Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★★½

The first sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark is brilliant in parts yet deeply and undeniably problematic at the same time. Much of this stems from the weak script written by husband-and-wife team Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, who subsequently plunged even further into the creative red with the notorious turkeys Best Defense and Howard the Duck (both also directed by Huyck).

One of the main issues is that, whereas the original took some steps to overturn the sexist and racist cliches endemic to traditional "boy's own" adventure stories, this one wholeheartedly embraces them. It is positively littered with derogatory ethnic stereotypes - especially the Indian characters who are either portrayed as helpless peasants desperately searching for a White Saviour, or bloodthirsty cultists who perform human sacrifices and enslave children. Oh, and all of them eat gross food ranging from big bugs to monkey brains. The original featured Karen Allen as a plucky tomboy love interest who could hold her own in perilous situations. This one features Kate Capshaw as a high-maintenance, tantrum-prone horror who screams out loud at the slightest excuse.

However, not everything bad here can be blamed on the writers; Spielberg should shoulder some of the weight for the inconsistencies in pacing and tone. This is particularly true of the film's midsection which takes a prolonged dive into overly dark territory. Raiders had some scary and gruesome moments, sure, but they were always fleeting and did nothing more than add a bit of edginess to the rollicking sense of fun. This one practically turns into sadistic torture porn for at least 20 minutes, complete with a human heart being ripped from a chest and children getting whipped by guards.

On the other side of the coin, when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom concentrates on delivering the big barnstorming setpieces, it's as much of a ride as the original was. This is particularly true of the first 15 minutes (which kick off with a glittery Old Hollywood musical pastiche and end with a thrilling car chase through Shanghai's streets) and the final 30 (featuring the classic mine cart sequence and the spectacular finale on a precarious rope bridge). Harrison Ford is still on point as the titular hero and it all looks superb from start to finish - making full use of those colourful Asian settings.

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