Friday, December 06, 2013

The Films of 1984: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I still vividly recall the summer of 1984, and the reviews and chatter about Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. In particular, there was much talk about how on earth George Lucas and Steven Spielberg could possibly “one-up” their previous cinematic blockbusters.
This was actually a popular parlor game of the age.  First came Jaws (1975), then Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters (1977), then Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. (1982) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Between them, Spielberg and Lucas were responsible for the most successful and beloved genre pictures of the age, and they seemed to keep upping the ante in terms of action, special-effects, and sheer spectacle each time at bat.
Next out of the gate came….Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)....
To this day, both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas relentlessly talk the picture down. 
It was “too dark,” they insist.
Or it was a silver-screen reflection of their personal troubles and bad mood at the time.  Lucas was undergoing a bitter divorce, for example.
Spielberg even calls Temple of Doom his “least favorite” Indiana Jones film.
However, Spielberg and Lucas aren’t alone in their condemnation of the film.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has also been termed racist, culturally inaccurate, a wrong-headed defense of colonialism, anti-woman, and even compared to “child abuse” in term of its impact on young eyes.  It is one of the films, along with Gremlins (1984) that caused the M.P.A.A. to develop the PG-13 rating, after all.
And one mustn’t forget, either, that some movie reviewers were certainly out there looking for Lucas or Spielberg -- or two for the price of one -- to stumble and fall from their perch as princes of Hollywood. 

Too dark?!
All the critical arguments against Temple of Doom are debatable, of course, but all the intense and varied criticism of the film tends to obscure the fact that this 1984 film stands as the finest and most creative of the Raiders of the Lost Ark follow-ups.  Temple of Doom is a film that thrives on its own unique (sinister…) energy without feeling the need to re-hash familiar scenes or re-introduce “repertory” characters for reasons of nostalgia or sentimentality.  Instead, the movie is lean and mean, relentless and driving.  Delightfully, it also picks-up on Raiders' leitmotif of Indiana Jones as a man conflicted over his path or destiny.  Should he pursue "fortune and glory" or do what is right?
In fact, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains defiantly and audaciously a picture in which -- as the title sequence explicitly warns audiences -- “anything goes.”
Not many sequels or prequels can live up to that billing, but Temple of Doom is a thrill-a-minute, non-stop action masterpiece, that -- like its predecessor -- pays homage to Hollywood tradition and history while simultaneously blazing a new path.  Buoyed by both outrageous humor and Hellish visions straight out of a nightmare, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a screwball comedy/horror/fantasy/adventure film, and one finely tuned to produce audience gasps and guffaws in equal measure.



“Fortune and Glory”
In Shanghai in the year 1935, a business transaction between American adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and the local gangster Lao Che (Roy Chaio) goes awry at the Club Obi Wan.  Indy escapes with his life, but also with a ditzy nightclub singer, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), and his eleven-year old Chinese side-kick, Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) in tow.
The trio escapes from China aboard a small cargo plane, only to learn that it is the property of Lao Che.  When the pilots bail out of the low-in-fuel plane over the Himalayas with the only parachutes, Indy, Willie, and Short Round evacuate the craft in an inflatable raft.
After a harrowing landing on a mountainside and a race through choppy river waters, Indy and his friends realize that they have arrived in India.  An old man (D. R. Nanayakkara) leads them to Mayapore, a village where the sacred Sankara or Sivalinga Stone has been stolen by a “re-awakening Evil.”  The stone’s absence at its shrine has caused the river bed to dry up, and crops to wither on the vine.   
The same evil -- which makes its home at distant Pankot Palace -- is also responsible for abducting the village’s children and making them slaves.
At the request of the villagers, Indy, Willie, and Short Round make the long and dangerous trek to Pankot Palace, and soon realize that the Maharajah is the puppet of a sinister Thuggee leader, Mola Ram (Amrish Puri).  
This menacing individual has acquired several Sankara Stones, and is seeking the last one, which he knows is buried deep within the surrounding mountains.  When he possesses all the stones, this Thuggee believes he and the Goddess Kali will dominate the world.  Mola Ram also controls his minions through pure terror, ripping out the hearts of human sacrifices with his bare hands.
When Indy and his friends are captured, Jones is forced to drink the “Blood of Kali,” a potion which apparently turns him evil.  Short Round is able to save his friend from this “Black Sleep,” and a re-awakened Indy commits himself to freeing the slaves, recovering the Sankara Stone, and destroying Mola Ram…




“Anything Goes”

George Lucas receives a great deal of criticism because he often attempts to recreate or pay homage to Hollywood and movie history, even when that Hollywood and movie history happens to be controversial.  

