Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★★★★

It’s amusing how the first half of this film is Spielberg at his most playful, then the second half becomes about as dark as anything he’s ever done. I saw this in theaters when I was 7 and it severely fucked me up. But its horrifically operatic Grand Guignol sensibilities undeniably appealed to young me. Forever imprinting and skewing my tastes toward the baroque and the grotesque. This has always been my favorite entry in the series. 

It’s got one of Williams’ more bombastic and energetically varied scores. The lighting is fucking insanely atmospheric and the Douglas Slocombe cinematography puts the indifferently lensed crap of most movies today to shame. The practical sets on this are some of the best ever captured on film and Spielberg is clearly having the time of his life, regardless the chastened hangover he likes to refer to the whole experience now as. This is straight up one of the most ambitious films of the 80’s and the last 40 minutes are about as action packed and legendarily iconic as adventure film making gets. 

As much as I love the bald Nazi Pat Roach fight in Raiders, I prefer the bearded Thuggee Pat Roach fight in this. Ford is such a tremendous physical actor and he never had a better onscreen sparring partner than that 6 foot 5 behemoth of a brawler. Ford’s comically exaggerated inhalation after Roach heart punches him against the mine cart is better than most actors entire filmographies. 

Bottom line is, Harry Ford is a god among men and in the best shape of his career here. No other actor has so credibly combined ruggedly handsome, everyman masculinity with self effacing humor and irascible charm the way he does. There isn’t a single leading man working today who could pull off what Ford has as this character. And no other human male has ever looked as badass and dead sexy as he does on that bridge before cutting the ropes. 

And I’m just gonna say it. I love Capshaw in this. She’s a terrific foil for Ford. She’s gorgeous and vivacious and funny as hell. Plus, her much derided scream is actually an indispensable aspect to this film’s sound design. No better exemplified than by that moment they jump the mine cart and all other sound drops out save for her histrionic shriek. 

I don’t want to (further) devolve into a mewling fanboy breathlessly describing every single sequence that makes this such a favorite of mine. So, suffice to say, Mola Ram ripping that guy’s heart out and holding it aloft when it burst into flame as its previous owner immolated in a swirling pool of lava changed my life. That might have been the precise theater going moment that made me the way I am today. More than Return of The Jedi or Ghostbusters or Gremlins or any other of the formative films from that era I was in attendance for when they initially bowed. Which, I believe says more about me than the movies I listed. This movie did nothing more than confirm the hard wiring inside me and I still love it with my whole unmolested and unburned heart today.

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