The Temple of Doom (1984) is our favourite Indiana Jones film. We watched it repeatedly as kids and were pretty much in awe at its creepy, dark nature.
Looking back now we can see the various gaping plot holes and overall weirdness, but that hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm for it a jot.
Thusly, with much aplomb and other such words, we’re here to review everyone’s childhood favourite! If you were around in the ’80s as a kid, that is.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Steven Spielberg directed this one, with George Lucas writing the story. Lucas and Philip Kaufman created the series as a homage to adventure films from their youth.
Set in 1935, The Temple of Doom follows the exploits of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as he heads out to India.
But before then, as the film opens, we find Mr. Jones in Shanghai.
Whilst there, the crime boss Lao Che attempts to assassinate him. Harrison Ford… sorry, Mr. Jones is able to kick some butt and escape as mayhem kicks off.
He takes with him the singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) and there’s daring escape stuff.
Plus, a customary Wilhelm Scream at one point, too.
Escaping successful, Indy and his two mates kick back and relax.
But whilst flying out of the area the pilots (hired by Lao Che) dump all the fuel and jump out of the plane with parachutes.
Once again, Mr. Jones has to do his thing to save the day!
Cue another epic set-piece and peril as everyone is able to just about cling to survival in the most improbable way imaginable.
After this epic opening, the real oomph of the plot kicks in. And it’s a pretty bloody dark and bleak tale at that.
In fact, the major complaint levelled at Temple of Doom is how dark it is.
Anyway, after crash landing into the Himalayas the three happen across the village of Mayapore in North India.
There, the villagers plead with Mr. Jones to reclaim the he sacred stone (shivalinga) and bring back all the children. They’ve been nicked from the village! Argh!
The evil bastards at the local Pankot Palace are responsible. So Indiana heads over there to find out what the bloody hell is going on.
When there Indy meets a welcome party who invite him into the palace. There he meets the Maharajah (great ruler), who’s merely a young lad.
And they have a great big feast to celebrate stuff! That leads to one of the most legendary food scenes in cinema history.
As a kid, this was great fun and we wondered about the future. When one day we’d get to experience such extravagant delights.
In reality, we’ve not moved much further than beans on toast. Darn.
Oh well! After that scene the guests are invited to stay in the palace, during which Indiana discovers is almost wiped out by a crazed assassin.
He heads off exploring and is able to discover a secret passage, which leads to another legendary scene. Booby-traps! This one with insects!
A note here to the lead of the film. Harrison Ford was 42 at the time and looks super handsome throughout. You can’t deny it really, can you? He’s obviously a 10/10.
Temple of Doom was his action pants movie. And he manages it all with serious panache, charming and dashing with a sardonic edge.
Even as the film becomes increasingly ridiculous (especially in the final act) he plays it all straight and it helps keep the movie together.
Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) emerges as the main antagonist, a total psycho who likes to brainwash people into acolytes and ritually sacrifice some of them.
There’s one pretty terrifying sacrifice scene where he rips the heart out of an acolyte before sending the pure dude plunging into an inferno. Lovely!
Puri played this character with terrific relish and his a great baddie. Unfortunately, the actor died in January 2005.
The final sections of the film see Indiana discover the villagers’ kids are all trapped in the Palace’s mines and being used as slave labour.
Short Round helps to lead a revolution and all hell breaks loose as a dramatic mine cart chase unfolds.
This sort of thing is a reminder of just how many excellent set pieces there are in Temple of Doom. All very memorable.
It also reminds us of that stage in Donkey Kong Country (1994).
And wouldn’t you know it? There’s another almighty cliffhanger of a scene when Mola Ram corners Indy and co.
So, yes, all rollicking good entertainment. Plot holes and other flaws aside, we still can’t help but love Temple of Doom.
Nostalgia plays a heaping dose of a reason why. We did watch this thing repeatedly in the early 1990s.
However, we’re aware it didn’t receive the level of acclaim as its predecessor, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
Critics also criticised Short Round as annoying and they also found Kate Capshaw’s performance as Willie Scott also irritating.
To be fair to Capshaw, she’s the comedic effect character there to lift the mood a bit. And we remember finding her hysterical screaming during a snake scene amusing (and our sister did too).
Willie Scott isn’t portrayed as a standard damsel in distress, though, as she does have autonomy and charm.
If Lucas had toned down her complaining slightly she would have been an even more rounded individual.
Finally, yes, we must acknowledge it is a dark film. Unusually so.
But we genuinely didn’t have too many issues with as a kid. Scary, yes, but it was Watership Down and Edward Scissorhands that freaked us out way more than this.
And so we’re here now, decades after have first watched it before we were even 10, and still fondly remember it.
So, Mr. Spielberg. You worked you magic and something right again.
The Temple of Doom’s Production
Off its $28.17 million budget, the film was a hit and went on to make back $333.1 million. That success ensured the next installment in 1989 (the Sean Connery one).
Pre-production, Spielberg and Lucas had endured the collapse of close relationships in their lives.
In a darker mood, they took this and added that element to sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Lucas justified this darker tone with his Star Wars films, as the Empire Strikes Back (1980) is much darker than the first. It’s also thought of as the best film from the series.
And well, they approached Raiders’ scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan to work his magic on the sequel. And he flat out refused! He thought the film was just too mean. Goddamn snowflake!
Shooting was supposed to take place in began in North India and at Amer Fort. But the Indian government hated the script so denied access to the crew.
Filming instead shifted to Sri Lanka. Scale models and matte paintings were used to pull off some of the top special effects. They still look great even now.
But the lack of access to India meant the production was largely shot in Elstree Studios. That’s in Hertfordshire, England, just outside of London.
That included for many of the bug scenes, which meant crew members would head home for the night and find bugs hiding in their hair.
It all paid off as Temple of Doom won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
It was also nominated for Best Original Score. As you’d expect. This is a John Williams soundtrack and the guy is a goddamn genius.
And, for the record, the series continued on in 1989 with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the one with Sean Connery).
Then in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Although it’s fair to say that one… wasn’t at all well received.
Harrison Ford may be 79 in July 2021, but that’s not stopping him from filming another one! Indiana Jones 5 is set for release in 2022. By ‘eck!