For instance, Lucas was widely panned for featuring aliens that speak “Pidgeon English” in The Phantom Menace (1999).  In some sense, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom showcases the same brand of political incorrectness (or perhaps, more accurately, tunnel vision).  Specifically, much of Temple of Doom is modeled directly on the popular 1939 Hollywood effort, Gunga Din. That film from director George Stevens is revered by many, but also derided by others as being insensitive to Indian culture and history. 

Gunga Din depicts the story of an Indian camp worker, Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe) in 1880.  He aspires to serve in the British Army, and along with three British officers, he investigates a British outpost at Tantrapur that has mysteriously fallen silent.  It turns out the facility has been attacked by the Thuggee, and late in the film, the Thuggee leader orchestrates a trap for Gunga Din and his friends at a temple of gold. Gunga Din dies in the battle, but is remembered, finally, as being worthy of a British uniform.

To put a fine point on the matter Gunga Din depicts the British Army in India as heroic and righteous, Indian culture as savage or heathen, and suggests that the highest aspiration of the Indians should be to serve the Queen.   

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom purposefully apes this world view.  It features a “cavalry comes over the hill” moment in which the heroic British soldiers -- occupiers? -- dispatch the Thuggee.  Similarly, the depiction of Kali as Evil in the film does not square with Hindu beliefs regarding the God as a deity of empowerment.  And the much criticized-dinner scene at Pankot Palace does not accurately reflect Indian cuisine, to say the least. 

On one hand, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom could be said to trade in stereotypes, but on the other hand, the film is set in 1935 and, to a great extent, it makes that date feel absolutely “real” by mirroring the Hollywood world view of that age.  

It would be weird, to say the least, to see Indiana Jones -- a man of the 1930s -- evidencing 1980s beliefs and opinions, and that simple fact seems to be lost in the complaints over the film’s Western-centric approach to a non-Western culture.  Who can argue truthfully that a 1930s serial on the same topic wouldn't take the same approach as this film?  So if we stop to view Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a time-specific “fantasy,” there’s no reason to be offended by the specifics its “imaginary” world.  In other words, the film doesn’t take place in real India, in 1980.  It takes place in 1930s Hollywood-ized India. That's a crucial distinction.

One can even state for a fact that Lucas and Spielberg were influenced by Gunga Din because of similar visual flourishes. Most notably, both films open with a similar shot...of an over-sized gong.  Thus, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's game is not to offend, but to pay tribute, as noted above, to movie history.



Another example of 1930s films providing an influence on the aesthetic of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom also occurs in the opening sequence.  Here, Willie Scott sings Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," and wanders off-stage (through a dragon's head stage prop...) into an "alternate world" of chorus-line dancers. 

Notably, this kind of  fantasy setting was featured all the time in the films of Busby Berkeley (1895-1976), such as Gold Diggers of 1937.  There, for instance, a tune called "All's Fair in Love and War" segued into a bizarre musical "number" outside of the film's traditional back-stage narrative.  Overall, the film was grounded in reality, but then it veered suddenly into a weird, expressionist dance number that didn't preserve the realism of the stage itself. The audience was carried into an abstract world beyond the confines of normal narrative structure.

The same approach is mirrored here.  We leave "the real world" of the Shanghai Club, and travel into a Busby Berkeley dance number of dancers, glitter, and music. Then we slip back into the real world, and the filmmakers offer no commentary about the detour.

My point here is that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom deliberately evokes again the voice, feel and world-view of the 1930s in terms of presentation and structure. The over-arching idea here, as it is in terms of Gunga Din, is to re-create a "lost world" for audiences: a world of Hollywood movies circa 1935 - 1940.  It is wrong to perceive the film as taking place in the "real" world.  It takes place, instead, in the world of Hollywood; of movie serials and musicals.

Gold Diggers of 1937: "All's Fair in Love and War."

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: "Anything Goes."
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has also been criticized frequently as being anti-woman in nature because Willie Scott screams in the movie…a lot.  There is a simple and clear response to this argument.  

Raiders of the Lost Ark featured a brilliant, capable female lead in Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). Marion could out-drink, out-fight, and out-think many an opponent. The makers of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom thus found themselves in the position of either presenting a female character that would be dismissed by critics as a “pale copy” of Marion, or going in a new and original direction.  They chose the latter approach, but were clearly in a can't-win situation.  If they re-did Marion, they'd be criticized.  And we know they were also criticized for choosing a different path. 

