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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
|*Also starring: ||Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Dan Aykroyd||
Review by Jerry Saravia
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Sequels come and go but how many prequels have their been? A prequel is
basically a story that takes place before the events of the original film.
Spielberg's masterful "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was set in the year 1936.
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" takes place in 1935, one year before the
events of "Raiders." Not that it matters because this entry retains the flavor,
if not the subtlety, of the original. "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"
remains the most exhausting action film ever made, building on one clever
surprise and predicament after another and never letting up for one second.
"Raiders" had momentum and moments where the audience could breathe. Spielberg
goes so over-the-top that it seems we are watching a manic cartoon on overdrive
where we can hardly brake for a single breath.
The film begins with an explosive opening sequence set in Shanghai that
practically outdoes "Raiders" famous opening. We see Indiana dressed in a
tuxedo, entering a ritzy nightclub where he meets some nefarious Chinese
gangsters. Before you know it, Indiana is poisoned, seeking a vial with the
antidote, while evading bullets, a Chinese gong, dancers performing "Anything
Goes," balloons, rickshaws, and so on. It is a tense, almost spooky action
sequence in that the intensity level is so high that you feel you are in a
roller coaster that never ends. That is the spirit of the movie. Anyways,
Indiana leaves Shanghai almost unscathed from harm with a floozy singer in tow,
Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), and a smart-mouthed Chinese kid named Short Round
(Ke Huy Quan) who wears a Yankees hat. They travel by plane until they discover
there are no pilots! Then we are in another tense sequence where Indiana tries
to fly the plane but fails, gets an inflatable raft (!) and off we go! Before
you can say "whew," our weary
travelers are in India. It turns out that a small village is suffering thanks to
the loss of some precious, magical stones. Of course, Indiana has to travel to a
palace where the stones supposedly reside and bring them back to the village.
But isn't he a professor and shouldn't he be heading back to America?
Inside the palace, it is discovered that a secret, ancient ritual is performed
where hearts are ripped out from unlucky villagers yet they still manage to
breathe! Yes, it is a gross moment among many. "Indiana Jones and the Temple of
Doom" has been criticized for its heavy, graphic violence and intense action
scenes. It was so intense that it led to the creation of the PG-13 rating (that
summer saw the mean "Gremlins" which also helped to create such a rating). The
film piles on the gross gags including the eating of monkey brains, oozing
liquids and other disgusting creatures in every single crevice of the
underground palace, whippings galore, beatings aplenty, abuse and some
occasional blood and gore. Some of it is layed on so thick that Spielberg feels
he may as well give it all - what the heck, audiences will eat up anything for a
sequel or a prequel. Some gags go a long way and others do shock, particularly
the infamous heart-ripping scene.
Still, "Temple of Doom" is about doom, not "the temple of roses," as Spielberg
once said. For thrilling action and incomparable fright, nobody can do it better
than the Spielman. We have a room of collapsing walls with spikes, cavernous
hideaways, mine cars, waterfalls, planes, collapsing rope bridges, chains,
leather, whips, and so on. And our hero even repeats the old marksman versus the
swordsman joke only this time, there is no gun!
Ford plays it straight as usual, and is more muscular than before (thanks to
Body by Jake in the credits). Kate Capshaw remains a bore in the film, far too
whiny and insipid to inspire much sympathy. Still, she has a few bravura
moments, especially the "five minute" scene where she waits for Indiana to make
love to her. She has some pizazz and comedic energy but hardly enough, and is no
comparison to the feisty Karen Allen in the original. Ke Huy Quan is also a bit
of a whiner but also has his inspired moments (like the Buster Keaton gag of
climbing onto a mine car by using someone else's body) and a few good
The dastardly villain is Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), the leader of a Thuggee cult
who is determined to find the lost Sankara stones in the mines. He is
cartoonishly evil, lacking some of the depth and personality of the Nazi
villains from "Raiders" yet he is a formidable opponent for Indy. At one point,
after hearing of Mola Ram's plans to rule the world, Indiana exclaims, "What a
vivid imagination." Indeed. Nice bit of trivia: Mola Ram was also a villain in
the excellent "Gunga Din."
Possibly the darkest film Spielberg has ever made, "Indiana Jones and the Temple
of Doom" hardly has the sunny disposition of "Raiders" but it is a fierce,
unrelenting often humorous action film that often parodies itself and "Raiders."
Its action scenes are so grim and of such a roller-coaster-ride mentality that
it gives new meaning to the word "breathless."
Copyright © 2001 Jerry Saravia
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