Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) Review

Director: Steven Spielberg

Genre(s): Action, Adventure

Runtime: 118 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the second film in the Indiana Jones series, after Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), is a rampaging roller coaster of excitement that may be too far off-the-deep-end for many viewers. It’s actually a prequel to Raiders, being set in 1935, and features archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) fighting a revival of the Thuggee cult, portrayed here as the Hindu equivalent of a Satanic cult, deep in the jungles of India.

With a creepy, ominous atmosphere, Temple of Doom plays out like a horror picture at times. Exotic and sinister, the tone is pitch-black at times. The movie’s sets are astounding, and the special effects still hold up. John Williams’ musical score is fabulous…truly one of the best of all time. For a film that director Steven Spielberg would later basically disown, he really directed the Hell out of it. The highly cathartic action scenes come extremely close to reaching the heights of the ones in Raiders, with the entire last act (or so) of the movie being one sequence of mayhem after another.

Many criticize the film for Indy’s two sidekicks, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). Willie, who can scream with the best of ’em, is constantly yelling her head off and Short Round is also an incessant source of humor. Yes, the comedy here is the broadest of the original Indiana Jones trilogy, but I think that it works more often than not. Willie’s reactions to the insanity going on around her are indeed loud, but I think that they’re believable.

The motion picture’s primary baddie, Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), is my pick for the best movie villain of all time. The guy’s just pure evil. The hyper-intense human sacrifice scene(s?) involving him is a show-stopper. Sure, Raiders is overall the better flick, but Mola Ram is just something else.

Temple of Doom‘s approach to non-Western cultures is on the “politically incorrect” side, but not genuinely racist, as some have suggested. Due to Indy having the objective of saving a foreign land from unspeakable evil, the film has a unique Wilsonian edge to it that doesn’t really exist in the other Indy pictures. It’s interesting to note that this is one of the movies that inspired the MPAA to introduce the PG-13 rating, because that organization didn’t really feel like its gruesome violence belonged in either the PG or R ratings that were in place at the time (in the end, it was issued the former rating).

All in all, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom contains all the thrills, chills, spills, and kills that one could ask for in a movie. It has a masterful sense of atmosphere and the numerous action scenes are top-of-the-line. It doesn’t top Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that’s certainly not for a lack of trying.

My rating is 10 outta 10.

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