May 27, 2014 by bck1402
Well, the Temple of Doom.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released in May of 1984, 30 years ago. And I took the opportunity to revisit the flick, sliding the Blu-Ray disc into my PS3. It’s only been a year or so since I last saw it, in black and white no less (turned the colour setting off on the TV), which was quite awesome actually. Once the movie enters the titular temple, the lurid colours – mostly shades of red – gave way to some amazing shadings and deep shadows making the Temple of Doom seem all the more imposing and frightening. The cinematography by Douglas Slocombe, assisted by the lighting used, is nothing short of spectacular.
No such modifications this time around, although simply watching it as it is does bring to mind the noir feel I experienced last time.
Depending on who you talk to, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom is either the worst or the best of the sequels, even if it is a prequel to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. For me, I like that it is a very different movie from Raiders and it does stand head and shoulders above Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade as well as Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. But being a very different kind of adventure in comparison to Raiders is probably why opinions over the movie differ greatly. It came at a time when sequels were often more of the same; taking what worked and repeating it. Crusade is very much similar to Raiders as is Crystal Skull.
Doom may start out like another treasure hunt; Indy gets ‘recruited’ by the villagers to find a sacred stone taken from their village. Then it takes a detour.
For much of the first half, Indiana Jones is out for “fortune and glory” and it gets reinforced several times, making him a very different character from the Indiana Jones in Raiders where he’s after the treasures for their historical value. At the midpoint of Doom, Indy has a moment that changes him from the tomb raider scavenger trading relics for diamonds into the hero we meet in Raiders. There’s even that cool hero shot. That part when Willie says they should get out of the temple, and Indy replies, “Yeah, All of us.” And that leads to the tunnel shot where the slave children are pushing that cart… and that little light comes upon our silhouetted hero, and that look of righteous fury on his face. That determination to do the right thing, to atone for past mistakes – a hell of a shot.
To call the movie a roller coaster ride is an understatement, especially with the tunnel chase scene in the third act. The pacing is frenetic and barely lets up, kicking off with a musical dance number that leads to a fight in a restaurant that leads to a car chase through the streets of old Shanghai and a plane trip that leads to sledding down a snowy mountain in a life raft and then falling into a raging river… and that’s about the first 20 minutes before story proper begins! Once that gets going, it’s basically Indy’s journey into darkness, literally, figuratively and spiritually, and coming out a hero. That darkness is something that turns most people off, and that includes director Steven Spielberg. It is on record that the production of this movie was during a dark period in his own personal life.
And then there’s the intensity of the movie. This is a violent movie with some truly gruesome deaths, from an early start with death by flaming shish-kebab to a hanging by ceiling fan to the alligators at the end and everything else in between (yeh, two significant moments in the middle which I’m not mentioning). All that contributed to the creation of a new movie rating, PG-13. This wasn’t the only movie at the time, but it definitely contributed. The violence itself has led to some judicious editing of the movie over the decades leading up to the initial DVD release. Cuts were made to ensure the release of the movie in selected countries around the world, and there was also a severely slaughtered TV edition of the movie that clocks in just under ninety minutes. My memory of the initial theatrical run is fuzzy at best but even in watching the current ‘official’ edition, I can see a lot of signs of the editing, especially in the second half where all the action and violence takes place. Once it gets going, it’s almost forty minutes of non-stop action and set-pieces.
I’m not really here to analyse the movie. I can think of reasons why some people don’t like it in comparison to the others, but I’m not listing all that out either. I do like all four of the Indiana Jones movies and, of course, Raiders is a classic and the best of the lot. I just think that The Temple of Doom is a close second compared to the others as well as the TV series. I love the story, I like that it’s different and it’s got an amazing score by John Williams with two fantastic themes in addition to Raider’s March. “The Slave Children’s Crusade” and this-
In any case, I’m just rambling in celebration of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.
One last bit, Ain’t It Cool News did a series of articles in celebration of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, looking into the history and the legacy of the movie. They’re great articles to check out
Let’s sign off with the End Credits.