"Of all the arts, movies are the most powerful aid to empathy, and good ones make us better people."
-- Roger Ebert, The Great Movies

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

  • Title:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Director:  Steven Spielburg
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  Adventure, Action
  • Cast:  Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC
Indiana Jones and the Temple of  Doom is important to cinema history because it's the film that introduced the PG-13 rating to American movies.  Or rather, the controversy did (the film carries a PG rating).  "Temple of Doom" was criticized for it's dark plot and violence, though admirers of  "Raiders" and "Last Crusade" also criticized it for sticking Indy with a screaming, whiny girl and a kid.  And for such a dark film, having a child in it as Indy's "companion" seems a poor choice.  The film also lacks Indy's friends -- Sallah and Marcus -- who add to the feel of  the films.

Temple of  Doom is set in 1935, or three years prior to "Raiders".  It opens in Shanghai with a 1930s-style musical number led by Willie (Kate Capshaw) singing "Anything Goes".  Indiana is tougher, meaner, and more world-weary than in "Raiders", even though the film is set earlier --  he's in Shanghai  to sell back to a gangster his ancestor's remains (ashes) probably stolen from an archaeological dig, museum, or grave site.  This Indy sees giving such an artifact to a museum as a waste of  time and resources.  But he's also willing to take the lounge singer, Willie, captive to get his payment (a large diamond) from Lo Chi.  He briefly gets the payment, but is poisoned.  Chaos ensues as Jones tries to get the antidote that's been dropped on the floor of  the ballroom as people stampede all over, while Willie tries to get the diamond.  They finally escape out a window and into Indy's car driven by Short Round, the stereotypical too smart, to cute kid.

Another friend of  Indy's get's him a flight out of  the country, but it's a Lo Chi cargo plane.  Just shy of  some mountains, the pilot and co-pilot dump the fuel and escape in parachutes.  With no parachutes, Jones, Short Round, and Willie escape in a life raft, ski down a slope, and end-up white water rafting.  It's one of  the best sequences in the movie.

The river takes them to India -- and the plot gets dark, and at times gross.  Indy is taken to a town, which is dying, the people starving and the children taken.  Indy is talked into going to the palace of  the local Maharajah to look for the stone and the children.  After the most disgusting dinner scene ever (snakes stuffed with more live snakes or eel; bugs; monkey brains served in the skull, eyeball soup.  I mean EEEWWW!)  Jones discovers a Thuggee cult in residence.  He also, eventually discovers the missing children are being forced to work as miners in a mine under the palace.

Indy's about to right all this, when he's captured, drugged with blood, and his mind is taken over.  He becomes a member of the Thuggee cult, and helps load Willie into a basket to be sacrificed by burning alive in a pit.  He even hits Short Round in the face, knocking him down.  But Short Round also burns Indy with a torch, waking him out of his stupor, and they escape with all three of  the Charah stones, including the one for the village.  However, in leaving they have two obstacles -- a mine car race (which, unfortunately, looks like a video game) and crossing a narrow bridge over a huge chasm, with crocidles in the river below.  Indy, Willie, and Short Round are making it -- when the cult shows up and there's a fight on the bridge.  Indy loses two of the three stones, but also defeats the cult, killing it's high priest and another Thuggee.

However, Indy frees the kids and brings them back to the village.  The village water supply is also back (it had been possibly diverted to the mining operation), and Indy returns their sacred rock.

Still, overall the movie is dark -- child labor, a cult that practices human sacrifice, the Thuggee high priest tearing a still beating heart out of a man's chest -- it's frightening and horrifying.  But the most disturbing is Indy himself  falling under the spell of  the cult and doing things he normally wouldn't do -- like locking Willie in the sacrifice basket or hitting a child.

But the film also suffers from not having the spirit of high adventure that "Raiders of  the Lost Ark" has.  It suffers from not having Indy's friends Sallah and Marcus in the film.  Willie and Short Round are very annoying companions for Indy -- especially Willie who whines and complains and screams an awful lot, and just doesn't have the fire that Karen Allen had.

Recommendation:  Indiana Jones is only available in multi-film sets, so it's worth at least watching
Rating:  3 out of  5
Next Film:  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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