𝗙𝗥𝗢𝗡𝗧 𝗥𝗢𝗪 ℝ𝔼𝕍𝕀𝔼𝕎’s review published on Letterboxd:
The cinematic equivalent of a blinding headache.
The story goes that Lucas was wise enough to see how Raiders was going to blow up, and talked Spielberg into a trilogy before they'd even completed shooting the original - which sounds like a very forward-thinking move when you consider the franchise world that we live in nowadays.
The problem though, was that George didn't really have anything for the next two films and when he presented his idea to Lawrence Kasdan to come in and do his work, Kasdan frankly told him to do one because the story was horrible.
Kasdan was right.
There will be better pieces out there than I could write about the inherent problems with Temple of Doom in regards to it's themes and racism so I won't touch on that too much, instead I'll just focus on what's in front of me - which gets worse every time I watch it, to be honest.
This was new territory for Spielberg. Up to this point, he'd never directed a sequel, most famously rejecting Jaws 2 - a very bold move for a 20-something young director. But he always wanted to push forward, try new things. And some of that spirit is definitely evident in Temple of Doom. No-one is going to accuse Spielberg of serving up the same film as Raiders.
Unfortunately, on every single level, those changes are to the detriment of the sequel.
The opening scene - if you include the whole credit and nightclub sequence - is a microcosm of pretty much everything that is wrong with the film. First, the credits. Raiders has one of the best opening moments in any film, as the quiet dread of the jungle covers this mysterious man in darkness until he steps from the shadows looking for all the world like the biggest movie star on the planet. With Temple of Doom, we get one of the worst musical interludes you're ever likely to see as Kate Capshaw tries to dance literally over the top of the title card.
Never has the presence of someone in the fucking way been so well symbolically transferred to the screen.
And if the dancing is screeching, wait until they give Willie some dialogue:
"Well, I thought archeologists were always funny little men looking for their mommies." ... "Mummies" Indy replies. Well, boom and fucking tish.
"He put two holes in my dress from Paris!" You remember when Karen Allen's Marion just lamped Indy? I miss Marion.
I want to stress, I don't think it's Kate Capshaw's fault. I think she's a perfectly fine actress. But the character of Willie Scott is just appallingly bad.
And less than ten minutes in, the horror show isn't over yet. Indy inexplicably drinks a glass of poison - I get that this is a prequel and maybe he's a little more naive at this point but come on, he is dealing with Chinese gangsters holding a gun on him, it's hardly "bad dates" - and then we get another head-bangingly dull comic routine as Indy scurries across the floor looking for the antidote, whilst Willie looks for her shiny diamond. It's as awful as it sounds.
And oh my god... then we get Short Round. "Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones." ... that's my name kid, don't fucking wear it out.
"Okey dokey" 🤦🏼♂️
Like all sequels, everything is trying to be bigger too. There's another early sequence that involves the trio jumping out of plane via a rubber dingy, falling out of the sky onto a snowy cliff, sliding off about another few thousand feet into water rapids, all whilst Indy manages to somehow cling onto his hat. And hey, all of that is absolutely fine. Because it's Indiana Jones. Do you know what's not fine? Willie is on the boat:
"I hate the water, and I hate being wet, and I hate you!"
I know this is the trait of the character, that she's a rich it-girl who is ill equipped for the wild. But it doesn't mean I have to like her anymore.
I know I sound like I hate this film - and for the most part, I do - but I appreciate a lot of my issues are probably specific to me. A lot of people enjoy the interplay between Willie and Indy and even more people have time for Short Round, but for me it's just an interminable combination of characters, that when you place them in the weird dark tone of the film, just gives me a headache.
I actually appreciate the darkness in general if you can avoid the racism
- which, you shouldn't but you can just chalk it up to being a different era. Some of the set pieces of Indy just exploring the tombs is up there with the best in the series and if they had done away with the annoying side-kicks, it may very well have been the Empire of the series as initially intended.
I think Kasdan is the biggest miss. I can't envisage a world where he has two insufferable characters running around screeching for half of the film. Star Wars has it's share of characters that you have to be a bit careful with that they don't tip over into annoying - but Kasdan once wrote a script in which Han Solo told Leia to switch C-3PO off. I think that's all I need to say.
In the end, it's a huge mis-step for me, that the wider trilogy makes up for. Temple of Doom has its supporters and fair play to anyone who can get beyond what I can't, but I think it says everything that Spielberg went back to what worked in Raiders for the next film and largely forgot about this weird, middle entry.