Temple of Doom is the fever dream iteration of Indiana Jones, every scene and detail and character turned up to a nightmarish 11. It’s as if Lucas and Spielberg cut the sensical parts of the movie out and left only the garish, annoying, and freaky shit, and, man, do I love it.
Of course it’s not Raiders of the Lost Ark; why even bother trying to replicate that magic in a bottle? Instead of marvel with just a splash of horror, the ratio is flipped: We get gross-out gags and child slavery and mind control and Hell’s inferno. The romantic interest is a narcissistic diva, and Indy has a little sidekick with a thick Asian accent named “Short Round” for some reason.
Temple of Doom wouldn’t work if the talent behind the camera wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but they absolutely are. The production design is unquestionably better than in Raiders, and I daresay the direction by Spielberg might even be better, or at least more challenging and interesting, with some truly clever compositions and set piece layouts. The one jump scare is excellent.
The cast is having a ball: Harrison Ford delivers an even more physical performance than in Raiders, and gets to play evil for ten minutes. Kate Capshaw leans into Willie’s unlikability, while Ke Huy Quan is lovably corny as Short Round.
Even though it’s not in masterpiece territory, it’s still a giddy set piece delivery mechanism with that Indiana Jones sense of adventure, wonderfully crafted and surprisingly dark.
- Review Project: 2009 Top 100
Exceptionally Good (7/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.