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.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Review

Director: Steven Spielberg

Genre(s): Action, Adventure

Runtime: 115 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

I’m not going to beat around the bush. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie of all time. Is it the “greatest” film of all time? Mmmmmmaybe. However, it’s certainly the one that brings me the most joy. This ultra-pulpy action-adventure flick just puts a big, dumb smile on my face and totally captures my imagination.

Archaeologist Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) is recruited by the U.S. government in 1936 to go on a globe-trotting adventure to obtain the lost Ark of the Covenant, the gold box rumored to contain the original Ten Commandments, before Nazi Germany can. Stop and think about the plot too long and you might find it preposterous. Why is the American government so concerned about this artifact? Why are the Nazis in Egypt, which occupied by the British at the time? All of this being said, these thoughts won’t ruin the film for you, as the movie fully embraces and revels in its pulp origins. The motion picture’s enthusiasm is infectious and it clips along at a breakneck pace, thanks to its razor-sharp editing.

It should be noted that Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first entry into the Indiana Jones series, it not just some cheapo actioner that somehow acquired a cult following, explaining its popularity today. This mega-iconic film has phenomenal production values that makes it look like more than just some rough-and-tumble beat-’em-up. The aforementioned editing makes sure there’s not a wasted second and the genius musical score from John Williams is one of the very best ever composed. To say that the comic relief is effective is a dramatic understatement. I laugh frequently while watching this masterpiece. The film works magnificently as an action-adventure, but also contains strong elements of comedy, drama, romance, suspense, and even horror. There is also some great use of shadows and silhouettes, and the special effects are timeless. An appropriate sense of awe in the supernatural is instilled in the audience.

Of course, one of the primary reasons people watch an action-adventure movie is for the action scenes, and, boy, does Raiders deliver. The choreography, cinematography, editing, sound effects, special effects, daredevil stuntwork, tempo, music, etc. of these sequences are essentially perfect, creating an unforgettable adrenaline rush of an experience. These just may be the most well-rounded action scenes ever committed to film. The occasional Spielbergian time-stretching is only the icing on the cake.

Another key reason people watch action movies is for the hero, and Indiana Jones is simply the coolest fictional character of all time. College professor by day, and badass action hero by night, he’s tough, yet vulnerable, grounded, yet intellectual, competent, yet reliant on luck. Harrison Ford’s performance as this character seems effortless. To accompany him on his journey is Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). Now, I usually don’t like romantic subplots in my action pictures, but I have no problem with Indiana and Marion’s relationship in this flick. They’re partners, they need each other, and both can handle themselves in a tough situation. The romance is natural and unforced.

What good is a fantastic hero if there’s no great villain? Well, Raiders has the entire Nazi Empire for Indiana Jones to take on. RenĂ© Belloq (Paul Freeman) is a sneaky French archaeology with a sense of class who serves as Indy’s rival. Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey) is a ghoulish and sadistic Nazi agent on our heroes’ trails, while Colonel Dietrich (Wolf Kahler) is the Nazi officer in charge of the excavation of the Ark.

From its atmospheric introduction in Peru to its amazing, spine-tingling ending, Raiders of the Lost Ark is cinematic ecstasy. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

My rating is 10 outta 10.