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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
1984 - PG - Mins.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producer: Robert Watts
Starring: Harrison Ford, Jonathan Ke Quan, Kate Capshaw, Dan Aykroyd
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" isn't a *bad* film, contrary to popular belief. In fact, as an adventure movie it is quite good. But considering the fact that it is a sequel to one of the most beloved of all films--"Raiders of the Lost Ark"--and very dark and over-the-top in comparison, it fails on the level of subconscious expectation. You can go into this film pushing away all conscious thoughts, but if you have seen the original, the fact is that it will still influence your final analysis of the movie.

If it were a singular film released to the public, it would be especially good. But as an in-between sequel to two terrific films, it's a weak link, and it almost makes the chain snap in two.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) returns to the screen along with a new sidekick, Shortround (Jonathan Ke Quan), and a new babe, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a famous singer who is dragged along with Indy to India, where a small tribe asks Indiana to venture to a nearby palace and rescue their kidnapped children from a Thuggee cult, along with a sacred stone that was stolen from them. Indiana takes on the quest, much to the chagrin of the whining Willie Scott.

Upon arriving at an Indian palace, Indy soon finds a secret entrance behind the palace that leads to a large temple (hence the title), where human sacrifices are offered to false gods and a children slave ring happens to be taking place. And so Indiana Jones takes it upon himself to rescue the children and locate the sacred stone stolen from the tribe who sent him on his way.

The main problem with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is that it strays from all elements that made the first film so great. Gone are the serial-adventures; new are the childish humor and over-exaggerated stunts. Steven Spielberg is no doubt a great director, but I have noticed that he tends to be easily persuaded to either tone down certain elements of a film or, in many cases, make his sequels very cartoony. George Lucas was the main inspiration for "Temple of Doom"--going through a divorce at the time, he wanted something very dark--but Spielberg should have known better than to trust Lucas, who though is credited for helping the series, on many occasions almost ruined it. (You should have heard his original ideas for "Raiders" and his idea of a haunted mansion for the third film in the trilogy.)

As "The Lost World" was very much over-the-top and exaggerated in comparison to "Jurassic Park," and as "Return of the Jedi" resorted to those little Eewoks that annoyed the heck out of everyone instead of being as serious as "Star Wars," and as "Back to the Future Part III" (Spielberg produced) was less edgy than its predecessors, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is the weakest of the Indiana Jones trilogy. Its problem is that it is too dark, too over the top and too dumb at times.

But that's pointing out the film's flaws. It has some good points--one, it does keep you entertained. Two, some scenes are pretty funny (Indiana is confronted by two swordsmen and reaches for his gun, just as he did in the first film; only this time, he doesn't have a gun. Nice reference to the first film.)

But the bad outweighs the good in this movie. Kate Capshaw, Spielberg's future wife, is extremely annoying and whiny as the main heroine; Karen Allen seemed to fit the role perfectly in "Raiders." Capshaw is the heroine in distress in this film. Problem is, all she does is scream throughout the entire movie. During a car chase, Indy passes her his gun, and she proceeds to throw it out the window. "Where's the gun?" he asks. "I broke a nail!" she yells. Funny, perhaps, if it hasn't been done in almost any movie involving a helpless heroine. It makes you pine for a stronger heroine such as Karen Allen.

Perhaps the most infamous thing about "The Temple of Doom" is that it was responsible, along with 1984's "Gremlins," for establishing the PG-13 rating (which later got slapped unfairly on the third film, which isn't nearly as violent or dark as "Temple of Doom.) "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" returned to the serial adventure routes of the original film, and it only upped the fun by introducing some of Indiana's background and his father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery). It is undoubtedly a better sequel than "Temple of Doom."

Despite its many flaws, however, "Temple of Doom" accomplishes what Spielberg and Lucas set out to do--introduce a darker side to Indiana Jones. The only remaining question is this: Did we want a darker side?

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" may be a disappointment to fans of the series, but for a family adventure movie, you could definitely go worse.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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