Special Agent Cooper’s review published on Letterboxd:
Kali maaaaaa... Kali maaaaaaaaaa!
Certainly the most bizarre entry in the beloved franchise, Temple of Doom is such a mixed bag experience for me. There's a bit more good than bad, to be sure, but it's definitely a solid couple notches behind entries 1 and 3, for me. Every time I revisit this movie, I hope to like it a little more, but I generally stay in the lukewarm range. I LOVE Raiders and Crusade, but I always struggle to get by certain things here.
- Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones. As long as Ford is Jones, and he is the focus of the story, it will be watchable.
- Spielberg's usual strong sense of spectacle and directorial approach. The visuals and plot settings involved are a feast for the eyes. This movie succeeds in being larger than life and fun as an adventure. While Spielberg isn't all the way into the very top tier of my favorite directors list, I've always had a ton of respect for his approach to making movies. I think he has a 100% distinct, yet familiar, feel for the magic and adventure of what can make cinema more fun than the real world.
- The early diamond exchange scene with Jones and Lao Che is excellent. The acting is strong, the tension is good and the script plays out nicely. There's even what MUST be an alien seated at the table, disguised as a Chinese man. I wish the rest of the movie felt more like this.
- Maybe a hot take here, but I actually appreciate Short Round. I think some view him as the Jar Jar Binks of the franchise, but his mindless yelling of garbled attempts at English and general sense of enthusiasm actually kind of enhance this spectacle adventure. Then again, maybe I'm just letting my love for the Goonies influence my opinion here, as he is basically just playing the precursor to Data, but without a collection of wild gadgets here. Instead, he's a Yankees fan. Gross.
- I appreciate how dark this gets, at times. Or at least, I should say, I appreciate the attempt this makes at getting dark. There's an iconic scene with the villain Mola Ram that could ALMOST rival the iconic scene towards the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It does straddle a weird line of camp that prevents it from becoming fully disturbing.
- The mine cart scene is a lot of fun. It's probably my favorite sequence besides the early scene described above.
- This is the big one and probably worth about 1.5 to 2 points on a 10 point scale. Kate Capshaw is TERRIBLE. Her character, one of the worst in any major budget movie I've seen, really puts me off on a constant basis. The acting is bad. The lines are bad. The character is bad. The romance is bad. The constant yelling/whining is really bad.
Anything to do with Kate Capshaw here is bad. Completely worthless addition. This movie didn't necessarily need another female companion as charming, cool, admirable and generally excellent as Karen Allen, but this 180-degree swing in quality was noticeable and jarring.
- Parts of the second act drag a little bit, at least by Indiana Jones standards.
- The story is so, so stupid. There's a level of camp and what I call "silly magic" in all of the Indiana Jones movies. I usually find it fun and an enhancement to the large scale fantasy adventures. I'd extend that to some scenes here too, but it's often just a step too far to take seriously in Temple. The ritual stuff is mostly cheesy. The tribal villager stuff seems lazy and insulting. Lil Maharajah and his stupid dubbed angelic voice are both extremely silly. The film mostly isn't meant to be comedic, so the tone of some of the campy stuff doesn't always hit straight on for me. That said, at least it usually moves along well except for a couple stretches in the second act, and avoids long stretches of boredom. That's Spielberg's guiding hand and Ford's charisma holding things together, basically.
Most love this film more than me, and that's perfectly okay. I have some issues with it, but my overall love for the Indiana Jones franchise and the Spielberg/Ford combo always afford me just enough affection to return to this movie every few years or so. My rating: 3 out of 5 // 6 out of 10 "INDYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY"s. -KF