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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

August 30, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Actors: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan

Synopsis: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) stumbles upon the eponymous ‘temple of doom’ when searching for a mysterious stone to free a village.

Review: A desperately disappointing follow-up to the immensely popular and successful Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg’s prequel unwisely spurns most of what made Raiders so enjoyable, for a nonsensical and insipid ‘joyride’. Despite being a knowingly outlandish and disposable form of matinée entertainment, Raiders was at least based in some semblance of ‘reality’: there is a context to the narrative as it switches across four continents accruing characters and a plot, and the era itself with treasure-looting Nazis and toffy-nosed Brits is eminently recognisable. Temple of Doom however shifts the tone well and truly into the escapist and the ill-advisedly ‘exotic’. There is a perplexing lack of respite in the temporal continuity from when Indiana escapes his Chinese enemies at the beginning, to when he chances upon the isolated Himalayan-Indian village that reveals the existence of the eponymous “Temple of Doom”. The shift to a demographic of stereotypically ‘good’ natives (all ‘spiritual’ and victimised) versus the ‘bad’ natives (quasi-Devil worshippers), makes for both an uncomfortable and dramatically disengaging dynamic. It also struck me that Spielberg – perhaps influenced by the presence of producer George Lucas – infantises the film too much. Shifting Indiana Jones from a ‘family’ to ‘children’s’ brand was an inadvisable move with the puerility of the humour plumbing serious depths when Kate Capshaw’s hapless, slapstick damsel-in-distress suffers numerous pratfalls, while the film’s climax of the newly-empowered Village Slave kids has an uncanny similarity to the Ewok segment in Lucas’s Return of the Jedi(May 2008)

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