Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Release Date: May 8th, 1984 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, George Lucas
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Jonathan Ke Quan, Roy Chiao, Pat Roach, Dan Aykroyd (cameo)

Lucasfilm Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” – Indiana Jones

The debate has raged on almost my entire life but whenever I get together with people and we discuss our favorite Indiana Jones movie, people are usually baffled that this one is my favorite. In fact, in some cases, baffled became anger and I had nerds foaming at the mouth pontificating about the perfection that is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yeah man, I get it. But I like Temple of Doom, so to quote D-Generation-X, “Suck it!”

But why do I like this entry into the Indiana Jones franchise the most?

Well, it is the one chapter that is most unlike anything else. There are no Nazis (or Soviets), there is some real horror here, the Thuggee cult is much more fascinating than any villainous group Indy has encountered on the big screen, Mola Ram is the Darth Vader of Indiana Jones lore, the opening sequence is great with Lao Che and his sons and I love Short Round and Willie Scott. That’s not to take anything away from Karen Allen or Indy’s other great sidekicks because I also love Sallah and Marcus Brody.

Temple of Doom is just such a dark movie. Sure, it has some hokey bits but they work and this film wouldn’t be the same without them, as Star Wars and the other Indy movies wouldn’t be the same without theirs. Something about the hokey bits in this one just gel in a way that they don’t in the other films though. I think a lot of that has to do with the chemistry between Ford, Capshaw and Ke Quan. All three of them were great together and it didn’t matter if it was all three or any combination of the three playing off each other, one-on-one.

More than anything else, I really think that it’s the tone of the picture that does it for me. The set design is incredible and the locations are more alluring and more visually attractive than seeing Indiana Jones rummaging through a desert. Indy needs more jungle in his life and this film gives it to you. Plus, the temple is the most exciting and mysterious structure that Indy has encountered in his film adventures.

Additionally, the score for this chapter is my favorite that John Williams did for this film series. All the stuff in the temple plays really great and it truly expanded on the vibe of Raiders‘ score while adding in some Indian feeling flair. But then again, how can you not hear any of Williams’ Indy scores and not have a smile on your face?

Plus, Mola Ram is just a complete badass. He looks menacing, he feels truly scary and he rips hearts out of the chests of his human sacrifices, laughing like a madman as those hearts burn in flames while he holds them above his head for his minions to see. Sure, Indy can smack around random Nazi officers and fellow archaeologists turned evil but none of them hold a candle to the sheer terror that is Mola Ram.

I honestly can’t comprehend how someone wouldn’t absolutely love this film. Sure, there are some plot holes and things that don’t make a lot of sense but you don’t see this type of film to complain about the small shit, you see it to go on an adventure and to feel good. This accomplishes all of that and frankly, I’ve probably watched this movie like ten dozen times. There’s a reason for that, it’s pretty much friggin’ perfect.

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