If Adventure has a name.....its definately not VAN HELSING.INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) - **** out of 5
I know now, and perhaps always did, that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is the best picture of that franchise, and a perfect masterpiece of action cinema.
But I actually prefered this
movie as a kid.
Much like another 1984 release in THE LAST STARFIGHTER, Steven Spielberg's INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is a juvenile boy's adventure, except its as well-made as such a creative endeavor could possibly be.
The tough hero has his shirt open, fist fights everyone, with a useful junior sidekick tagging along. The baddie is wild-eyed in his cartoonish yet evil presence. There is teases of sex everywhere, subliminal or overt. Henchmen are killed in creative ways. The chases and thrills are wonderfully over the top.
Adults and girls are revolted when monkey heads and snakes are eaten for lunch, and shriek as hearts are brutally ripped out of people's chests, while us boys are just loving it.
If RAIDERS was saturday matinee serials retooled and disguised as A-level filmmaking craft, TEMPLE OF DOOM is very frank and honest of its B-movie reality, and so very much in punch drunk love with its pulp trash roots.
To make my point more clear, let's use a metaphor for the Indiana Jones trilogy.
RAIDERS is the well-loved guy Valedictorian/High School Quarterback that is neat, clean, and perfect in an Aryan sort of way. LAST CRUSADE is the geek kid that imitates the RAIDERS guy in everyway, but falls well short and is sorta hollow.
Then there is TEMPLE OF DOOM is the motorcycle-riding gang leader of a badass with a chilling charisma that people either dig or fear. He stays out partying late with his drinking and smoking, he beats up the LAST CRUSADE kid because the latter is a dork, and doesn't give a goddamn if the RAIDERS guy has a problem with that.
Most people seem to hate TEMPLE OF DOOM, or at least well-prefer LAST CRUSADE, and I hang my head. TEMPLE OF DOOM has the action and popcorn one would expect from an Indiana Jones picture, but tries to be its own creature, a more dark and funhouse-quality brother to RAIDERS that is more rich and rewarding than LAST CRUSADE.
It also succeeds because its the closest time that Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and George Lucas have come in producing a James Bond picture, and TEMPLE OF DOOM is their cinema-surrogate to play 007.
There is the tension-filled opening at the Shanghai nightclub where Ford lavishes up his own Sean Connery persona. Indy Jones may be a rugged layman, but he can also be classy and slick when he wants to be. What follows is the first major action sequence, which is totally unrelated to the movie's plot.
Nevermind the hero's own calm penetration entrance into (and explosive exit from) the villain's massive stronghold fortress, intercut with sexual innuendo and spectacular stunts.
If TEMPLE OF DOOM is an unofficial Bond movie, then Amrish Puri is the essential Bondian villain. Full of dreams where his evil death cult wipes the other great world religions off the globe, a bald head covered with red paint, a menacing laugh, and he scared the hell out of me as a kid.
Imagine if Osama Bin Laden ever had a personality.
Besides his ultra-deadly fundamentalism, he also kidnaps children for slave labor. Much like Luther in THE WARRIORS, he's a great Crazy Asshole.
What surprised me though in rewatching DOOM is the surprising chemistry that Jonathan Ke Quan had with Ford as Short Round. From playing cards to teaming-up in battling guards, he is like Dick Grayson in being a good surrogate-son/sidekick outlet for boys who wish they were out there kicking ass with Indiana Jones. Sure he gets whipped and beaten, but that's the prize to be paid.
As much as I love TEMPLE OF DOOM, its not perfect. Some of the "comedy" falls flat, though they don't bother me as much as the gags in LAST CRUSADE. Kate Capshaw may be the doll, but she screams way too much at times for my liking. Plus I must admit, this is great trash...but its still trash.
But this is a rare movie where Spielberg is obviously having a great fun time with the material, almost as much as I did.