But once more, it is fruitful to examine Willie Scott and her role. If one looks at the details of the story, Willie’s aversion to danger isn’t representative of any anti-woman stance, but reflective again of the time period, movie history, and even the character's situation.  She’s a pampered American singer who, after living the good life in Shanghai, suddenly finds herself riding elephants, handling snakes, and crawling through bug-infested caves. 

 Hell, I might find myself screaming in the same situation…

Another way to put this:  Is the depiction of Marcus Brody as a hapless ninny in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade also sexist because it portrays a man as incompetent and incapable?   If the answer is simply that Marcus functions within that story as comic relief, then we must, in good conscience, apply the same answer to Willie Scott in Temple of Doom. 

Similarly, it's easy to see that Willie Scott in Temple of Doom screams approximately as much as Fay Wray did in King Kong (1933).  Once more, we must accept the premise, then, that this Lucas film is deliberately evoking a time, a place, and a world-view; that of the silver screen in the 1930s.

Two movies, two different women: Marion Ravenwood is capable and tough.

Two movies, two different women: Willie Scott...not capable or tough. At all...
I don’t intend this review to be a point-by-point rebuke of critics of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but some of the criticisms do seem truly absurd. Those who claim that the film is equivalent to “child abuse” because of the scene of Mola Ram ripping out a victim’s heart seem to have forgotten the conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark, wherein a man’s head explodes on screen, and two other men are melted alive on camera, their flesh transforming into bloody puddles.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a darker film than Raiders, but one can’t really argue in good faith that there is actually more on-screen gore in the 1984 film than its predecessor. The heart scene, actually, is fairly bloodless, despite the action that occurs there.  

And the point must be: is the darkness justified?  

I would argue that it is.  That the sheer darkness of Mola Ram's world view is the very thing that turns Indy from mercenary to savior, that turns him away from fortune and glory so he can reunite grieving families. Jones experiences the darkness of the Thuggee world view in himself when he drinks the black sleep potion, and so realizes how horrible Mola Ram's reign could be.  

From a certain point of view, Temple of Doom actively concerns the idea that you can't run away from the darkness; that you must stay and fight it where it lives.  The film features very little in terms of globe-hopping, and thus Indy must face the consequences of all his actions.

Isn't this actually gorier..

...than this?
My affirmative case for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom involves the fact that the film knowingly and meaningfully attempts to separate itself from Raiders of the Lost Ark in virtually every way.  It doesn’t return to Africa and the Middle East, but spends its time in the Far East and South-East Asia.  As I wrote above, it doesn’t “globe-hop” to the extent that Raiders did either, instead settling in one major location after the first action scene or set-piece.  Similarly, the characters are not reruns, but new people with individual voices.

In virtually every way imaginable, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom thus escapes Raiders of the Lost Ark’s gravity well, and thrives as its own unique story. 

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is also the last Indy picture that features Jones as an occasionally mercenary, occasionally narcissistic individual.  As this film opens, he bargains with Lao Che for a relic he has successfully recovered.  Significantly, Indy doesn’t even discuss putting that relic in a museum.  No, this is a transaction: the relic for payment, for a diamond, specifically.  The details of Indy’s deal with Lao Che suggest that the original vision of the character -- as a man fallen from faith -- stands.  He’s a hero, but he’s also a man with foibles.

In fact, it is this film that originates the phrase “fortune and glory” in the saga, and it is clear that Jones has competing interests in taking down Mola Ram.  He wants to free the children, and defeat the Thuggee “evil,” but Indy is also in search of the “fortune and glory” that comes with the recovery of the Sankara Stones.  It’s clear that he is in this quest, at least partially, for himself…out of avarice.  This Indiana Jones is more Fred Dobbs (from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]) than in later installments, and this is the mode that I, personally, prefer.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, while staking out original characters, new locations, and a new “grounded” structure in one main locations, nonetheless adds meaningfully to Raider’s leitmotif about the Third World providing the First World with a new sense of spirituality and belief.  Here, Indy learns for himself the power of the Sankara Stones, and once more finds that “magic” can exist in the technological, on-the-verge of war world of the 1930s.  

