Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

indiana jones and the temple of doom poster 1984 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Still a strong action/adventure movie, plays with serials genres

A lot of bad stereotypes that fit the story but could offend

Movie Info

Movie Name: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Studio: Lucasfilm

Genre(s): Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): May 24, 1984

MPAA Rating: PG

indiana jones and the temple of doom short round harrison ford jonathan ke quan

Short-Round, I love you like the son I’ll never see again

A failed attempt to claim a diamond in Shanghai lands Jones, a lounge singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), and Indiana’s adopted sidekick Short-Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) in the wilds India.  Indiana discovers a village ravaged by an evil Thuggee Cult which not only has taken the village’s sacred stones, but all the children of the village.  Vowing to help the people restore their home, Indiana, Willie, and Short-Round travel to Pankot Palace where something even more sinister could lurk.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is an adventure film follow-up to Raiders of the Lost Ark from 1981 (though technically a prequel to the first film).  The movie received much less favorable reviews and the violence of the film along with Gremlins led to the creation of PG-13.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for Best Original Score.

indiana jones and the temple of doom snake surprise willie kate capshaw

What’s the surprise?

I love Raiders of the Lost Ark and saw it in the theater, but I never saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in theater.  I remember desperately wanting to see the film but never being taken to see it.  While many people were critical of this film and higher praise of the sequel, I actually think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is my second favorite film of the series.

With the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas set out to emulate an old fashion serial where the hero constantly finds himself in life-or-death situations and manages to narrowly escape.  Here, the serial theme continues with the classic (though racist) concept of the great white hero swooping into the mystical land and becoming a savior.  It is often how heroes were portrayed in these type of serials from Tarzan to Flash Gordon…the outsider saves the poor people.  It is racist in its core, but it fits themes of Indiana Jones and the goals of the film.  It is partially this innate racism that caused the film to struggle.

indiana jones and the temple of doom burning heart

I get it! The Temple of Doom is kind of like going to Benihana!

The cast has more weaknesses in this outing however.  Harrison Ford still is good as the leading hero Indiana Jones, but his back-up isn’t as strong.  Though I am not a big Kate Capshaw fan, her Willie is annoying, but once again, she fits into the themes of the serial.  While Karen Allen was the brassy Marion, Willie is the damsel in distress style of heroine.  Another big theme is often a kid sidekick or a foreign sidekick and both is found in Short Round played by Jonathan Ke Quan who also manages to appeal to kids.  Amrish Puri was quite scary as Mola Ram, but I always thought Ronald Lacey was a creepier villain in the original film.

indiana jones and the temple of doom mine cart chase

Who didn’t want to go on a crazy mine cart ride after this movie?

Visually, the movie is good, but not quite up to the level of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The story calls for a lot of choma-key moments (like the minecar and raft scene), but they haven’t held up as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark which didn’t have to rely on this.  The horror in the movie also fits in with the theme of the serial, but I can understand why parents might object (but I still argue that the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark was up among the most terrifying things I saw as a kid).

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom might quality wise be an inferior movie to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but I feel it is more fun while it carrying the themes of the first movie better.  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade feels like a panicky backtrack by the filmmakers to recapture the magic of the first Raiders of the Lost Ark after the criticisms of Temple of DoomIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was followed by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989.

Related Links:

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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