Starring; Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan
Director: Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 118 mins
Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom is an American film and the second in the Indiana Jones series. After crash landing in India, Indiana Jones is asked by mountain villagers to retrieve a sacred stone stolen from them by the brutal Thuggee cult.
This has nothing on the near-perfect Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but as far as sequels go, The Temple Of Doom is still one of the best. Taking Indiana Jones into unprecedented territory with an incredibly dark story, this is a surprisingly intense film, full of genuinely frightening moments and a generally unsettling atmosphere. However, the fact that it’s such an action-packed and fast-paced movie balances out the darkness, and in the end, it’s still a riotously entertaining watch.
But before we get into the bulk of this film, I want to quickly talk about the first half hour. Much like Raiders Of The Lost Ark, before we get into any big action, there’s some establishing to be done, but in The Temple Of Doom, it’s done in a rather strange way, so the opening act just isn’t that great.
And the main reason for that is down to the writing. Lawrence Kasdan, who penned the screenplay for Raiders, didn’t return for Temple Of Doom, and you can see the difference he makes in the quieter parts of the film. For one, it doesn’t move at a particularly fast pace, and the journey to the ultimate goal does drag on a little. However, one of the biggest issues is with the character of Willie.
Yes, she’s different to Marion, and that’s something that we have to praise, but what they came up with instead wasn’t all that great. The love-hate relationship that Indy and Marion had last time out was so convincing and simultaneously entertaining, yet the fact that Willie always acts like such an idiot meant that I never bought the love side of her relationship with Indiana Jones. Sure, she’s annoying, but when it comes to the positive stuff, it just wasn’t convincing, and that had an impact on my enjoyment of the first act.
However, once you get into The Temple of Doom, this film turns into a completely different animal. The most striking thing at first is just how dark and violent so much of the film is. Yes, Raiders had violence, and it was gritty at points, but that’s nothing compared to this. Some parts of the film looking at the brutal cult leaders are genuinely terrifying (I have no idea how I watched this as a kid), whilst the violence is really graphic, which all comes together to make a really unsettling and dark atmosphere.
That’s not to say that it’s unwatchable, it’s just the fact that, going into an Indiana Jones movie, you’re really not prepared for the seriously dark depths that this film goes to, especially after what is a pretty goofy opening act, and, although the effect and strength of the atmosphere is hugely impressive, the dark atmosphere makes this feel like it’s a completely different genre and series to the other more light-hearted movies.
The one thing that really deserves massive praise in Temple Of Doom, however, is its action. Over the course of the last hour, it’s a completely non-stop thrill ride that moves at breakneck pace and almost never lets you breathe. That does have its downsides, and by the end, the action does get a little ridiculous, but the fact that there are so many brilliantly directed action sequences keeps you entertained in what would have otherwise been an insanely dark story.
Finally, huge credit also has to go to John Williams’ score, which matches the dark atmosphere of the film and yet manages to keep it light enough to enjoy, as well as the stunning production design. This, more so than any other Indiana Jones movie, has some of the most visually amazing sets, and it really helps to engross you in the adventure of it all.
Overall, The Temple Of Doom is without doubt an exciting film. Its non-stop action makes it hugely entertaining, but its incredibly strong darkness also creates a hypnotically uneasy atmosphere that, although at times really scary, is something we’ve never seen from Indiana Jones, and that’s why I’ll give this an 8.2.