What this means is that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom tells a new story in a way that one can nonetheless recognize as being “of a piece” with Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Perhaps the simplest reason to laud Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is that it remains one of the most exciting action pictures ever made.  In terms of the one-upmanship I discussed in my introduction, Temple of Doom actually one-ups itself, moment after moment, scene after scene, throughout its entire running time.  The opening set-piece in the Club Obi Wan is a perfectly-balanced presentation, one that escalates into a bizarre musical number, one ingredient at-a-time.  

The escape from the plane in an inflatable raft, the mine-car chase, and the final battle on a suspension bridge are similarly unimpeachable in terms of imagination, choreography, and execution.  These set-pieces are sustained ones -- lasting for several minutes each -- and just when you think they can’t get any more frenetic, brawny, or exhilarating, Spielberg cranks everything up another notch.  




In these moments, "anything goes," and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's creators do the seemingly impossible.  They one-up their already impressive blockbuster history.

9 comments:

  1. SteveW12:36 PM

    Great review thanks! It's a funny thing about this movie...I remember vividly when it came out. Friends of mine saw it first and everyone was wildly enthusiastic, saying it was better than the first. I saw it with a HUGE audience that was giddy with excitement, laughing and gasping throughout. And then suddenly a bunch of articles came out implying that there was something wrong with it. It was "too much," went "too far," was too horrific/comic/whatever. Critics and some parent groups were disapproving, and their reaction seemed to stick and crept out into the general culture, and now for some reason it's considered the low point of the series. But that judgment was completely at odds with the visceral enthusiasm I remember from actual audiences at the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi SteveW,

      That's a great and important comment that you make. I remember the same experience. Everybody I knew loved the film, at least until people told them why not to love it. Sadly, this latter view of disapproval has become the "stock" response to the film, even from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. They act like they have something to apologize for, when the film is a delightful, non-stop roller-coaster ride that, as you say, many people thought was even better than Raiders. It's funny how time -- and entrenched interests -- can rewrite a movie's reputation. I still prefer Raiders by a hair, but I love Temple of Doom and consider it a great companion piece.

      Thanks for your comment, and for remembering how Temple of Doom was originally received...

      Delete
  2. 1

    Too much stock has gone into the so-called hatred of this movie. It’s always been my instinct to judge the director’s work first before referencing his/her off-handed comments post negative criticism, especially when that director is Steven 'Mr. Sensitive-and-sometimes-placating' Spielberg. And I say this as a hardcore fan of the guy. Spielberg truly is a loyal crowd pleaser; loyal to a fault. I’ve always gotten the sense that he loves pleasing audiences the way a people dog, well, loves pleasing people. As a result, I suspect he stings easier and sometimes gives in apologetically, just a bit, to the ruffling of feathers caused by his filmmaking. I certainly believe him and Lucas when they say this installment is their least favorite, but that’s a far cry from outright hating it. Yeah, Spielberg regrets how dark it ended up, but not necessarily how allegedly bad. Fact is, he made this movie, and the movie speaks for itself. And, in my opinion, Temple of Doom is the most brilliantly impulsive, unhinged and unapologetic exercise in pulp adventure lunacy ever committed to the medium. More than an exercise, really; it’s an experiment. It is, collectively, team Lucasberg’s monster from the id.

    Centrally, the very point to pulp adventure storytelling is variety. [vuh-rahy-i-tee] It’s all about the "changeup". This is indeed a fantastic sequel on its own terms, in part, for simply having its own terms–its own peculiar manic energy. Harrison Ford is arguably at his most physically impressive and John Williams’ score is just so robustly exciting with its Far East accents. I enjoy Doug Slocombe’s deeply saturate palette of dusky red hues that grant this film its own signature look. I’ll contend that it's the most lavish in production design of the four installments, equivalently an MGM epic. The Pankot banquet of culinary obscenities, for example, is staged with a full breadth of frame and richly textured with exotic costumes and ornate detail.

    As a cinematic endeavor, this sequel is a wonderful model of storytelling kinetics chalked-full of throwback genre styles. I get a kick out of Willie’s involvement as a product of haphazard circumstance; let it not be said the conceit was left wanting by the filmmakers. If Kasdan’s Indy and Marion was Hawksian mixed with 'Rick’s Place' romance, Huyck & Katz’ Indy and Willie is just unfiltered screwball to the hilt. Their across-the-hallway sex romp gone awry charms me with its utter devotion to the species of Depression Era, Hollywood antics, and I’ve always admired Capshaw for bringing her A-game to what must have been such a physically exhausting show of absurd comedy. As for the then and still lingering accusations of PC insensitivity, I have little patience, suffice to say...

