Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★★★

The movie opens with the striking of an exotic gong (specially made to fit with the Paramount logo as the mountain did in the first film), moves to a large open-mouthed dragon with red smoke billowing everywhere ... and from which bursts forth chorus girls and a singer in an elaborate night club act.  It was as if the filmmakers were saying, “Remember the first film?  Well, this one’s gonna be different!” (Of course, being a fan of the music of Cole Porter and especially “Anything Goes,” I thought the production number was a hoot!)
When INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM opened in my city, the theater with the largest screen (being the only one that hadn’t “twinned” or “multi-plexed”) was selected to receive a 70mm print.  The poor theater just couldn’t compete in a multi-screen world and would close shortly after this run.  But, for that Friday night, the large auditorium was filled to capacity in anticipation of enjoying more thrills in the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK vein.
When such an amazing achievement as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK comes along, how could they hope to equal or beat it?  I don’t think that any of the Indiana Jones films that followed the original managed to capture the magic.  Still, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is exciting to watch ... even if the female lead screams A LOT.
Watching today, there were three stylistic differences from the original movie that I noticed:
* The first and foremost was that it abandoned the serialized construction of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.  Instead of plunging the Viewer into a new mini-adventure every 12- to 15-minutes or so, this one had a traditional story structure.  I really loved what Lawrence Kasdan had written in the original.  This one felt more like a super-elaborate Jungle Jim adventure.
* The comedic moments of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK grew out of what was happening.  INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM had more “cute humor” ... something along the line of “Let’s break the tension by saying something funny” or bickering.  It reminded me of the humor inserted in the Universal monster classic, THE MUMMY’S HAND.
* The archeologic treasure wasn’t immediately known to the Viewer.  Even if the specific details weren’t known, it was likely that audiences knew the Ark of the Covenant (or later the Holy Grail) was a big deal.  In this film, the treasure is a Sankara Stone.  That doesn’t have the mythic fascination.
Some of the action sequences didn’t seem to organically grow out of the situation, but were put there to keep the pace lively.  Having said that, the prolonged mine rescue and escape is incredibly thrilling, and the level of excitement remains high right through to the end.  When INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM does something well, the quality really shows through.
A few inconsistencies bothered me:
* The boy in the cage (who prays to be able to die) doesn’t want to given the blood of Kali so that he’ll become a mindless automaton “like them.”  Who is he talking about?  My assumption was the children who were working in the mine.  But, they seem to have their wits about them.  
* When Willie is about to be sacrificed, why doesn’t Mola Ram try to remove her heart as he did with the earlier victim?
* Finally, in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Indy says, “I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus.”  That movie takes place after INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM in which he witnesses a human sacrifice have his heart removed, the wound close up, and the victim live until he is burned alive.  Yes, I may be nit-picking, but I would have thought that would have some influence on his belief in magic!  The writers of this second movie should not have put that in as it contradicts a belief system in the later story.
Harrison Ford delivers another iconic performance as Indiana Jones, and his bantering relationship with Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) is quite enjoyable.  Amrish Puri is quite an effectively menacing villain as Mola Ram ... although like Doctor No in the James Bond film of the same name, he makes his appearance rather late in the movie.
My sympathies are for Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott.  She has the thankless job of following such a well-written character as Marion Ravenwood (played by Karen Allen).  Willie is about as one-dimensional as they come, screaming at the drop of a hat and constantly bemoaning a broken fingernail.  This is the woman who is expected to make Indiana Jones all hot and bothered.  Well, Capshaw has some good moments such as that terrific rendition of “Anything Goes” and the sharing of a memory of her father that explains her harsh attitude.  On the whole, though, the Screenwriters didn’t give her much to do.
I am entertained by INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM.  It is a wonderfully lavish production, there are some terrific scenes ... and who isn’t going to cheer the rescue of children?  For me, it falters solely due to a comparison with the original film in the series.  If it was a stand-alone movie, I’d likely think it was one of the best adventure films ever made.

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