This is the INDIANA JONES movie which I wasn’t a huge fan of. I remember seeing it as a kid, and finding it less engaging than the first and third. When I revisited the series almost a decade ago, that same feeling hit me. But I wasn’t doing rankings then, right? So it’s time to see how this stacks up.

I watched INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) on 6.4.12. It was my third viewing of the film.

Technically a prequel, this is set a year before RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC. In doing so, Marion can be dropped from consideration, and Indy is free to pursue a new girl. The lucky lady is Willie (Kate Capshaw). Unfortunately, she derails most of this movie, thanks to some horrendous writing of that particular character.

I promise I’m not being pretentious here. I really do love RAIDERS (and here is the ranking to prove it). How TEMPLE OF DOOM maintains a high score on IMDB is beyond me. In pretty much every conceivable way, this is inferior to RAIDERS.

First, it is an unfortunate switch from Marion, a confidant and strong woman who challenges Indy, to Willie, a screamer who constantly blunders about. Secondly, the villains are less humanized and therefore sillier and less sinister. Third, the action doesn’t get good until the famous (and admittedly good double-header) mining-cart chase and bridge sequences. Fourth, significantly less attention is paid to mise-en-scene, and despite some nice cinematography in the exteriors, this is a much less interesting film to look at. Fifth, where RAIDERS did a great job of feeling timeless, TEMPLE feels like a 1980s movie. Willie, specifically, drags this movie down with her hair, costume, and diamond-loving sensibilities. AMERICAN PSYCHO’s Patrick Bateman would have enjoyed her (or at least enjoyed killing her).

But the most egregious shortcoming is the tone of this film. George Lucas, as producer, is said to have wanted to make a darker movie than the initial installment. Yet the first half of this film is inane and silly, with the opening Shanghai sequence setting an aloof tone. By the time this movie tries to get dark, moving into whippings and child slave-labor and human sacrifice, this film has not earned these moments at all. The effect might not be disjointed if these moments were also played for lightness, but instead we are meant to feel empathy.

I don’t want to just knock this film in comparison to its superior older brother. It falls flat on its own accord as well. The script is weak and unmotivated. The acting, save for Ford who remains consistent, is poor.  Making his debut, Jonathan Ke Quan is alright as Short Round, but he is sometimes asked to do too much. Especially when Spielberg has him fighting adult soldiers without any hint of irony.

Willie twice derails good scenes. Short Round and Indy have a spirited argument about cheating in poker, which is interrupted with unfortunate cuts of Willie stumbling upon different animals and screaming. Then, as the audience tries to get information from Indy and his soon-to-be-enemies at a dinner table, we are constantly forced to watch Willie react to exotic and disgusting foods. The first scene was going for laughs by poking fun at a pre-feminist woman screaming about snakes, owls, and bats. The second scene wants to gross us out with eyeballs and monkey brains. Both are beneath the standard Spielberg had set previously in his career.

People love to knock CRYSTAL SKULL for nuking the fridge. But compare that scene to TEMPLE’s airplane escape with a life raft surviving a quarter mile fall with three people in it (without exploding), skiing down a mountain, launching off a cliff into river rapids, and then leisurely slowing to a halt. It’s terrible.

Look, I want to live in a world where TEMPLE OF DOOM is a good movie. I love the INDIANA JONES character, and wish all the movies were good. But this is just not up to the standard set by RAIDERS. I understand that fans of this film can sit back and enjoy this for what it is, and I really wish I could too. I just feel like many other movies have done this sort of adventure much better.





~ by johnlink00 on June 4, 2012.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984)”

  1. Hey John,

    As sad as I am saying it, I agree whole heartedly. Temple of Doom falls into the rainy Saturday movies for me and a movie I love to make fun of. (I cannot for the life of me recount how many “Oh numsheabas” I have quoted). It is beyond campy, and quite honestly something Harrison Ford must laugh about. If I tolerate it as only a B movie and laugh at it as it presents itself more as a Universal Studios theme park ride than a sequel its enjoyable. However as a star struck wide eyed fan of Indiana

  2. …argh…sorry I hate smart phones sometimes. I digress. However as a star struck wide eyed 10 year old that I become when I watch Indiana Jones, I am saddened by this movie and its depiction of Indiana. Indiana Jones is made a mockery of in this movie. Harrison Ford’s acting does not come under question here but the rest of the supporting cast just pulls him down into the trenches of the sacrificial lava. Willie is awful. Absolutely awful. In “The Last Crusade”, Indiana falls for another easy and hot side character but her time in the movie is seductive and pivotal to the plot of the movie. In Temple, Willie is a chewtoy of sorts at best, occasionally there to be tossed around to scream and cry and whine at every possible turn. I find myself fast forwarding during her scenes which is such a shame because as bad of a movie it is, the crawling insects on the floor and the tunnel chase are pretty cool. For me this falls into the same pile as Gremlins 2 or Critters.

  3. Great points. If this wasn’t in the Indiana Jones series, I’m sure I’d be less harsh on it. But when you only get so many movies with Ford playing Indiana… well it just feels like a waste.
    “Willie is a chewtoy of sorts at best”… hahaha, great line.

  4. […] IJ2 Link here […]

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