Monday, May 12, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; adventure, USA, 1984; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Roy Chiao, David Yip, Ric Young, Chua Kah Joo, Dan Aykroyd

Shanghai, '35. While trying to trade the remains of Nurhaci for a diamond, Indiana Jones gets poisoned and barely manages to save himself from a wicked club, bringing along the blond club singer Willie and a small kid named Shorty. The board a plane and crash somewhere in the Himalayas, coming to an Indian village where a sacred stone and all the children have been mysteriously stolen. The trio goes to the local Pankot Palace and discovers a hidden underground temple where the sect leader Mola Ram who wants to create his own religion and rule the world. Jones is able to escape, cut a bridge and throw him down the river, free the children and end up with Willie.

Prequel "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is a step back compared to the acclaimed and smooth original: unlike the first film, that managed to smoothly lift itself up from the B serials it was inspired by, this 2nd film throws our hero into pure trash hidden beneath a big budget. The screenplay by Willard Huyck is a shabby excuse to bring back the beloved adventurer - since it's a prequel, the story could have explored his unrevealed relationship with Marion, but instead replaced her with the silly blond Willie (Kate Capshaw) who acts as a dumb humorous side character, becoming "funny" when falling into trouble, but the top of stupidity is reached by letting the annoying, whinny kid Shorty join the team - there is simply no reason for him to be there. He is just a cliche of a sidekick that embodies the infantile. After a fast and dynamic exposition, where the uneven trio escapes from Shanghai thanks to an airplane by their associate Weber (Dan Aykroyd in a too small, 5 seconds long cameo), they land in India's territory and seem to fall into Bollywood. Instead of trying to top the first film with magic and intelligent writing, the authors topped it in all the wrong areas - in disgusting trash and campy exaggerations. While in the first film there was a character who found dozens of spiders on his shirt, here we have millions of slimy insect crawling on the floor, and not to mention the tasteless, infamous diner sequence where the guests are served with, among others, a cooked snake that gets sliced open only to reveal little black snakes coming out of it: in the scene where a man is swallowing those snakes alive, it seems Spielberg must have been hypnotized by trash king Corman. The movie is de facto four action sequences glued together, only enriched with occasional style, though it seems better thanks to the good finale that went back on the right tracks. Tastes vary, but "The Temple of Doom" is as much of a treat as the frozen monkey brains served in the diner sequence.



Peter Slattery said...

While I find it very hard to pick holes in any Indy movie, he is my all time hero, I do agree that Temple of Doom is a step back from Raiders. In some ways it's a bit lighter than the previous movie, in others, a hell of a lot darker. I still think that The Last Crusade is the quintessential Indy movie, however!

Marin Mandir said...

I agree with you 100 % that "The Last Crusade" is the best Indiana Jones film. It's in my personal top 150 list.

Considering "The Temple of Doom", maybe I was too harsh towards it: the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes are really well made, but the 100 minutes in between simply seem so crummy. As I already mentioned, too many tasteless scenes and too much of that little kid. When I was a kid, I thought the movie was OK, but today I just simply don't have the patience for it anymore.