Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg | 114 minutes | action, thriller, adventure | Actors: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Ke Huy Quan, Roy Chiao, David Yip, Ric Young, Dan Aykroyd
Spielberg has never made a secret of the fact that he considers “The Temple Of Doom” the least of his Indiana Jones films. “The Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a movie he can just watch for himself without any discomfort, as an entertaining movie in its own right, but “The Temple of Doom”, on the other hand, he cherishes mainly because he was on the set of this film met his wife, lead actress Kate Capshaw.
There is indeed something to be said for the fact that this film is less successful than its two brothers. For starters, there is less at stake here, or appears to be. Of course it is noble and not unimportant to free all the children of the Indian village, but it is nevertheless less grand and encompassing than keeping the holy ark or grail from the hands of the Nazis, who could conquer the world with it. This also has to do with the recognizable villains in the other parts. The Nazis are ideal as the personification of Evil and really need no introduction. As a viewer you immediately know where you stand.
The art objects, the Sankara stones, appeal a lot less to the imagination this time, especially for a Western audience. But more important in this case is Indiana’s initial involvement with these objects. It is not a strong personal urge or necessity that makes him look for the objects from the beginning, as was the case in the other parts. Moreover, in “Raiders” and “Crusade” the myth or magic of the objects was established in the viewer’s imagination from the very beginning, making it come alive before us and always with a clear, grand purpose in mind. In the case of ‘The Temple of Doom’, “Indy” first escapes his assailants, then jumps out of a plane to save his life, and ends up in an Indian village where a magical stone is accidentally stolen. At the same time, children have been kidnapped. The necessary archaeological element and the human aspect have been introduced in this way in a bit of a forced way. This isn’t a big deal, but it makes the whole thing a little less urgent.
It’s also a shame that most of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ takes place in a relatively isolated space: the temple from the title. “Raiders” and “Crusade” were more expansive and epic in this regard. Half the world was traveled to be able to collect information or objects or to speak or pick up certain people.
However, none of these are aspects that have a negative effect on the movie experience. It just remains a very entertaining film, which has strengths and highlights that compensate for many of the drawbacks. For example, the mere use of the temple as a location is limiting on the one hand, but on the other hand it is an advantage because of the oppressive, claustrophobic aspect. Furthermore, you can see it as a disadvantage that we are not dealing with the old-fashioned adventures of the other Indiana Jones films, but for the lover of a creepy, sinister atmosphere this part is a success. Following on from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg wanted to add a much darker tone to the film for this second part. And this worked. The voodoo practices, the worship of the evil God Kali, and especially the human sacrifices where the heart is ripped out of the body, give you chills. We also don’t remember Indiana Jones himself at a certain point when he falls into a trance called Black Sleep by drinking Kali’s blood (from a sinister skull). Furthermore, of course, the extreme dishes served up to our friends, such as monkey brains, are wonderfully creepy, as is the dungeon full of insects that Capshaw has to go through. One of the highlights of suspense and horror is the scene where Indy and Short Round get stuck in a room where a ceiling full of spears comes down.
There are also plenty of old-fashioned adventure and action scenes, such as an inflatable downhill boat, a thrilling showdown on a suspension bridge, and of course the unforgettable minecart chase (which was actually planned for “Raiders”).
The female lead character is a lot more unstable here than in “Raiders”, where the feisty Marion gave Indy a good counteract. While a scared character works better in this context, a little less hysteria could have been done too. In any case, Indiana’s little sidekick, Short Round, is a bull’s eye. At the casting, he actually came to assist his brother when it turned out that he was much better suited himself. His comedic comments and the bond he has with Indy (and the way he tries to imitate him) are an asset.
Despite the criticisms and the different atmosphere in the film, ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ is certainly a successful part of the Indiana Jones series, whatever Spielberg may think of it.