“Temple of Doom” brings back Harrison Ford as rough and tumble archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones, along with Director Steven Spielberg and Executive Producer George Lucas. The screenplay is by Willard Huyck and Gloria katz from a story by Lucas.
The story opens in 1935 Shanghai (Yes, this is technically a prequel to Raiders”). This time Indy is teamed with a nightclub singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and a young Chinese orphan named Short Round (Ke Huy Quan). The group winds up in a small village in India. The residents of the village believe they have been terrorized by evil that has taken all of their children and a sacred stone. Indy & co. discover a hidden temple occupied by an evil cult which has forced the village children into slavery, digging for the other sacred stones, which they believe will give them the power to rule the world. Simple, right?
“Temple of Doom” is the anti-“Raiders”. The first film was an enjoyable, fun adventure, but this one is mostly dark, joyless, and at times downright off-putting. It almost seems like Spielberg and Lucas were more interested in one-upping the snake scene and finale of “Raiders” with their new wide variety of gross-outs. The film is also shockingly brutal: Children are whipped mercilessly, still-beating hearts are ripped out, people are burned alive, and that’s all within a 10 minute period! Another problem is that there is almost no let up. After a somewhat slow period between the characters’ arrival in India and the discovery of the Thugee Cult the film kicks into overdrive and becomes one action scene after another, after another (and so on….)
The story is on the weak side, and the characters, with the exception of Jones, are as thin as paper, but it’s not all bad. The opening of the film in China is a lot of fun, and the heroes escape from the Temple of Doom (mine carts AND old wooden bridges!) is too, but the film’s midsection is unpleasant and may be a chore for some to get through.
I realize this review contains more negativity than positivity, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like “Temple of Doom”. It certainly has it’s moments, and it’s admirable that Spielberg and Lucas decided to go in a totally different direction, rather than make the safe choice and just clone “Raiders”. On it’s own merits, it’s a decent action film: nothing more, nothing less. Just try not to think of how silly it all is. Oh, and see if you can spot Dan Aykroyd in a small cameo.
Useless Fact: This movie, along with “Gremlins” are the reason why the PG-13 rating was created.
Running Time: 1 Hr. 58 Mins.
Academy Award Winner (1): Best Visual Effects
Academy Award Nomination (1): Best Original Score