Rakesh's movie talk
Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom (1984)

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Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz (based on story by George Lucas)
Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan and Amrish Puri.


By the end of 1984, India must have been enjoying a good tourism onslaught. In 1983, the movie Octopussy pitted James Bond against some Indian baddies, and it showcased some glamourous tourist spots and also the mean streets of India. In 1984, it was Indiana Jones turn in the new adventure, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. The tourism industry should have been laughing its way to the bank. Should have.

Anyway, the man with the fedora and whip is back. The opening Whoa!

"Whatsamatter?" you may ask.

Well, to begin with the film begins with...wait, to begin with, ah shoot! The film begins with a Busby Berkeley inspired musical, with Kate Capeshaw (future Mrs. Spielberg) doing a Chinese version Anything Goes in a Chinese club. And in comes Bond, James Bond. Oops, sorry, that was Indiana Jones in White Tuxedo, looking suave dangerous ready to take the bad guys. You see, I got confused there. That is how this movie started and there were many wrong moves, only Ford and his performance assuring us that this is an Indiana Jones movie. So, the movie starts with Indy without the Fedora and the whip. Bah!

But that's okay. He escapes from some trouble in the club, where he tries to steal a diamond from Chinese gangsters. He gets into a plane and forced to jump out of it and finds himself in India. Its back to leather jacket, hat and whip now (no, not all the time) and Indy encounters a group of villagers who have lost all their children, taken by a Kali cult extremists called Thuggees, which uses the kids as slaves. This time Indy is assisted by a side kick, a kid named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), and the bickering and complaining Willie Scott (Capshaw), the singer from that Chinese club.

The Thuggees have also taken a sacred "Shankara stone" which the villagers worshipped. So, Indy needs to free the children and get the stones back. It is the familiar Indiana Jones adventure except that its much more darker and violent. Most critics and audience complained about it at that time. They even do now. Its compelling to know that the rating PG-13 (in US) was created specifically to suit this film. Dang!

Also, the film suffered from the accusations that the film depicted Indians as either dumb religious fanatics or helpless poor folks who need a white boy to help them. Honestly, I would brush this criticism aside. Nothing political. These kinds of people do exist, even today, even in a more civilised and educated country like Malaysia. We still have religious organisations, with priest leading hordes of followers conducting some unexplainable rituals, here right behind in our backyards.

And fitting a smarter, higher class, Indian Intellectual community in an Indiana Jones flick might be a big mistake. On a typical action flick, it is only correct to surround a strong hero with a weak bunch of people who need his help. Watch Bond movies for instant, everyone around him is helpless, and opposing him will be evil egomaniacal bastards who are just reincarnation of Satan. So, what do you think of my argument. Okay, I know it is lame, but hey, its just a movie. Phew!

All this doesn't mean that I liked the film fully. The ritual scenes (a mix of many culture, not necessarily Indian) is sometimes too long, way beyond the level where you get the point. There are also stupid slapstick scenes like the serving of 'exotic' animal and insects as food. It might interest the red-necks in the US of A, but I believe those who does read Newspaper now and then will find the scene not funny at all.

Another complaint. Nothing personal to Capshaw, but her heroine is annoying in every level - equaling Tanya Roberts' scream-queen performance in A View to A Kill. Or should that award go to Kim Basinger in Batman? Oh, whatever it is, she fails to endear us like Karen Allen did in Raiders. Oh Karen, where are you...

Of course, the biggest attraction in this movie is the set pieces. The mine cart chase is the highlight of this film. You will have to wait a bit and enjoy every minute of it (sort of like waiting for Chariot race to show up in Ben-Hur) and when it comes, it won't let you go. I enjoyed it and will watch the movie again specifically for this scene.

Naturally the film wouldn't work without Harrison Fords confident performance as Indiana Jones. I read elsewhere a crewmember remarking that Ford could by now "shave George Lucas with that whip". That explains how comfortable he is with the role.

Spielberg is a good director with suspense and action scenes and I can't blame him if the film fail to attract us the way Raiders did. I guess the fault lies in the script and both he and the producer, Lucas, should have paid more attention to it. Another compensation is John Williams' score, though I felt that it was a bit underused in this film. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I ought to watch it again.

The film may not be the best in the trilogy, but is definitely enjoyable if you don't take the violence in it seriously.