Of all the Indiana Jones movies, I’ve seen Temple of Doom the most. Between a worn-out VHS transcript and watching connected TV, I’ve astir apt seen it 100 times. I cognize each wink, each expression, each inflection of each enactment reading. I emotion it unconditionally and figured, watching it again successful the lead-up to Indy’s 5th and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, I wouldn’t truly find overmuch to speech about. I was wrong.
Brian Baumgartner | First Fandoms
In the weeks ahead, io9 is going to revisit each of the Indiana Jones films conscionable to spot what, if anything, stands retired astir them now, successful 2023, arsenic Dial of Destiny is coming to theaters. Last week it was Raiders of the Lost Ark, wide considered to beryllium 1 of the champion enactment films ever made. Temple of Doom doesn’t clasp that distinction, and it’s casual to spot why. It’s similar a full different genre of movie.
Rewatching Temple of Doom today, you can’t assistance but look astatine it done the model of galore modern franchises. Franchises that instrumentality to the aforesaid look each azygous time, and the prime fewer that don’t. On the surface, Temple of Doom is an Indiana Jones movie. That overmuch is clear. But it’s not astatine each a movie that feels similar its predecessor. From the precise opening of the film, with its Busby Berkeley-inspired opus and dance, done the screwball drama of the archetypal hour, which past takes a hard pivot into astir fearfulness earlier a quality virtually looks astatine you, smiles, and things get backmost to enactment adventure, it’s a beauteous symphony of genre and tone. One wherever each bets are off, each realities are unimportant, and you conscionable bask the ride.
The archetypal hint to the film’s purposeful irreverence is successful that opening philharmonic number. First of all, it’s called “Anything Goes,” which beauteous overmuch says it all. But also, portion things commencement successful the existent nine the country takes spot in—Club Obi-Wan, for you Star Wars fans retired there—when Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) walks into a statue, the movie relocates to an alternate reality. Where are each these leggy blond women dancing? It’s surely not successful a nine successful 1935 Shanghai. But it doesn’t matter; it’s beautifully staged, choreographed, and erstwhile Willie reemerges backmost to the club, manager Steven Spielberg has acceptable you up for excitement.
After not 1 (the club), not 2 (the car chase), but 3 (the level crash) enactment sequences wherever you tin hardly drawback your breath, we yet find retired the communicative of the movie: a small, mediocre Indian colony has had its children taken from it, arsenic good arsenic a stone which residents judge gives beingness to the land. The villagers besides deliberation that Indy (Harrison Ford) was sent to prevention them by their deity, Shiva. Which, connected the 1 hand, seems a small silly. But watching the movie again, I deliberation I present judge the villagers. (Temple of Doom’s portrayal of the villagers and the surrounding assemblage isn’t always, shall we say, culturally sensitive—not wholly astonishing for a movie made 4 decades ago, but thing that mightiness basal retired for a first-time spectator successful 2023.)
Look astatine the evidence. The villagers prayed for idiosyncratic to assistance them. Then, retired of nowhere, a antheral who knows each astir their magic stone falls retired of the entity into their village. Indy’s level could person tally retired of state anywhere. The raft they utilized to get retired could person landed anywhere. The stream the raft was successful could person taken them anywhere. But no, someway the cleanable idiosyncratic to bash the occupation was close wherever helium needed to be. Later, erstwhile the movie shows that magic and otherworldly forces bash exist, that each but seals it. I’ll ne'er ticker Temple of Doom again without believing Shiva did, successful fact, nonstop Indy.
That’s astir arsenic superior things get successful this conception of the movie though. After Indy decides to spell to the palace wherever this is each happening, we’re fixed this incredibly beauteous but besides incredibly silly extended series of Indy, Short Round (future Oscar victor Ke Huy Quan, successful his diagnostic debut), and Willie traveling done the jungle, implicit with chaotic animals, over-the-top screams, gambling, cheating, and each mode of jokes. It feels similar a drama and the drama continues erstwhile they get astatine the palace.
The aboriginal scenes astatine the palace are immoderate of my favourite movie scenes ever. The unforgettable meal series is gross but wildly funny. Indy and Willie’s romanticist flirting is wholly implicit the apical but inactive someway sexy. And, finally, Indy and Short Round’s travel into the caves, with the bugs and the spikes and each that bully stuff, is each handled with a knowing wink. Everything is fun, exciting, and silly.
Then, astatine astir precisely the one-hour people (which is astir apt a coincidence but is inactive interesting), Indy and his friends find the underground Thuggee cult and the movie turns connected a dime. For the adjacent 20 oregon truthful minutes, we’re presented with immoderate of the astir terrifying, disgusting, upsetting imagery imaginable, particularly for a PG movie. A bosom is ripped out, a assemblage goes up successful flames, Indy is flogged and possessed, children are beaten, and radical portion blood. This is not the aforesaid movie wherever a quality screams astatine a elephantine carnal and throws a snake due to the fact that she thinks it’s an elephant trunk. This is acheronian disturbing stuff.
But Spielberg knows this. Short Round escapes, John Williams’ rousing euphony starts playing again, and aft helium gets up the ladder, Short Round looks into the camera and smiles. It’s a comic infinitesimal that benignant of conscionable passed maine by successful erstwhile watches but this time, astatine this moment, I work it differently. I work Short Round’s look astir arsenic Spielberg himself saying “Sorry astir each that, let’s get backmost to the amusive stuff.” Because aft the smile, Temple of Doom gets backmost to business.
Short Round saves Indy, Indy saves Willie, they prevention the kids, a Thuggee atrocious feline is crushed successful a steamroller, past there’s the super-duper awesome (but not astatine each realistic) excavation cart sequence. The movie is backmost to its adventurous first-half tone, culminating successful the gorgeously staged, but inactive comic and scary, span series wherever Indy kills the atrocious feline and saves the day, different idiosyncratic favorite.
Finally, to truly thrust it each of this home, Temple of Doom has 1 of the happiest endings ever. Not lone does Indy win. Not lone bash the atrocious guys lose. Not lone does Indy get the stone. All of the village’s kids instrumentality successful a joyous outpouring of emotion that’s conscionable the cherry connected apical of this wild, unthinkable ride. As Paul Simon said, “the parent and kid reunion is lone a question away.”
The magic of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is however large it swings. It knows we loved Raiders of the Lost Ark but it trusts america to spell connected an escapade that’s adjacent wilder, hitting connected each antithetic notes. Maybe that’s wherefore immoderate radical don’t similar it arsenic much, and wherefore the consequent Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade went backmost to a akin operation and code arsenic the original. But to me, Temple of Doom is the Indiana Jones—both the quality and the movie—that I emotion most.
Want much io9 news? Check retired erstwhile to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s adjacent for the DC Universe connected movie and TV, and everything you request to cognize astir the aboriginal of Doctor Who.