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Thursday, May 10, 2012



"Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory."
-- Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a 1984 action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg that serves as the second installment in the Indiana Jones franchise. Although the film was released after Raiders of the Lost Ark, it actually serves as a chronological prequel to the original Indy adventure. After narrowly escaping a nightclub battle in Shanghai followed by a crash landing in the Himalayas, Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) finds himself stranded in India with his young partner Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) and nightclub performer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw). They soon find themselves in a small Indian village that has become barren and destitute. Indy learns that the village has lost a sacred stone that kept life amongst the people and their crops and livestock. As Indy listens to the village leader's story, he learns that a group of people known as the Thuggee may have risen from the ashes and has come to inhabit Pankot Palace. These people worship an evil god called Kali-ma, and if they can find all five of the sacred stones, they will be able to unleash Kali-ma's wrath upon the world. Spurred by the thought of profiting from finding the stones, Indy takes Shorty and Willie to Pankot, where the three become more and more entangled in the dark and evil plot.

When one thinks of Temple of Doom, they usually think about how it's often considered the darkest of the Indiana Jones saga. While the first film managed to maintain a seeming lightheartedness throughout its run-time, Temple of Doom never shies away from the fact that we're being taken to a much darker place on this particular adventure. It takes a little while for us to reach the evil that will encircle our heroes, but once we reach it, it's an almost steady stream of pain and suffering.

The film's screenplay works on a couple different levels. It starts out in a seemingly similar fashion as the first film, giving us a little bit of a prelude to the action of the film's main story. This time, however, this little situation leads directly into the rest of the film's storyline, and in a way, the film's prologue sends Indy and his friends on their journey. From there, we get our adventure, but there's a very different feel to this one's storyline. While Raiders presented a screenplay that blended the drama, action and comedy together, Temple of Doom offers a story that presents each of those elements in a more choppy manner. In one scene, we'll be getting a bit of drama; in another, it'll be straight comedy; and in yet another scene, we'll be getting our action sequences, which are just as good - if not better - than those in Raiders. On occasion, the film offers scenes that intertwine drama and comedy well, but for the most part, we're only getting one or the other, and I think that hurts the film a little bit. There was one scene that I thought worked particularly well with combining drama and comedy, in that it keeps things lighthearted while still managing to further the storyline. Here's that clip, for your viewing pleasure:

That being said, when Temple of Doom manages to delve into its darkness, you can be sure that you'll be going as deep into the depths as you can possibly imagine. Although the movie manages to remain fun, we definitely have a bit of an emotional ride to take to reach the film's finale. Another difference between this film and Raiders is that we don't meet our central villain until halfway through the flick. In the first Indy film, we meet our villain at the outset, and we're able to form our feelings against him right away. Here, we have to wait it out, but the screenplay manages to create such a vile human being in Mola Ram that we almost instantly have to root against him. In this, I think Temple of Doom is just as effective as Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Part of the reason we're getting such a disparity between the different genres in the film is the cast the filmmakers chose for the film. We're getting our same Indy as in Raiders, as Harrison Ford isn't necessarily bringing anything terribly different to the table. Aside from what the screenplay calls for, it's the same man we grew to know and love in the franchise's first installment. The biggest changes are the additions of Ke Quan and Capshaw, who both provide a strong level of comic relief. As Indy's partner and romantic interest respectively, there's plenty of opportunity for each of them to shine opposite Ford, and they definitely take advantage of those moments. This film served as Jonathan Ke Quan's first film role, and he definitely stepped up to the challenge of appearing alongside such a big-time star as Harrison Ford. Also worth mention is Amrish Puri, who brings life to the villainous Mola Ram. With a significant lack of screen-time, Puri manages to create a character that's so terrible that, as I previously said, we instantly hate. That takes quite a bit of work, if I must say so myself. All in all, the cast works well.

At the end of the day, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom still manages to be quite the exciting adventure, and it fits well with the rest of the Indy franchise. Yes, it delves into some darker themes here and there, but at its base, it still manages to follow the very distinct Indiana Jones format. If anything, I think there's more emotion to this film than any of the other films in the franchise, and that says quite a bit for this one's accolades. Does it measure up to Raiders of the Lost Ark? Not quite, but it's pretty darn close.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A
Should You Watch It? Yes

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