Thursday 14 February 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Unless the new one disappoints in ways that I don't think anyone really expects, this will always be labelled 'the worst Indiana Jones movie', which is really unfair because it wouldn't have been as bad had been a standalone movie. Sure, Kate Capshaw really can't sing in Cantonese and the opening scene of dialogue seems a little too close to Han Solo in the cantina for comfort, but the whole thing isn't that bad. After all the club is named Club Obi Wan, so I wonder how much was really deliberate. There are certainly other rip off/tribute scenes if you watch for them too. And if you want comparison's, the film isn't just better than The Phantom Menace, it's better than The Revenge of the Sith. That's not to say it's particularly great though.

If you really analyse it, Raiders of the Lost Ark was pretty far fetched, but it doesn't seem that way while you're watching it. It feels real and urgent and damn fine. This first sequel (really a prequel because we're set a year earlier) doesn't play like that at all. It plays like George Lucas decided to throw in everything he possibly could, even though it all fits somewhere between vaguely unlikely and stunningly unbelievable, and Steven Spielberg let him. That really isn't one of Spielberg's better moves, for sure, making the result fun but notably inconsequential.

It plays far closer to the adventure serial roots of the series than the others in the series in that there's just too much of everything. There isn't a night sky without a shooting star, there isn't a ride without a crash and there isn't a joke without six punchlines. Talk about labouring the point! Oh, and Short Round so completely should have been the Jar Jar Binks character of the series but he rocked and I thought young Jonathan Ke Quan was awesome. That role falls to Kate Capshaw, who is admittedly deliberately annoying but that's still annoying.

Anyway, we start in Shanghai in 1935 but soon finds his way to India, where Indiana Jones, in the company of his young assistant Short Round and a nightclub singer called Willie Scott, saves a village whose children have been stolen by the forces of evil along with a sacred stone that provides life to their fields. They run into a resurgence of the thuggee cult and seemingly no end of gross out moments, from necklaces of fingers to eyeball soup to corridors filled with bugs.

Indy is of course once again played impeccably by Harrison Ford, who didn't need to stamp any more authority on the role but did so anyway. There are scenes here that only he could play. Surely Capshaw screams more than she speaks, but it worked for Spielberg as he promptly married her. There's also able support from people like Roy Chiao, Roshan Seth and Amrish Puri, people you won't know by name but you would by sight. Puri looks like a demented Mel Gibson crossed with Boris Karloff. Interesting when viewed in the middle of the trilogy but not much else.

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