Cert: PG Runtime: 118 mins Director: Steven Spielberg Starring: Harrison Ford, Kate Chapshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan and Dan Aykroyd
Mola Ram! Prepare to meet Kali… in Hell!
When people ask which Indiana Jones movie is my favourite? I have always said Temple of Doom. So this weeks blast from the past is this very movie.Set in 1935, a professor, archaeologist, and legendary hero by the name of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is back in action in his newest adventure. But this time he teams up with a night club singer named Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott(Kate Chapshaw) and a twelve-year-old boy named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). They end up in an Indian small distressed village, where the people believe that evil spirits have taken all their children away after a sacred precious stone was stolen! They also discovered the great mysterious terror surrounding a booby-trapped temple known as the Temple of Doom! Thuggee is beginning to attempt to rise once more, believing that with the power of all five Sankara stones they can rule the world! Now, it’s all up to Indiana to put an end to the Thuggee campaign, rescue the lost children, win the girl and conquer the Temple of Doom.This chef d’oeuvre is one of the most unremittingly nonstop action films ever made, with an expert succession of climactic sequences. It’s a roller-coaster ride—at one point very literally—a visual extravaganza, a technical coup and masses of exuberant pleasure. And yet it was made when ambitious filmmakers and imaginative audiences still had that odd idea that one of the points of editing is to clarify why one shot follows another, or why various shots happen in the arrangement that they do. Because Spielberg and Lucas’ adventures templates were shaped from magic into commodity from then to now, today’s moviegoers are instead blunted by duration-centered sequences comprising slapdash, heedless jumbles of graceless shots. We see one special effect then another, and we’re supposed to be appreciative that we’ve been shown two special effects, despite that there is nothing and no one on screen to care about except the magnitude of the spectacle.
Spielberg and Lucas didn’t equate building on Raiders by simply making everything bigger and louder. The energy of storytelling imagination is put forth double-time. It works in its own way, and makes use of from different conventions from different eras. Right off the bat, Indy is in a Shanghai nightclub stand-off with gangsters. He escapes in the nick of time, taking along a blonde nightclub gang moll and convoyed by his loyal young helper, Short Round. Their escape leads them into a string of adventures: A flight over the Himalayas, a stunning flee from a crashing plane and a chance encounter with a village leader who implores Indy to find and retrieve the village’s beloved stone which vanished with all of the village’s children. Indy and Willie barely get to turn in for the night before the movie’s second half starts with a mind-blowing chain of escapades involving the hellish mines underneath the palace.Befittingly to the purely fairy-tale tone of this epic adventure, Spielberg and Lucas stuck to a make-believe India, not the real one. The Thuggee cult is maybe at least as predisposed to Africa as India, what with the Maharajah’s voodoo doll, the shrunken head on Mola Ram’s headdress, and the “black sleep of Kali,” caused by drinking blood and cured by burning one’s flesh. Power of invention? Certainly. Just like that outrageous runaway mine chase. Short Round’s no 1D token either. The kid cheats at cards, but it takes nothing less than Indy under Mola Ram’s Superman 3-style spell to bring tears to his eyes.Moments like the collapsing bridge, the mine cart ride, and the cave full of bugs are as awe-inspiring or more so than anything in the first film. The set design, art direction, special effects and sound effects that create this subterranean hell are among the most striking realizations in the entire lineage of summer blockbusters. As dozens of small children toil on chain gangs, the vile maharajah keeps them in thrall by employing the menacing command of the mislaid gemstone and its two counterparts. Indy and company behold in wonder, and then Indy endeavors to steal it back.
Some of the film’s most indelible set pieces now occur: Human sacrifices are lowered into a yawning volcano in a cage, creepy ceremonies are honored and there’s a chase in the mine’s cavernous railway. As Indy and company race in the small unmanageable mine car, the thugs are behind, ahead, above, below and alongside them, and the scene will throttle you and leave you almost physically winded. And it’s perhaps more than any other action sequence liable for the ever-present simile of summer movies as roller-coaster rides.Temple of Doom is not only as hypnotizing as I recalled, but it stands up to my cynical cinephile eyes every single smidgen as well as it did to the bulging eyes of my childhood. Temple of Doom make no excuses for being precisely what it is: Invigorating, frenzied, violently creative escapism. No regrets are needed. This is the most willfully electrifying, wacky, passionate adventure movie since even before Raiders, and a very small handful after. It’s quite an event. It leaves you reeling with a juvenile smile.This is the uncommon genre film that accomplishes a voodoo of populist and formalistic fascination, warranting the true label of “classic” by selling unadulterated pop delight so self-possessed that our more mature filmic sensibilities embrace it. To snub these films is a subject of taste, but to criticize them would be coarse and misunderstanding of their beeline approach. Whether or not it’s on par with Swan Lake or a Rembrandt portrait is possibly disputable, but I don’t want to meet the person that doesn’t admit it’s a superlative, enrapturing entertainment. The movie also gives us the one Indiana Jones baddie in the entire series to outsmart him, Lao Che. And he’s excellent. The opening scene at Club Obi Wan is nothing short of immortal, both for opening the movie with a totally unreal Busby Berkeley homage in Chinese, and zeroes in on a shimmering blue antidote and a diamond, but mainly the blue antidote.Let’s also not overlook John Williams firing on all deep-rooted, ineradicable cylinders with the score, unquestionably one of his best. The Short Round and Temple of Doom themes are up there with those of Darth Vader and Jurassic Park. Together with the spike chamber, elephants, old village sage, “vampire” bats, the silencer proxied by popping champagne corks, the literal cliffhanger on the rope bridge, Indy’s Superman III moments…it’s deliriously magnificent. In this movie, really, “Anything Goes.”