Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)


On the run from Shanghai mobsters, archaeologist Indiana Jones, young pal Short Round and nightclub singer Willie Scott end up in India, where a new maharaja has kidnapped the local children…

Seen before? Loads.

Best performance: Harrison Ford again.

Best scene/moment/sequence: After much consideration, I’m plumping for what was always my favourite bit as a kid – the sensational roller-coaster-style mine-cart sequence. The model work and back-projection may have dated perhaps, but it’s still thrilling stuff. And it’s helped tremendously by an absence of incidental music – as great as John Williams’s score is, it’s been continuous for a long time when we get to the mine chase, so when it drops out it raises the tension brilliantly. Other moments I considered for this category: the opening musical number in the club (with its surreal Busby Berkeley interlude); the madcap, full-of-gags fight that follows, with both Indy and Willie desperately trying to find things in the melee; Willie’s “No one’s flying the plane!”; Short Round’s “You call him Dr Jones, doll!”; Indy, Willie and Short Round jumping out of the plane in a dingy; Willie getting hysterical with fear in the jungle as Indy and Short Round nonchalantly play cards; the macabre dinner scene (“Snake surprise!”), which again has Willie freaking out hilariously while Indy takes it in his stride; the creepy-crawly-infested catacombs; the sacrifice scene (terrifying when I was a child, still scary now); Indy being turned by the bad guys, then winking to Short Round to let him know it’s an act; Indy, Willie and Short Round freeing the slaves; and of course the famous rope-bridge stunt.

Review: Another terrifically enjoyable adventure movie. The action scenes – and there are a lot of them – are constantly inventive and always character-specific. The interplay between the three leads is simply fantastic. And yet… As wonderful as it is, there’s something that means Temple of Doom is just a little bit less extraordinary than Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m not sure why this is. Is it the lack of a charismatic villain? Is it the weak, wet, irritatingly old-fashioned Willie Scott (who, to give her her due, is often very funny)? The fact there are no Nazis? No Marcus and Sallah? The way we stumble into the story rather than having a specific quest? Spielberg himself has said he thinks it was too dark – which might be true in part, but is balanced by lots and lots of comedy. I’m talking blemishes, though. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this again. By any standard, it’s one of the highlights of the genre.

Nine chilled monkey brains out of 10.


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