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Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom - Review

Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

Synopsis: It’s 1935 and after being ambushed in a Shanghai nightclub while trying to close a deal with a Chinese gangster, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) escapes with nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) in a car driven by a young boy called Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan).

Their escape is cut short, however, when they inadvertently board a cargo plane owned by the gangster and find themselves forced to make a mid-air evacuation using only an inflatable emergency raft. After crashing into the Himalayan mountains, they arrive at a desolate Indian village and are promptly enlisted by its villagers to retrieve the sacred Sankara Stone and rescue the communities’ kidnapped children from the nearby Pankot Palace.

Once there, they uncover an underground temple where an evil cult – the Thugee – has enslaved the children to dig for the two remaining Sankara stones. The cult’s villainous leader Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) hopes to use the power of the five united stones to rule the world and performs gruesome human sacrifices to appease the goddess Kali. It’s up to Indy, Willie and Short Round to save the day…

Our verdict: The weakest in the original Indiana Jones trilogy, The Temple of Doom nevertheless boasts some grandstanding moments: not least the opening chase sequence, which culminates in our heroes audaciously leaping from a plane on a yellow inflatable raft, as well as the underground chase in the mining cars.

There’s also a memorable dinner feast at the Pankot Palace to negoatiate, during which such culinary ‘treats’ as snake and monkey brains are served up, and the rope bridge sequence that finds Indy forced to resort to desperate measures in order to escape Mola Ram’s troops.

The main problem with The Temple of Doom, however, was its tone. The film was extremely dark (even by sequel standards) and outrageously violent, particularly in its harrowing depiction of human sacrifice (how it escaped with a PG remains a mystery).

Indeed, the whole sequence in the underground temple took the franchise into a far more serious and unwanted direction and it came as a breath of fresh air once Indiana Jones escaped and the chase elements kicked back in.

The special effects, too, look far more dated than those employed in the original and haven’t helped the film to retain the same sense of timeless appeal.

That said, Harrison Ford was once again a charismatic presence in the lead and his banter with the cute/annoying Willie Scott (Capshaw) produced some typicaly fun moments (such as during an overnight camping jaunt that yields yet another snake, or during a rescue sequence populated by more creepy-crawlies as Indy and co make their way to the underground temple).

Amrish Puri’s villain was also scary enough to give younger children nightmares, even though he lacked the same flesh and blood characterisation as Paul Freeman’s Belloq in the original.

For all its faults, however, Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom contained enough thrilling moments to outweight the dull ones and was successful and enjoyable enough to pave the way for its vastly improved third installment.

Lucas, Spielberg and company clearly learned from their mistakes.

Read our review of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade