Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★★★

"Are you trying to develop and sense of humor or am I going deaf?"

Revels in its peril to an almost comical degree. To imagine how shocking this may've been for young Raiders fans in 1984 is hilarious. Takes audiences from a stupendously-staged opening musical number-turned-brawl akin to the buoyant chaos of Spielberg’s own 1941 and plunges them headlong into one harrowing set piece after another, pitting our beloved hero and his charming co-leads against dark magic cultists, grisly ritual sacrifice, the torture and evil possession by blood potion of said beloved hero, and more than a few dizzyingly deadly heights. Frankly, the film rock, and I say that as someone who barely enjoyed it until six months ago.

Now, is it occasionally insensitive? Certainly, especially with its dated complexes and stereotypes, each of which cloud our trios introduction to India as well as their arrival at the mysterious Pankot Palace (that dinner scene being the most troublesome despite cast attempts to dispel its sour notion since). Regardless of an overall limited screen time, these unfortunate factors are enough to steer away many viewers entirely, and understandably so. But to meet Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on its own outlandish terms for nearly every other moment, beginning to end (still mindful of those missteps), is to be among the company of a tremendous blockbuster, one whose comparatively severe aesthetic and tonal departures appreciatively stand apart within the series. The quality of the craftsmanship here—from the lively direction, Slocombe’s vivid cinematography, and the always sharp editing of Michael Kahn to that ever-iconic score, the jaw-dropping effects, and some impressive production design elements—often nears the sheer brilliance of either Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. And in spite of its brief tactlessness, this incredible filmmaking would be all for nothing if it weren’t for William Huyck and Gloria Katz’s screenplay (story credit to George Lucas) which strings together the laughs, thrills, horror, and heart at the center of this macabre rollercoaster.

"Mola Ram! Prepare to meet Kali… in hell!"

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