capshaw (instead of Karen Allen) as the female lead: Capshaw is annoying from the moment she opens her mouth, and never manages to redeem herself. Unlike Allen, she’s utterly hopeless and put-upon when faced with the slightest deviation from her pampered singer’s lifestyle, and screams more often than she talks. Meanwhile, Ford — though always enjoyable to watch — is overly subdued throughout most of the film, perhaps because he’s so busy trying to drown out Capshaw’s shrill whines. The freshest performance comes from young Ke Huy Quan as Indy’s Chinese sidekick, who plays an essential role in the film’s bloody denouement.

As many have pointed out, Temple of Doom — which is high on action, low on character development — is actually more like the old-time serials it’s based on than Raiders; to that end Capshaw’s blonde floozy singer — a “heroine of a type that hasn’t been around since feminism hit Hollywood” — may be more authentic to the time period as well. Arguing in Capshaw’s defense, Peary notes that “if someone like Willie [Capshaw], who worries about broken nails, can become brave and tough in a crisis, then all women have the potential” — but I would argue right back that she never really exhibits either bravery or toughness. And while it’s true that the film has “great sets” and “exciting adventures”, each enjoyable moment is counterbalanced by one that it’s either unduly gross (such as the infamous “banquet scene” in the Maharajah’s palace) or falls flat (such as Indy and Willie’s aborted attempt to bed each other). Film fanatics should see Temple of Doom simply to be familiar with the franchise, but all things considered, it’s a major disappointment.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The opening barter scene between Indy and a trio of Shanghai gangsters
    Temple Doom Opening
  • Impressive set designs in the Temple of Doom
    Temple Doom Sets
  • Ke Huy Quan as Indy’s fast-thinking sidekick, Short Round
    Temple Doom Quan
  • The final “bridge sequence”
    Temple Doom Bridge

Must See?
Yes, but only for its historical importance as part of the Indiana Jones series, and as one of the key films (along with Gremlins) which prompted the MPAA to create a special PG-13 rating.

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