Starring: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 1 hr 58 min
Well this sounded like an Indiana Jones film. I saw the Fedora, jacket and bullwhip. But everything else that Raiders set up has almost completely been thrown away in this awful film. Right from the opening song and dance routine, it’s clear Spielberg and co wanted to try something different with The Temple of Doom. The problem is I don’t think they were very successful at all.
A lot of strange choices were made during the making of this film. For a start, it’s a prequel. According to the Wikipedia page on this movie, that was done because they didn’t want Nazi’s to be the bad guys again. Which doesn’t make much sense, because the villains they eventually did choose were not really specific to a time (this story is set only one year before Raiders). Indiana’s prequel adventure could just as easily have taken place after the events of the first film. There were some strange casting choices too. First with Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott, who I guess was there to be the classic damsel in distress? We hardly get to know anything about her before she’s dragged along for comic relief. Most of the time though she just screams and complains, and it isn’t long before you’re wishing she’d step on an ancient booby trap, and leave the story in some gruesome life ending manner!
However, Kate Capshaw’s performance isn’t the problem. It’s just the choice of character, and after the wonderful Karen Allen – an independent, intelligent woman who can handle herself – Willie Scott the spoiled lounge singer is a massive step down. Then we have Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). A young boy Dr Jones sort of adopted after he caught the kid trying to steal something. At least we get to know the little guy better, but again, his purpose in this story is a little unclear. Other than to provide some comic relief along with Willie.
Those attempts at comedy sometimes hit their mark, but sit weirdly against the darker elements in the film. The Temple of Doom is pretty nasty to kids! They’re drugged, whipped, and forced into slave labor. Even a drugged up Indiana Jones gives Short Round the back of his hand at one point. This leads me to Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) himself. In Raiders, he’s a college professor and student of archeology that occasionally flies around the world and gets into adventures. In the prequel, he’s all adventurer, looking for fame and glory. In this film he’s not sent to solve a problem, he just happens to stumble on it after a deal with a crime boss called Lao Che goes wrong. Indiana Jones in this film is almost unrecognizable, and Harrison Ford’s occasionally lazy performance doesn’t help matters.
The only saving grace in The Temple of Doom is the action. From the roller coaster ride through the mine, to the finale on the bridge. The action at least is still fun to watch. The increased use of visual effects though has hurt the film over time. On the blu-ray copy I watched, the visual effects looked badly dated.
This movie is very different from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both in character and tone. Don’t go into this expecting more of the same, because you’ll be disappointed. Try to keep your expectations low. I know it sounds crazy, but it is possible for even Steven Spielberg to make a bad film.
There are a few moments that would benefit from a large theater screen. For the most part though I think you’d enjoy this with a regular dvd or streaming showing. The blu-ray hi-definition actually ages the visual effects a little to much.
Not Kate Capshaw herself – but the character Willie Scott. In the movie for comic relief and a contrived romance with Indiana Jones. Just a massive step in the wrong direction after Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood in Raiders.