Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Reviewed by Mike Brannon
Rating: 9 Beans
his movie is probably the most disappointing sequel to date. Raiders of the Lost Ark was a fun, old-fashioned adventure yarn based on the cliffhanger serials of the movie houses of the 30's and 40's. The somewhat campy, exciting adventure in archeology paved the way for contemporary movies like "The Mummy" (1999) and the wildly popular Tomb Raider computer game series.
So Indy dusts off his fedora, furls his whip and flies off to India to recover the fabled Sankara Stones. Early in the movie there is a strangely out-of-place action sequence in Tokyo, where Indy meets up with the two movie's biggest liabilities: a precocious, smart mouthed kid named Short Round and a dimwitted showgirl named Willie (Kate Capshaw).
Why are they liabilities? Well, first, including a cute kid in an action movie is a recipie for disaster. Indy has enough screen presence that he doesn't need a sidekick, especially such a useless, inactive one. It is common knowledge that Steven Spielburg met future wife Capshaw on this set, and I wonder how she ever forgave him for giving her such a weak, sexist role. Capshaw screams, faints and whimpers throughout this entire movie, I mean non-stop. While Short Round does very little to justify his presence in this movie, Willie does even less. She screams, screams, screams, gets kidnapped, gets rescued, screams and then screams some more. I think almost every line in the screenplay having to do with her was... WILLIE: . Her name should be Willies, since everything seems to scare her. She is a far cry from the hard-boiled tough gal Marion (from the first movie) who makes a much more suitable match for Indy. When Willie was being slowly lowered into the lava, I was grateful to Mola Ram: only a few more seconds of her screeching.
Mola Ram is the Thuggee high priest, and the villain of the story. He has very little screen time for a villain of an action movie. His performance is passable, and only about 1/10 of it is in English: the rest is in un-subtitled Hindi. He is the head honcho in the Temple of Doom, a giant mineral mine, worked by kidnapped children, which also doubles as a Temple to Kali. It is there where the Three Sankara Stones are stored, which don't seem to do much besides ignite when the proper incantation is read. The story is basically Indy and his baggage, uh, I mean sidekicks go into the temple and must find a way to steal the stones and free the children, including the Rajah's hypnotized son. Along the way, there are gruesome sacrifices, Indy gets possessed (or brainwashed) there is a wild (and rather unbelievable) mine cart ride and Willie screams.
Oh, and a lot of people get killed. A lot. The happy endings for most supporting characters seem to be getting thrown into lava, having their heart ripped out, getting crushed by a rock grinder (the fate awaiting poor Pete "General Kael" Roach, who was also chopped in the GO-229's propellor in Raiders of the Lost Ark) and getting torn to shreds by crocodiles. This unnecessarily graphic violence also really cheapens the movie, and gives it a very nasty edge, which was absent from the first movie. I mean, for comparison purposes: a jeep full of bloodthirsty Nazi's tumbling off a cliff (cutting away just after they go over) just doesn't seem as mean-spirited as dozens of villianous Thuggees getting ripped apart alive by crocodiles, screaming in agony. Action movie deaths certainly can be spectacular, but we really should save the very gruesome deaths for the heavies. Doing in hundreds of extras in the most excruciating mode possible kind of spoils the fun.
The finale was confusing and very, very unbelievable. The now-infamous rope bridge scene ends with Mola Ram and Indy grappling for the Sankara Stones, which are in a leather bag. Indy starts to chant the incantation, which makes the stones flare up and fall out the bag to the 'crocs below. This distracts Mola Ram enough for Indy to kick him in the store and send him down to his doom. Don't you think only a priest of Kali would be able to make the stones flare, not just an infidel thief?
To be frank, I am amazed there weren't huge protests from Hindu Organizations and Indians in general regarding this movie. The treatment of all Indians in this movie is offensively stereotypical. I also think it was very insensitive of Spielburg to use Kali, a real Hindu God, as the head of a such an evil cult. He should have used a fictional god of some kind.
This would have been much better if Short Round and (especially) Willie were cut from the script and the mean-spirited edge and unnecessarily extreme violence were removed. But still, the exotic setting just doesn't suit this series as well as Europe. (It did make for a fun arcade game by Atari, though!) Fortunately, the series enjoyed a spectacular return to form in "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade", but this series should be disowned by Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones Junior. It's rubbish, and proves Mr. Spielburg himself is apt to make an utterly cheesy movie every now and then.
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