Three years after he successfully thwarted the Nazis attempt to harness the power of the Ark of the Covenant; Indiana Jones is back for even more adventure with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. Joining star Harrison Ford and director Steven Spielberg we have a new lead actress, as Kate Capshaw (“Black Rain”) becomes the newest Indy girl, and young actor Jonathan Ke Quan as Indy’s latest associate, the pint-sized Short Round; along with two new writers, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, that had previously worked with producer and co-creator George Lucas on his teen classic “American Graffiti”. With all of the pieces in place, it was time for the adventure to continue, as “The Man in the Hat” was back once more on the silver screen.
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” finds our hero (Harrison Ford) narrowly escaping a Shanghai nightclub, and traveling deep into the heart of India where he suddenly finds himself neck-deep in an evil plot to enslave the children of a small village. After discovering the source of the enslavement to be that of the sadistic Thuggee cult; Indy will do whatever it takes to save the innocent children from becoming permanent slaves in a labor camp, with the assistance of his diminutive sidekick Short Round and his newest bit of eye-candy, a lounge singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw).
With the first film, the burgeoning Indiana Jones franchise established itself as a light-hearted, family friendly, action-packed, thrill ride full of adventure and wonder; however, with this next film “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, the series took on a decidedly darker and more sinister tone. I personally enjoyed this darker take on the character and his adventures, and thought the film, even though it was more mature than its predecessor, was still full of fun and adventure that the whole family could enjoy; just with a few parts that the little ones may need to look away from or have explained to them due to the maturity level being raised. Apparently, many fans of the series and moviegoers in general, felt differently than I about the direction this particular installment took. Many felt that the series was better served by a lighter storyline with more comedy and action, and not so much drama and even a little horror thrown into the mix. With that being said, most still enjoyed this newest adventure of archaeologist Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr., and even with the darker storyline gave this movie enough box office treasure to ensure another adventure would grace the silver screen yet again. So, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the whole “tone of the movie” issue.
Harrison Ford fresh off his final turn as Han Solo in “Star Wars – Episode 6: Return of the Jedi”, gave audiences yet another terrific performance as Indiana Jones, his second most iconic character in his long-lasting career. Having already played the role once before, Harrison definitely seemed more confident as the adventurous tomb raider; and the darker storyline allowed for a new, more dangerous side of our hero to be showcased, albeit briefly. I’m sure this new aspect of the character was fun for Harrison to play, and as a fan of the series, I appreciated that the writers took a chance on having Indy be a little darker in this film than he is in any of the others. Alongside Harrison Ford, we have actress Kate Capshaw as Indy’s newest love interest, Willie Scott. Out of the entire film, if there was one thing I feel the need to complain about it would have to be Kate Capshaw’s character. Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Karen Allen’s character of Marion Ravenwood in the first film, but after about the first 5 to 10 times Willie whines to Indy about this and that, I found myself wishing Marion would show up and deliver that same punch to Willie that she landed on Indy after they first met in the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Some may think I’m being a bit too harsh, it’s not that I disliked Kate’s portrayal for the entire duration of the film, and I don’t believe the whining aspect of the character to be completely her fault, I just thought that for the lead female character in the story she seemed far too annoying to root for or care anything about. This in turn made me wonder aside from her physical attractiveness, what could Indy possibly see in her that would allow him to ignore her lesser qualities like incessant whining or extreme materialism?
Joining the more experienced actors, we have newcomer Jonathan Ke Quan (“Goonies”), as Indy’s hilarious sidekick, Short Round. His wide-eyed wonderment, along with the semi-father/son connection between he and Indy, made many of the really dramatic moments of the film even more touching, not to mention his wonderful comedic timing made some very tense moments a little less so, but without being out of place or detrimental to the story’s integrity. Not to sell the rest of the cast short by not giving them their due attention, most of them did a really good job throughout the film, so they deserve a lot of praise as well; especially the actor who portrayed the leader of the Thuggee cult, now that’s one voodoo guy that you wouldn’t ever want to cross.
Oddly enough, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is actually intended as a prequel to the first film. Many viewers may not be aware of this fact, and I personally find it somewhat surprising to think that even back in 1984, producer George Lucas (“Star Wars” saga) was hard at work making yet another movie series move backwards in time once he had already established such beloved characters’ with their initial movie(s). Here I thought this was something he did only recently when he revisited his Star Wars universe to create the first three chapters in his epic six-part space saga. Anyways, I digress.
To sum up, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is a much darker film than its predecessor, and to some viewers that can be construed as a problem for the movie. I personally disagree, but to each his own. Despite its darker tone, the movie is still full of action and adventure, and even some good laughs to lighten the mood, and I believe it to still be a movie that the entire family can sit around and enjoy together, along with the first one.
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is rated PG for violence and brief language.