Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

5 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Indiana Jones could be considered a James Bond type, in that he goes through a series of improbable adventures that are great, deadly fun for audiences. He proved that first in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which became a huge hit because of its style, taste for adventure, and a new hero named Indiana Jones. Then because of its success, it was inevitable in that there would be a sequel—“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” delivers gripping action, suspense, and great fun and Steven Spielberg never shies away from creating a movie with a series of climactic battles and daring adventures, rescues, and escapes. This movie features a temple, human sacrifice, magical stones, a mine-car roller-coaster, and much more. I heard in an interview with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg that they used everything they couldn’t use in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to bring “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to life. I can only imagine what a movie with all of those elements in both films would be like.

In an opening scene, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is caught in a trap in a night club in Shanghai and flees with his enemy’s girlfriend—an American singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), whose main purpose in this movie is to accompany the hero in his adventure and mainly just scream a lot (and that’s exactly what she does—boy, can she scream). Indy, along with Willie and his energetic, pint-sized partner Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), are forced to jump out of a plane (on a life raft) and wind up in India, where they come across a ruined village. The children from this village and a magic rock that keeps the village safe are missing and the elders believe that an evil tribe called the Thuggee Cult is responsible for this.

And so, Indy, with Short Round and Willie (really not thrilled about this adventure) in tow, sets out to Pankot Palace to try to piece together this puzzle. This leads them to the discovery of the underground Temple of Doom, in which the Thuggee Cult sacrifices nonbelievers to their evil deity into a fiery pit. As is the case for movies like this, it’s the hero’s job to sneak in, grab the treasure, and sneak out without being seen. But it’s not going to be easy here. The second half of this movie, which involves the heroes in the Temple of Doom and trying to get out, delivers a great deal of suspense, danger, adventure, terror, and an excellent chase sequence in a mine. They are always inches away from certain death.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” delivers just what you ask for. You accept what you can get from this movie—I accepted it, therefore I give it four stars. This is just as much fun as any of the earlier Sean Connery-James Bond pictures. It’s interesting how the first half is about explanation, wonders, and weirdness—especially a dinner scene, in which chilled monkey brains and soup with eyeballs floating to the top are served—and how the second half pays them off with a breathtaking series of adventures.

The set design for the Temple of Doom is just outstanding. It looks almost like how hell could be pictured, with all the fire and caves. This set alone is arguably more impressive than any set piece in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

I loved “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” for what it is—a great thrill ride. Like I said, there’s nothing more or less within its own storytelling and its characters—Willie stays whiny, Short Round stays energetic—but it’s a fun, escapist movie that is a strong sequel to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

NOTE: I should also mention that it is darker than the predecessor, much like how “The Empire Strikes Back” was darker than “Star Wars.” This is PG, but it shows children being abused and used as slaves in that Temple and hearts being ripped out of people’s bodies. This is not for small children.

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