Raiders of the Lost Ark released back in 1981 had made a big impact on pop culture and cinema as a whole, and it made Indiana Jones a household name. The first and third movies are my favourites of the series by far, while Temple of Doom has always been a little weird to me. Even when I was younger,, there were some parts I really wasn’t sure about despite me liking this movie. Re-watching it again, I feel pretty much feel the same and have a ton of issues, but at the same time there’s a lot of good parts to it.
From the very beginning you can tell that this is a very different movie to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and indeed it is different from the other movies. First of all, it is noticeably darker on many levels. People who know me know that I really like darker movies, however the way things are handled here wasn’t exactly the best. I’m not one to get overreactive over dark this movie should or shouldn’t be, nor would I complain about it probably not suitable for children or anything. At the very least though, the way it seems like the movie is trying to be more reactive and edgy than actually organic for the story when it comes to these darker aspects. Child slavery, pulling hearts out of chests, and even the attempts at gross out elements at certain points with bugs feels like it’s trying way too hard to get a reaction. However the problem is not just that, Temple of Doom is also quite an annoying movie, and it takes quite a lot for me to be annoyed with a movie, especially with an Indiana Jones film. Whether it be Kate Capshaw’s character, some certain silliness with the plot, and the humour, which to be blunt was mostly dumb and annoying. Because of this, this just makes it hard for me to get invested in the movie. However even if you just look at it on a plot level, it just wasn’t very interesting, and honestly it was rather weak. Jones happening to come across this poor village and needing to retrieve a sacred stone to restore things for them, and that’s it. And now the topic I’ve been avoiding for a bit, the racism. I’m not going to go too much into it given that so much has already been said about it, except that there’s quite a lot of it in this movie, and it’s pretty hard to look past it. I will say this about the movie, as it approaches the climax in the third act it does get better and much more entertaining, even with its more annoying and silly aspects.
Harrison Ford has still very much got it when it comes to the role of Indiana Jones, and plays his role very well as to be expected. However it’s worth noting that given all of the movie’s issues (and there are many), Ford manages to carry the movie throughout. Kate Capshaw plays the love interest in Willie Scott. I haven’t really seen Capshaw in anything and I don’t blame her for her performance here, because the character is beyond terrible and annoying on so many levels. Willie screams a lot, has to be rescued a lot, and basically does nothing throughout the movie save for like two times. I get that she’s meant to be in contrast to Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but they really overdid it, and she’s absolutely insufferable from beginning to end. It doesn’t help that she’s basically a tag along, she has absolutely no reason to be there (compared to Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Irina in The Last Crusade), and Indy could’ve even ditched her way earlier in the movie (no idea why he kept her around to begin with). Even Capshaw said found the character to be nothing more than a “dumb screaming blonde and a damsel in distress”. Honestly when I think of the movie she is one of the first things I think of, and that’s not a good thing. There’s also the character of Short Round played by Jonathan Ke Quan, who can honestly be quite annoying at points, but compared to Willie wasn’t so bad (and he actually did some things at points). The villain of the movie is Amrish Puri as Mola Ram, a cult leader basically. He’s alright enough as an antagonist but outside of him being different from the other Indiana Jones villains and him pulling hearts out of peoples’ chests, I don’t think is very memorable.
Despite some very questionable stylistic and directing choices that don’t work all that well, generally the direction by Steven Spielberg is good. On a technical level it is great, from the production design, the costumes, the effects, the way it is shot all of it is done rather well. As I said the 3rd act is where the movie really picks up, and a big part of that is the action. There are some quite effective action sequences, the stunt work is impressive, and there are some effective and tense moments. Indiana Jones has never been known as a realistic series, and when it comes to plausibility it’s as silly as you’d expect it to be. The only bit that really stuck out as being particularly dumb was one of which was a scene early on that involves falling out of a plane. John Williams’s score is great as usual, and has some very memorable themes.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a bit of an odd movie. It has its strong moments for sure, much of the direction from Spielberg is still good, and of course Harrison Ford is great as Indiana Jones. However it had some issues, so many parts of it were really annoying when it came to the plot, characters and humour, the story just didn’t interest me all that much, and of course it had the racism and sexism. With all that said, all of the Indiana Jones movies are certainly worth watching and that extends to Temple of Doom.