Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★★½

The second cinematic outing for Indiana Jones, actually set a few years before the events of the first movie, starts off in glorious fashion. It’s a big song and dance number that then segues nicely into a deal being made by Dr. Jones and some people who don’t want to pay what he’s asking for. Jones grabs the beautiful singer, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), and eventually escapes a perilous situation, but the baddies remain in hot pursuit. And it’s at about this point that Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom shows its hand. It creates a fantastic set-piece, and then adds some more to it, and then more, and more, until it all becomes a bit too much. Too much excitement becomes, paradoxically, boring. It’s not as bloated and off the mark as 1941, but you can tell that it’s the same director in the hot seat.

When the main plot starts up it involves sacred stones, an evil cult and stolen children who are forced into slave labour. Indiana Jones is the man that people hope will save the day, Short Round (Jonatahan Ke Quan) is his sidekick, and Willie Scott is one major pain in the backside. Amrish Puri plays the dastardly cult leader, Mola Ram, and the squeamish may not want to watch whenever he is about to deal with a human sacrifice.

Darker and more uneven than any other Indiana Jones movie (yes, I said ANY other Indiana Jones movie, to date), there’s still a lot to enjoy in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. The main man himself (played with effortless charm by Harrison Ford, of course) is a great character to spend some time with, and Short Round is a great sidekick. There’s also an extended action sequence in the third act that’s easily up there with the best in the series, and kudos to Spielberg and co. for ensuring that each movie has at least one such highlight.

Capshaw may almost ruin the movie at times, but she has moments in which she does well, and by the time the big finale is unfolding she’s bearable. Almost. It’s not her fault though, to be fair, as the script seems to have been written with little thought for her character besides notes that said: “WILLIE SHRIEKS.” Well, that’s certainly the impression given by the final result.

Veering wildly between moments that are too juvenile and moments that are just a bit too dark, this is a movie that many people seem to struggle to stick with. This allows it to be easily dismissed, before being given another chance some years down the line. Does it deserve another chance? Yes, I think it does. Considering the highlights – a queasy dinner scene, the malevolent villain played by Puri, that brilliant minecart chase – this is still a great slice of entertainment that only seems worse than it is when compared to the other instalments in the series. Oh, it has a number of flaws, with the main ones already mentioned here, but if this wasn’t the movie that followed Raiders Of The Lost Ark then I think it may have received a slightly better reception. Maybe.

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