A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

June 11, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

This overblown mess of a movie was the first Indiana Jones film I saw in the theaters. I don’t recall if I had seen the first movie on VHS before I got around to seeing this, but I know for certain that I saw this in the movie theaters. My recollection is that I was disappointed and a little disgusted by the movie, which is a pretty much universal reaction from what I’ve seen.

This movie has a couple of problems, but the biggest one is that it is too gruesome to really be fun. It still has some of the swashbucking adventure of the first movie, but it’s lost in a torrent of gross humor, a frightening cult that seems more in line with the Poltergeist movies than the first Indiana Jones movie, and a generally darker tone. In the first movie Indie was often outmatched, but in this one it goes beyond that – he spends most of the movie almost completely defeated. He staggers from one disaster to another and only at the very end gets a chance to fight back.

The movie starts out with a deal gone wrong in Shanghai. Indie is attempting to trade an artifact for a giant diamond with a crime boss named Lao Che. Lao poisons Indiana and offers the antidote only if Indie will return the diamond. So right from the beginning Jones is near death, at the mercy of his enemies. He doesn’t get the diamond back and only barely escapes with his life. He and his awesome sidekick Short Round fly away after a car chase through the streets of Shanghai, bringing along a singer named Willie from Lao’s club for no reason that is adequately explained by the movie.

I’d like to pause in my plot synopsis to rant a bit about the love interest for Indiana in this movie. Willie is my second biggest complaint about the film. She’s whiny, annoying, shrill and spends most of the movie either complaining or screaming. Indie’s girl in the first movie was Marion, who kicked a certain amount of ass. By contrast Willie complains about broken finger nails – she’s just poorly suited for adventuring and I don’t have any fun watching her.

When their plane crashes in India the three of them are asked by a village of poverty stricken peasants to go to Pankot Palace where an evil cult has stolen the villager’s sacred stone and all their children. After a dinner party filled with gruesome meals (which is what this movie tries to pass off as humor) and an encounter with a whole lot of insects and a room with your standard crushing spikes Indie discovers the titular Temple of Doom, where a Thuggee cult is performing human sacrifices and where all the children from the surrounding villages have been enslaved to dig up jewels in a mine and hunt for the remaining two mystical stones that the cult leader craves.

Indiana is captured, tortured with a voodoo doll, and brainwashed into becoming a cult member by being force fed nasty blood. Again, in keeping with the dark tone of the movie, Indiana is defeated from the get go. It’s not so much an adventure film as a sort of horror film, with a little adventure thrown in at the end with a fist fight on a conveyor belt and a big long mine-car chase scene. The cult sacrifice involves ripping a man’s still beating heart out of his chest and lowering him into a pit filled with lava. I suppose it’s intended to build tension for the later scene where Willie is set to be sacrificed, but it’s a bit much, really.

Luckily this movie does have one major saving grace. It has Short Round. Ke Huy Quan is the real hero of the movie, repeatedly pulling Indie’s bacon out of the fire. He’s also the source of most of the non gross-out humor in the movie. He’s charming and daring and indomitable – everything that Indiana was in the first movie. I wouldn’t say that he makes the whole movie worth watching, but he does a good job of salvaging what could otherwise have been an unwatchably depressing series of disasters for our supposed hero Indiana Jones.

Now that we’re done watching this movie I’m somewhat looking forward to tomorrow’s movie which was more of a return to form where Indiana Jones gets to be a hero again. Also – as with this movie – Indie’s sidekick is the best thing in tomorrow’s movie as well.

June 11, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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