Indiana Jones &
the Temple of Doom

directed by Steven Spielberg
(Paramount, 1984)

There have been few movie sequels -- certainly nothing between The Empire Strikes Back and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers -- that I have anticipated more than Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom. And, while it was certainly not equal to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones's second appearance on the big screen was a welcome addition to his heroic saga.

Set in 1935, a year before the climactic events of Raiders, Temple shows us an Indy not yet settled into his heroic moral code. In fact, it can be argued that the events of Temple made him the man he needed to be to succeed in his later quests. But while the philosophers debate his psychological growth, it's easy to sit back and enjoy the mayhem that begins in a swanky Shanghai nightclub and moves swiftly to a palace and shadowy catacombs in India.

The Kali-worshipping Thuggee cult is back in action, stealing sacred stones and children with impunity. Indy (Harrison Ford, every bit as impressive the second time around) is hooked by the promise of "fortune and glory" and sets off with his young sidekick, Short Round (Ke Huy Quan, a.k.a. Jonathan Ke Quan), and beautiful but flighty American singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), who unwillingly fell into their company. Soon, they are trading barbs over a grotesque buffet and matching wits with Thuggee priest Mola Ram (Amrish Puri).

Temple is a bit grosser than its predecessor, with severed human fingers, eviscerated hearts, churning insects, slimy eels and monkey brains -- so much so that it helped to inspire the PG-13 movie rating in the States. And it has its annoyances -- a little of a wise-cracking child sidekick like Short Round goes a long way, and Willie's constant whining and screaming gets old pretty fast. (In her defense, however, I'd say that most people would probably react fairly similarly in those situations.)

Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom is the least of the three Indy movies (to date -- hopes are high for a fourth currently in the works). But it's still a rollicking good adventure with enough heart-pounding action and excitement to remind viewers why Indiana Jones is the name to look for first in the genre.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 3 April 2004

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