Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) Director: Steven Spielberg


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a complete tonal shift from Raiders of the Lost Ark (George Lucas blames this on a somewhat nasty divorce he was ensconced in at the time). Lawrence Kasdan, the great writer who crafted the scripts for The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, refused to participate in this Indiana Jones sequel because he felt it was wrong for the character and even mean-spirited to the audience. The whole film reeks of anger, bitterness, and the macabre. When it is not overly slapstick and silly, The Temple of Doom is extremely dark, brutal, and gory. In fact, its many scenes of shocking violence helped to inspire the PG-13 MPAA rating after many parents and reviewers complained. The PG-13 rating was then initiated at Spielberg’s request.

The Temple of Doom is a prequel of sorts, it takes place about one year prior to the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The film opens with Indy donning a white tuxedo a la James Bond at a club in Shanghai as he narrowly and comically escapes an assassination attempt via an airplane. However, he is soon double-crossed by the pilots as they depart in parachutes and the plane crashes over the Himalayas. He ends up in a remote Indian village and is set on a quest to locate a sacred stone which leads him to an Indian palace where he is forced to eat bizarre food (like eyeballs and monkey brains) –but the real shocking bit comes when he discovers a hidden temple beneath the palace where a blood-drinking, child-enslaving cult is preparing for a human sacrifice by using black magic and ripping a still-beating heart out of a victim’s sternum. Somehow, Indy escapes in a mine-cart chase sequence which leads to a battle on a rope-swinging bridge. In the end, he retrieves a stone and saves all the orphaned child slaves.

Unlike the classic cinematic allusions made in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in Temple of Doom we find all manner of exotic racial/ethnic stereotypes blatantly splashed across the screen, as well as a preponderance of mostly annoying characters (especially Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott, though she later became Spielberg’s wife). Even Spielberg himself has mostly discarded this film, and with good reason. The Temple of Doom is widely regarded as the worst of the Indiana Jones original trilogy, though I will admit it surely was an unexpected risk. This was long regarded as the worst Indiana Jones film prior to the release of the pathetic reboot, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008.

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