Temple of Doom is regarded by many as one the lesser Indy films. But does it really deserve to spend its day shackled up in the DVD Dungeon? Absolutely, and here’s why.
1: Indy plus kids don’t mix
Children are central to the entire film’s premise and Indy’s quest to save the kidnapped village children is a little hard to swallow. Indy is an adventurer, a lover, a fighter. Nothing we were told about him in the first film made him out to be an especially caring soul and I’ve always found it hard to believe that he would get embroiled in such a virtuous escapade.
In the meantime not only is Indy accompanied by the little brat that is Short Round, and never questioned about this by any authorities it seems, he’s also developed a really strong bond with him. I never pegged Indy down as the father figure type and this jars throughout the entire film. Plus the kid’s just plain annoying, and the way he turns evil Indy back into good Indy is frankly preposterous.
Last of all, the actor playing the young Maharaja is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the worst child actors I’ve ever seen.
Intentionally annoying, she’s also soulless, whiny, unfunny, and unbelievable. While Kate Capshaw gives it her best shot, she’s given something of a thankless role by her future husband. In several scenes, particularly early on, there’s absolutely no chemistry between her and Indy but the bigger question is why does she even come along for the ride in the first place? Fair enough she needed to escape Shanghai from Lao Che’s goons, but why not arrange to catch the next plane back home if she’s having such a dreadful time? Of course she’s really just there to bring some comedy to proceedings and lift the movie’s dark tone but very quickly her pathetic screams start to grate rather than amuse and you just want Indy to deck her or feed her to the jungle.
Just think. If they hadn’t jumped out of the plane when they did and the blow up raft hadn’t taken them to the village, the entire film’s plot would never have come to pass. Too big a coincidence for me I’m afraid. And the gubbins about Shiva bringing them to the village? I’m not having that for a second.
4: No Denham Elliot
5: Indy goes evil
The scenes when Indy turns bad after drinking the Blood of Kali stuck with me for an awful long time. I don’t have a problem with the film’s overall dark tone but Evil Indy was a horrible, genuinely scary sight for me as a child and one it took a long time for me to recover from. On a purely personal level, that’s a good enough reason for me to want to throw it into a deep, dark pit, if nothing else to protect future children from the horror. All credit to Ford for scaring the willies out of me though.
6: No fantastic treasure to go after
Indy films should be all about his pursuit of a great treasure. The guy lives and breathes archaeology. It’s clear that alongside the thrill of the chase, Indy’s motivation for undertaking all his adventures has always been the prize awaiting him. The Sankara Stones just aren’t on the same level as The Lost Ark, or the Holy Grail. As a result, Indy’s motivation for the film once again comes back to saving those kids, and as I’ve explained, I’m not buying that.
7: Just a bunch of set pieces
The plot, such as it is, is little more than an excuse for Indy to get himself in lots of action scenes. While they are great to watch, there’s ultimately little reason to several of them and the film ends up little more than a throwaway actionner rather than the epic adventures Raiders and Crusade are.
In the end, Temple of Doom gets it wrong in too many places for me, and that’s why I’m chucking it in the Dungeon.