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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Starring: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rated: PG
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: May 1984
Genre: Action


*Also starring: Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Dan Aykroyd



Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

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 one-liners.

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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