Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom may have some impressive features but it’s nowhere near as classic as Raiders or the Last Crusade.
Listen, I don’t like to pan films. I really don’t. However, this film doesn’t quite feature the same magic as Raiders. It’s actually a prequel to Raiders and the Nazis are not the villains like the other two 1980s films. I mean, this is also the same film that forced the MPAA to issue a PG-13 rating. This is my least favorite film of the franchise. A lot of this has to do with how dark the film is in tone.
With an 11-year old sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) at his side, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) manages to leave Shanghai with nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw). However, their plane is sabotaged and they barely make it out alive! This is where we get to my least favorite part of the film: the Thuggee cult. This is the part that drags the film down. Could anything else have taken us towards a climax? Yes. However, history is history and we can’t change it. Once Indy comes to, we eventually get one of the film’s best set pieces: the minecart chase.
Scott’s role comes off as that of a damsel in distress. It’s starkly different to that of both Marion Ravenwood and Elsa Schneider. This isn’t to take away anything from Capshaw’s performance. She does what she can with the material. It’s just that the material in this case just isn’t as strong as the first, third, and fourth films.
There’s no winning here. The film’s dark tone has also has something in common with The Empire Strikes Back. Both films, if you note, are middle films of a trilogy. Lawrence Kasdan was certainly smart to not take part in the prequel. Could he have improved the film? Probably. In any event, it’s a film that contains a cult devoted to child slavery, black magic, and human sacrifice. Hardly anything enjoyable if you know what I mean.
One of the things that I do like about the film is John Williams’ score. No matter the film, the maestro always delivers his greatness. This film is no disappointment in that regard. Williams earned himself another Oscar nomination even though he lost.
We have no choice but to accept Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for what it is.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
SCREENWRITERS: Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz
CAST: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, and introducing Ke Huy Quan