Although initially seen as a step down from the brilliance of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the truth is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is still a film worth watching, and even if you rank it lower than the first and third films of the series, it will ALWAYS be better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Not 100% perfect, and with some criticisms levelled at it actually justified, the film, for the most part, is VERY enjoyable, and the first three Indiana Jones movies are always worth watching together, but just so we’re clear, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will NOT be on the Movie Bucket List.
Taking its cue from Lucas’ other trilogy by having a darker middle instalment, Temple of Doom is one of two movies, the other being the Spielberg produced Gremlins, which is responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating, brought about due to concerns about the level of violence within them.
Whilst Raiders had a horrific moment where faces melted and heads exploded, Temple of Doom not only has some pretty squeamish inducing violence, but has a more relentlessly dark tone and atmosphere when our intrepid archaeologist and friends discover the Temple in question. Hearts are ripped out from chests, hapless extras burned to death, our hero whipped to submission and kids are used as slave labour.
There were accusations of racism which is easy to see why but I don’t think the film is intending to be. Whilst the film does lack a villain as memorable as Belloq (which isn’t helped by Mola Ram not appearing until halfway) and Willy Scott is nowhere near as feisty or fun as Marion Ravenwood, not helped by Kate Capshaw constantly screaming throughout, but the good stuff here is worth it and the film has imagination and an intense nature that truly makes it worth watching and the one entry in the series to stand out from all the rest.
Ford is brilliant, the musical number that opens the film is fantastic, the action is memorable and thrillingly staged, there’s a Dan Aykroyd cameo, Short Round is a great companion for our hero, and the mine cart chase (originally suggested for Raiders) is FANTASTIC and one of the best set pieces in the entire series.
The humour is funny, the one liners land well, the stunts are brilliantly preposterous also, and whilst the darker tone does come a shock, and features our hero turning bad for about five minutes (hitting Short Round is always a shock), the darker direction works well and whilst Spielberg himself and many involved behind the scenes cite it as their least favourite, it still comes across as a masterpiece compared to the fourth entry (which to reiterate, will NOT be entry number 18 in the Movie Bucket List).
A touch flawed but Temple of Doom has too much good stuff in it to just dismiss out of hand and when it’s good, it’s REALLY good. Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.
COMING SOON: “I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.”