Waiching Liu’s review published on Letterboxd:
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was one of my favourites growing up and it is kind of up there with The Last Crusade. Although this is not a huge favourite with the crowd in general, I felt the intriguing characters, but for the female lone character, Willie, and darker tone really upped this movie and the darker, harder feel galvanised the story. It was a bit of a tall order for Steven Spielberg to come up with a follow-up that would do the Indiana Jones franchise a whole lot of good, in the same way, its predecessor, Raiders of the Lost Ark made tidal waves at the box office.
Certainly, the tone and direction that Spielberg and George Lucas had opted here was not what most fans and viewers had expected and had in mind: whereas Raiders was lighter, a tad breezy and upbeat, Temple of Doom, in contrast, was darker, eerie and went a little deeper that it in a way resembled part of a horror movie. It is a film that is so divisive, but at the same time, it still retains some of the qualities that we tend to associate the Indiana Jones movies with: the sense of adventure, exploration, defeating the bad guys, getting hold of the lost treasure.
Yet in the hands of a different director, the Temple of Doom saga would have turned out less favourably & it would have been far less memorable.
The opening of this film was such a surprise, I swear I must have missed it because I have no recollection of it, as I watched this before, but this was a long time ago on TV. It was like a Broadway musical number with Kate Capshaw's Willie spot bursting into song whilst in Shanghai in 1935. Both Indie and Willie escape by jumping out of a plane, and joined by Asian kiddo, Short Round, the trio finds themselves in India where children are being chained and held captive as slaves & working in mines. They also have to find the sacred stones.
Willie is the dumb Blonde-type of character, as well as Indie's love interest, however, I just felt that connection and chemistry with Indiana and Willie, just didn't register with me as much as it should have and they spent more time bickering, arguing with each other with Indie ticking Willie off & Willie going into one of her tantrums. She also spent most of the movie screaming her head off, which was irritating & have her rescued by Indie. That, and she wasn't much use to the team & she didn't bring anything of worth. If Willie operated as a comic relief, as opposed to a whining, dumb blonde and was a little bit more like Shortie, I do think more people will take to her. Therefore, I do think it is a bit of a shame that as the film has only one female character, they had to make her futile and worthless and more of a joke.
Whereas Shortie was far from annoying for me anyway: he was a good asset to the team and he is a bit of a badass kid, also without being cocky. He also switches from speaking and communicating in English to Chinese Cantonese. I actually like Shortie a little more than Willie, although both characters are not that well written, to be honest. This film should be really titled: Shortround and The Temple of Doom because it is he, who is the real star & hero of this movie.
The voodoo doll thing was neat and the heart pulling/stealing scene was a little difficult for some people to stomach, although the film didn't go as far and extreme, given the PG-13 rating. With blood-drinking zombie slaves, child slavery, voodooism, these are not themes one tends to associate with a movie aimed at family audiences and the younger demographic. & yet in Indiana Jones, its films have always been about adventure, excitement, endangerment and thrills galore.
The other characters besides Shorty, Dr Jones are mostly forgettable and not worth knowing about. The main villain isn't particularly noteworthy and the pacing is a little bit slow, meaning it takes a while for the film to find its feet.
The Temple of Doom received such a mauling with Spielberg denouncing the film, insisting that he wasn't happy with how it turned out, 5 years after it was released. Watching it today, I can see where the faults lie and compared to the complaints he made with Hook, the complaints and issues he had with this movie was something I was in unison with. He made this clear in 1989, so much so, it was the first movie to receive a PG-13 rating in the US. The violence here was high enough to warrant a PG, but it wasn't as extreme to gain an R.
The Temple of Doom isn't wholly amazing and excellent, but it looks great in terms of its cinematography, costumes & set design. The minecart scene was quite something as well. Yet there is something about this film that is missing. Some things work, some things don't, and here, it all adds up to an Indiana Jones movie which should have been way better.
But it is Shortround whose antics partially and arguably save this movie, in my eyes at least, and make it watchable.
I know that this is one of Steven Speilberg's least favourite films that he has directed, alongside Hook, but just like Hook, this was good fun in parts.
At the same time, however, Temple of Doom, unlike Hook, for me personally, just doesn't have much charm and as much heart, and rewatching it today, it just doesn't resonate with me as much as it did all those years ago. & Kate Capshaw's character brought this film down. But that's not to say I loathe it and some of the stunt work was good.
The Temple of Doom is another of those least appreciated movies coming from one of the most prestigious directors of all-time. Yet it's a shame the story doesn't hold up as well and at times, it felt like it was trying to do some things, which wasn't necessary anyway, but they did it and it did come off looking a little bit iffy.
It has its highs, it also has its lows, but the highs, just - and just about edge it & outweighs the lows. Even if they are a few of them and so in all, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom still does it for me.