Blockbuster Movie Month: "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" Review

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The second installment in the Indiana Jones franchise and the prequel to 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark, this 1984 action-adventure film is set in India, where a desperate village begs Indiana (Harrison Ford) to find a mystical stone. He agrees, stumbling upon a Kali-worshipping cult practicing child slavery, black magic, and ritual human sacrifice. Kate Capshaw co-stars as Jones' sidekick and love interest, while her future husband, Steven Spielberg, directs a screenplay based on a story by George Lucas.
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Rating: PG
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: May 23, 1984
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Action / Adventure

"Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom" is the second installment of the "Indiana Jones" film franchise. This installment serves as the prequel to the first installment, "Raiders of the Lost Ark." "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" follows Indiana Jones as he tries to track down a set of stolen stones and save an entire village. Along the way, Jones encounters fierce warriors, black magic and a crime boss intent on killing him.

Plot Summary

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is set in the Himalayas in 1935, when Indiana Jones narrowly escapes an attack from Lao Che, a Shanghai crime boss. Jones, an 11-year-old boy named Shorty and nightclub singer Wilhelmina Scott, commandeer a plane to leave Shanghai. However, they are unaware that the plane is owned by Che. Soon after takeoff, the pilots are directed by Che to abandon the plane and cause it to crash and kill Jones. However, Jones, Shorty and Wilhelmina narrowly avoid death by riding on a raft down a fast-moving river.

A short time later, the trio arrive at a village called Pankot Palace. The villagers ask Jones for help recovering a stolen stone that they claim protects the village from harm. That night, Jones, Wilhelmina and Shorty stay the night in the village. Jones uncovers a series of hidden tunnels disguised by a statue. Unable to resist an adventure, Jones decides to explore where the tunnels lead to. 

The end of the tunnel ultimately leads to an underground temple where Thuggee worshipers have enslaved children from Pankot Palace and practice black magic. Jones soon learns that the worshippers are in possession of three of the five Sankara stones that offer protection and good fortune to whoever possesses them.

After Jones makes a daring attempt to capture the stones, he, Wilhelmina and Shorty are tied up and held hostage by Thuggee warriors. However, Shortly is able to escape and frees Jones and Wilhelmina. This allows Jones to cause a distraction, allowing him to take the stones and escape with Wilhelmina and Shorty. Soon after though, the Thuggee warriors catch up with the trio on a rope bridge where the two groups face off.

Cast

Harrison Ford reprises his role as Indiana Jones in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." By the second film in the franchise, Ford has perfected his portrayal of the archeology professor who often finds himself on perilous journeys to find hidden treasure. Ford's performance is solid from start to finish, and he strikes a great balance between rugged adventurer and knowledgeable professor.

Kate Capshaw plays Wilhelmina, the former Shanghai nightclub dancer. Although Capshaw does her best to make her character appealing, Wilhelmina is simply a damsel in distress throughout the entire movie. Her character is in stark contrast to Ford's female counterpart in the first installment—Marion Ravenwood—who saved Jones nearly as often as he saved her in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

The main cast is rounded out by Jonathan Ke Quan who plays Shorty. This young actor is able to keep up with the veteran actors he teams up with and ultimately creates a very memorable character.

Film Analysis

The best aspect of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is the non-stop action. Jones' life is in jeopardy numerous times throughout the film and he is threatened by an array of interesting and sometimes unexpected villains. Even during the brief stop in Jones' travels when he spends the night at Pankot Palace, an unknown assailant tries to kill him. The consistent plot twists and constant presence of danger enhances the plot and keeps the audience guessing what will happen next.

The transition from Shanghai to Pankot Palace to the underground temple provides a great backdrop to the plot. Whether Jones and his sidekicks are commandeering a plane in Shanghai, rafting down a perilous river or exploring tunnels full of traps, the backdrop appears to be real and full of potential threats. From the costume design to the props, the film has a dated quality that fits in well with the time period the film is set in.

The only downside to the plot is that Jones' trip to Shanghai and his relationship with Shorty and Wilhelmina are not completely explained. In the first few scenes, the trio comes off as slightly out of place traveling with one another. However, as the film develops, so does the relationship between the characters.

Aside from the plot, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" features flawless special effects. For example, the scenes where the characters are chased in an underground mine were filmed using a combination of scale models and stop motion. Sounds captured from Disneyland Park in Anaheim were added to create the sound of the rolling carts and Wilhelmina's constant screams. This attention to detail is just one example of the quality of the entire film. Not surprisingly, the film won an Academy Award for best special effects.
 
Overall, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" lays the groundwork for the third installment of the "Indiana Jones" film franchise. The film also explains some of Jones' past and connects with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to put several events in context.

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" has all of the elements of a great action movie. There is non-stop action, thrilling fight scenes and numerous villains. The film also features a great cast, unique characters and stunning visual effects. Ultimately, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is just as enjoyable to watch as "Raiders of the Lost Ark."