    "The over-arching idea here, as it is in terms of Gunga Din, is to re-create a "lost world" for audiences: a world of Hollywood movies circa 1935 - 1940. It is wrong to perceive the film as taking place in the "real" world. It takes place, instead, in the world of Hollywood; of movie serials and musicals."

    Hammer, meet nail head.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 2

    I must stress the film’s overall absurd comedy and how it is given bipolar contrast with macabre horror to such a degree that tests the limits of its own genius, mirroring the Busby Berkeley opening musical number not only with past influences, as you pointed out, but also in-house with the Thuggee human sacrificing ritual as twin grand spectacles. Almost every scene is a spectacle, really. Countless set piece gags, seemingly thought up on the spot, amount to a cinematic shotgun blast to the face. Name me another movie where the hero murders a Chinese mobster with a flaming shish kabob moments before accidentally punching a cocktail waitress in the face; where the villain laughs maniacally as he escapes through a trap door with green smoke bellowing out; or one that features a subterranean roller coaster that launches mine carts over chasms like a Hot Wheels track. There’s a moment near the end, after a relentless cascade of nonstop action and dizzying mayhem, where Willy runs across the rope bridge into a medium close-up, looks off camera (at Ram) and just screams like Fay Wray X 10. That sums up the whole movie right there: chaos.

    But it’s also skillfully controlled chaos, narratively constructed from start to finish as one great big Rube Goldberg contraption, with a succession of geographical events linked through motion and where the causality is figuratively, if not literally, severed at the end by a fed-up Indy cutting through the rope bridge. Note how this narrative map of chain reactions is slyly referenced through the storied mythos of Shiva (..."who made you fall from sky.") and the three-leveled Sankara stones; Pankot Palace itself descending three levels deeper into hell.

    Temple of Doom also rings clear in its thematic definitions. Where the Ark of the Covenant was intended as Hitler’s potential WMD, the lowly Mayapore village, sucked dry of its water and crops, depicts a different kind of ground zero, as the Sankara stones can either replenish or diminish life itself, depending on whose hands they fall into. Mola Ram and his Thuggee intending to threaten the world over with crippling infertility makes a weird kind of sense considering the film’s 1935 timeframe, where the plains of North America were knee-deep in the suffrage its historical Dust Bowl. But the stones are also pivotal for Indy’s character arc. In the end, when answering the village shaman, "Yes, I understand its power now," such an acknowledgment is laced with double meaning: the power to course-correct his own moral compass.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 3

    While I agree that equating the film’s impact on younger viewers to a form of child abuse is silly and hyperbolic, I do think that elements within tap a psychological level, not unlike Golden Age Disney, insofar that said viewers are immediately compelled by such dire straits. This movie’s central conflict is nonetheless about kids and the dehumanization of their abuse. The image of a dying, brown skinned child scrambling into his village and into Indy’s arms evokes the despair of third-world poverty. Conversely, even the boy Maharajah of opulent wealth and power is revealed to be a brainwashed captive of the Thuggee, one acting with murderous intent when he blindly slashes a knife into Short Round—kids perverted by adults to become brutal themselves.

    And while grim is the depiction of village slave children under Mola Ram’s cruelty, also consider how the buddy relationship between Indy and Short Round is momentarily flipped on its head for the very worst. Where prepubescent audiences are that their most vulnerable concerns the subconscious fear of being beaten by their own parents. Follow that up with father-figure Indy rendered possessed by the Black Sleep of Kali; in my youth, nothing in this film wounded me more than the scene where he backhands Short Round then smiles-and-half-laughs with crazed delight. Bad guy’s ripping out hearts is one thing, but Indy turning so violently against his littlest fans is the stuff of nightmares. Honestly, those scenes always affected me more viscerally than Vader shattering Luke with the truth of his identity. Yet, I always saw this as an engaging viewing experience, rather than one meant to be harmful or malicious. After all, the good guys win, and the moment where a grateful Indy crowns little Short Round with his Yankees ball cap before hugging him singlehandedly justifies all the horror leading up to it.

    In conclusion, I have nothing but the dearest love and adoration for Temple of Doom. It is, at once, an action adventure of the lowest B-serial brow and a cinematic work of highest artisan order; the perfect hybrid. If its conception-turned-extreme content was the Pollock-like, reactionary antichrist of Lucas and Spielberg’s turbulent personal lives, so be it. Art can be painful but equally rewarding with the results. Or maybe that’s just me being selfish. Whatever. This much I can say with certainty: if it were not for Temple of Doom, there would be no Last Crusade, as the latter was in more ways the one a direct response to the former. Oh, and Last Crusade just might be my all-time favorite film. So, John, we'll cross that (invisible) bridge when we get there.

