Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Movie Review #816: Goofy and inconsistent, ‘Temple of Doom’ lacks the engaging feel of ‘Raiders’, but still delivers a decent adventure in its own right.

★★★
By Red Stewart

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Action, Adventure
Rated PG (contains violence)
118 minutes

How could Spielberg and Lucas and have gone so down? I can understand not wanting to repeat the same formula as before, but going in the complete opposite direction? That isn’t a bad idea so much as it is a heavily misguided one.

To be honest, I’m overreacting a little, but you have to understand that after seeing something as breathtaking as “Raiders”, it was disappointing to have a follow-up with the same cast and crew deliver poorly. In this technical prequel, Jones accidentally winds up in a poor Indian village called Mayapore with his sidekick Short Round and love interest Willie Scott. There, the villagers ask Jones to retrieve a mystical stone that was stolen by an evil cult, setting him off on his next adventure.

I’ve always been a big fan of darker takes on lighter materials, such as the MTV Spider-Man show and “Man of Steel”, so with all the taboo surrounding “Temple of Doom” I was hoping that the film would deliver. Instead, what we’ve got is a very goofy movie that acts more like a parody than anything else, from the James Bond-esque opening to a minecart chase through the caverns. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some intense, violent parts, such as the child slavery aspect of the story and the infamous heart-ripping scene, but they’re too often intermingled with this ditzy dialogue most often involving Willie, like when she faints from seeing chilled monkey brains or falls off an elephant.

It may seem like I’m being too hard, but I did enjoy the film enough to recommend it to audiences just getting into Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford is as compelling as ever in the main role and Jonathan Ke Quan is just lovable as his little, oriental partner. Industrial Light & Magic proves its Oscar-caliber reputation by supplying great special effects while John Williams’s score remains as iconic as ever.

However, if you’re expecting an equal or near-equal to “Raiders” as my favorite critic Roger Ebert surprisingly stated, you’ll be letdown by an ineptly paced venture filled with cultural stereotypes and an overtly silly mood. I really don’t blame Spielberg for the comic atmosphere since he’s shown to be more than capable of creating tense situations (“Jaws”), but it still puzzles me how he can call “Temple of Doom” more sinister than Poltergeist. I suppose the gloomy tone mixed in with all the jokes makes it something of a dark comedy, so if that’s your favorite genre than perhaps “Temple of Doom” is a worthy sequel to “Raiders”.

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