'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' (1984)/Directed by Steven Spielberg/Grade: B+
Everyone's famous archaeologist travels to India for his second globetrotting adventure.
Now, this one has divided audiences and critics ever since its initial release, and for understandable reasoning. For one, its violence, which, combined with the Spielberg-produced Gremlins (1984), prompted the creation of the PG-13 rating. Secondly, its darker tone, which makes it stand out from the rest of the more light-hearted, jovial series. That being said, after revisiting it today, I still very much enjoy this installment.
The positives: Harrison Ford is, as usual, fantastic in the title role. Everything you came to love about Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is once again displayed here.
Ke Huy Quan is also a delight as his sidekick, Short Round.
Elliot Scott's production design is easily the best this franchise has given us. From the Indian village where our main plot line is given to us, to the Temple of Doom itself, he injects just the right amount of detail to make each locale either idyllic and beautiful, desolate and tragic, or downright frightening.
As for the aforementioned dark tone, I really like that this movie goes for that kind of atmosphere. This is mainly because, like in a Don Bluth picture, the gloomy storyline makes it feel more gratifying when Indy and his cohorts save the day.
I also love the action sequences in this, which are some of the best in the franchise. My favorite has always been a mine car chase, where the gang tries to outrun the Thuggee cult. The effects, the editing by Michael Kahn, John Williams' pulse-racing music (which, his score is fantastic all throughout); they all add up to a prime example of action filmmaking at its finest.
The negatives: Willy Scott. She is a totally useless, unfunny, often annoying damsel-in-distress character. This character is given nothing to do except whine, scream, and does not contribute to the action at all, unlike Marion Ravenwood in the first film.
Second, as much as I appreciate the darker tone personally, I would not at all recommend this for young children. Age 11 would be a more appropriate time to show this to a kid. The imagery in this film can be quite gruesome and disturbing at times.
Third, is the 'White Savior' trope. Enough has been said about this cliche over the years, regarding movies from Avatar (2009) to Dances with Wolves (1990). Is there really any more to say about it, beyond, let's stop having the white main character saving another race of people?
I also do not find the MacGuffin of this movie compelling. The Shankara Stones are not very interesting to look at, the lore behind them is just as dull, and so I didn't care about the villain Mola Ram's plans to take over the world with them. I cared much more about The Ark of the Covenant, The Holy Grail, and The Crystal Skull of Akator than I did this.
Overall, this is a fun, albeit heavily flawed, followup to Raiders. That's about as simple as it gets. If you haven't seen it in awhile, check it out again, and give me your thoughts on Temple of Doom.