Spielberg: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

The year was 1984 and I was as excited as you can be to see the Raiders of the Lost Ark sequel Temple of Doom. Having loved the original the level of expectation was immense as I once again expected the riotous combination of comedy and action. Exiting the cinema I was as happy as could be having loved Indy and Short Round’s adventure in India fighting the dreaded Kali Thuggee. Twenty seven years on and it’s time to re-visit the Temple of Doom and see if it has indeed stood the test of time.

The film opens with an action sequence set in 1935 making it a prequel to the original as Indy attempts to trade the remains of a former Emperor for a massive diamond. Needless to say things don’t go according to plan as Indy having to save his own life after being poisoned has to flee with the showgirl Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) at his side.  Having to then jump out of a plane with nothing but a dingy Indy, sidekick Short Round and Willie wind up in Northern India where they discover the theft of the Sivalinga Stone, has left the village of Mayapore dying.

 The quest begins as the group travel to Pankot Palace to discover what has happened to the stones and what evil cult is behind these acts. After moving through the secret passages we finally see the cult in full action doing the usual stuff such as sacrificing young virgins by pulling out their hearts. Indy is naturally not going to stand for such behavior and when Willie is for the chop he steams into action with the ever dependable Short Round.  Several fights and chase sequences (in mining carts) later and we finally get to the faceoff between the Jones and the evil Mola Ram. Naturally good will out and the stone is returned and with it comes the food and prosperity the villagers had taken away from them.

 Sadly the passage of time has not been as kind to Temple of Doom as it has to the timeless Raiders of the Lost Ark. The biggest problem comes in the shape of the outstandingly awful and annoying Kate Capshaw (Mrs Spielberg) as Willie Scott.  Replacing the ultra kick ass Karen Allen we are now stuck with this whining blonde idiot complaining about everything and everyone. When evil possessed Indy is about to kill her I was shouting at the screen for someone to kill Short Round before he could turn Indy back to the light. Not happy with one new companion the makers have also felt the need to stick in a wise cracking orphan who Indy has for some reason decided to adopt.  Short Round is a little less annoying that Willie but his inclusion is another poor decision as his lack of any actual character development becomes tiresome very quickly.

The decision to set the film in Northern India makes for a far different backdrop than that of the original. The deserts of Egypt in Raiders were reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia whereas Temple of Doom looks like some poor relation to John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King. Once the troupe arrives at the palace we are back into boring interiors until we finally end up in the subterranean hell of the Kali cult. The all-mighty chase sequence on the mining carts now looks like another Lucas video game to be cash-in to say the least.

The film was originally censored for violence with the heart removal scene being signaled out for complaints by parents of upset children. This actually does stand up with the actual scene being quite fantastic in terms of youth horror, as the gleeful  Mola Ram happily removing young maidens hearts whilst they are still alive and kicking.

Ultimately Temple of Doom is a poor relation to the original and far superior Raiders. According to the production history many different scripts were submitted and rejected for a variety of reasons and it shows. The concept is weak compared to its predecessor and the characters involved in the storyline are close to unbearable. Anyone who can sit through two hours of Kate Capshaw shouting Indy at the top of her voice over and over again is a better person than me.

Aled Jones

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