    ReplyDelete
  5. John excellent review and Cannon great thoughts. You both expose the simple brilliance of these Indiana Jones films. For me, Indy was the new version of James Bond.

    SGB

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great review and a nice examination of the various elements of the film, and how this really is based on a 1930s view of entertainment as well as serials from that era.

    You hit upon the biggest plus on this movie - it is not a rehash of "Raiders", it really goes its own way and does its own thing. The final result is a movie that fits in the Indy world, but provides us with different elements to enjoy and explore.

    I agree with you that Indy in this film is still his mercenary with a heart of gold character, and he's more likable because of it. And once again John Williams knocks it out of the park with his musical score. He takes the basic elements of the "Raiders"' score, but adds so much flavor, action and horror to the music. Again, his work adds and in some cases makes the scenes. Would the heart ripping scene be as horrific without the diabolical music Williams provides. That said, I think Williams gives us his best Indy score with this film.

    All that said, the movie ends up falling a bit short for me. It has mostly to do with Willie and Short Round. I'm sorry but these two drive me up the wall. Even as kid I had very little tolerance for Short Round. He was just too much. Too loud, too in your face, and too cute at times. I appreciate the connection he has with Indy and some of his scenes work well, but all in all, he drives me up the wall. Willie is the same way. A little of her goes a long way, and she's in a LOT of this movie. Again a few of her scenes are great. I love that scene in the dueling bedrooms.

    Now I know these character archetypes come right out of classic serials. Something like "The Undersea Kingdom" with Crash Corrigann, had a small kid that is practically a ringer for Short Round. I see what Lucas and Speilberg were up to. But with that said, those tropes end up looking pretty grating now, and in a modern film (even one immersed in an older period of film making) these character tropes just don't click with some viewers. I have the same issue with the "Star Wars" prequels.

    That said, the film works for me if I'm in the mood to deal with Short Round and Willie. But it isn't one I watch as frequently as I watch "Raiders" or "Last Crusade".

    Looking forward to further reviews of this classic series!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous6:36 PM

    I must admit that I never quite got the Indiana Jones movies. While I always found them likable enough I never did understand the reverence that most people seem to have for them. Admittedly, it doesn't feel like those movies were quite as popular in my country as they were in the US so that might have had something to do with it. There's also the fact that I've first seen them sometime in the early to mid '90s (on TV or VHS) so that probably took away some of the magic. It must have been quite different to see them in the theaters when they first came out.

    Having said that, Temple of Doom is by far my favorite Indiana Jones film and actually the only one that I would count among my favorite movies. Don't get me wrong - the others are all fine, but not exactly my cup of tea. Strangely enough, I loved Romancing the Stone (1984.), a movie that was, by most, thought to be an Indiana Jones rip-off.

    I do have some guesses why I liked Temple of Doom so much. While it probably wasn't the goriest Indiana Jones movie, it was certainly the darkest, and as a budding horror afficionado, that must have appealed to me. On the other hand, I also liked fantasy movies, and there's certainly some of that here, what with the giant statue of Kali, sacred stones and general mysticism. While Raiders had some of that too, I was never much of a Christian so that's probably why it didn't really appeal to me. Back then, another factor was probably my interest in India, though not so much the real India, as much as the exotic and potentially dangerous (not to mention politically inorrect!) India as depicted in The Deceivers (1988.) or The Far Pavillions (1984.).

    There were plenty of little things that appealed to me in Temple of Doom - just take that opening sequence you've described so perfectly, or the infamous monkey brains scene. The set-pieces were also great throughout - and for me they were quite a bit more enjoyable than watching a tank race through the desert. Also, while I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, the temple scenes themselves remind me of the silent film epic Cabiria (1914.), which is certainly a pretty cool hommage.

    There's also something to be said about this movie's fascinating blend of fantasy and adventure, as well as of horror and comedy. Temple of Doom reminds me both of funny but somehow ominous films like The 'Burbs (1989.) and of fantastical adventure films like Big Trouble In Little China (1986.). In a way, those kinds of movies were never done quite as well in any other decade other than the '80s.

    Ratko H.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Temple of Doom was always my favorite of the series. It was the one that seemed most '1930s' to me, and that was always the major draw of the series, for this viewer.

    ReplyDelete