From all the Indiana Jones moviesI have seen Temple of Doom most. Between a worn out VHS copy and watching it on TV, I’ve seen it probably 100 times. I know every wink, every expression, every tone of every line. I absolutely love it and figured I’d check it out in the lead up to Indy’s fifth and again Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, I wouldn’t really find much to talk about. I was wrong.
In the coming weeks, io9 will pick up on each one again Indiana Jones Movies just to see what, if anything, stands out about them now in 2023 Fate dial Is come to the cinema. It was last week Hunter of the lost treasure, It is widely regarded as one of the best action movies of all time. Temple of Doom doesn’t hold that distinction, and it’s easy to see why. It’s like a whole different genre of film.
watch again Temple of Doom Nowadays you can’t help but look at it from the perspective of many modern day franchises. Franchises that stick to the same formula every time and the few that don’t. On the surface, Temple of Doom is an Indiana Jones film. That much is clear. But it’s not a film at all that feels like its predecessor. From the film’s opening with its Busby Berkeley-inspired song and dance, to the screwball comedy of the first hour, which then takes a sharp turn into near-horror before a character literally looks at you, smiles, and things come back from the action-adventure it is a beautiful symphony of genre and tone. One where all bets are off, all realities are irrelevant and the ride is simply enjoyed.
The first hint of the film’s intentional disrespect lies in the opening musical number. First, it says “Anything Goes,” which actually says it all. But while things start at the actual club, the scene unfolds for you at Club Obi-Wan war of stars Fans out there – when Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) enters a statue, the film shifts to an alternate reality. Where are all these leggy blonde women dancing? It’s certainly not in a club in 1935 Shanghai. But it doesn’t matter; It’s beautifully directed and choreographed, and when Willie returns to the club director Steven Spielberg prepares you for excitement.
After not one (the club), not two (the chase), but three (the plane crash) breath-taking action sequences, we finally learn the film’s story: A small, poor Indian village has its children taken from it , as well as a stone that residents believe gives life to the land. The villagers also believe that Indy (Harrison Ford) was sent by their deity Shiva to save them. Which, on the one hand, seems a bit silly. But watching the film again, I think I believe the villagers now. (Temple of DoomThe portrayal of the villagers and the community that surrounds them is, shall we say, not always culturally sensitive – not entirely surprising for a film made four decades ago, but something that might stand out a first-time viewer in 2023.)
Look at the evidence. The villagers prayed that someone would help them. Then, out of nowhere, a man who knows everything about her magic stone falls from the sky into her village. Indy’s plane could have run out of fuel anywhere. The raft they came out on could have landed anywhere. The river the raft was in could have taken them anywhere. But no, somehow the perfect person for the job was exactly where it needed to be. When the film later reveals that magic and otherworldly forces exist, it’s all pretty much sealed. I will never watch Temple of Doom again without believing that Shiva actually sent Indy.
Things get about as serious in this section of the film, however. After Indy decides to go to the palace where all this is happening, we see this incredibly beautiful, but also incredibly silly, extended sequence where Indy, Short Round (future Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan in his feature film debut) and Willie travel through the jungle, complete with wild animals, over-the-top shouting, gambling, cheating, and all manner of jokes. It feels like comedy and the comedy continues once they arrive at the palace.
The early scenes in the palace are among my favorite movie scenes of all time. The unforgettable dinner sequence is gross but incredibly funny. Indy and Willie’s romantic flirtation is way over the top, but still kinda sexy. And finally, Indy and Short Round’s journey into the caves with the bugs and spikes and all that good stuff is handled with a knowing wink. Everything is fun, exciting and silly.
Then, almost exactly an hour later (which is probably a coincidence but interesting nonetheless), Indy and his friends discover the underground Thuggee cult and the film spins in a flash. Over the next 20 minutes or so, we are presented with some of the most terrifying, disgusting, and harrowing imagery imaginable, especially for a PG movie. A heart is ripped out, a body bursts into flames, Indy is flogged and possessed, children are beaten and people drink blood. This isn’t the same movie where a character yells at a giant animal and throws a snake thinking it’s an elephant’s trunk. This is dark, unsettling stuff.
But Spielberg knows that. Short Round escapes, the rousing music of John Williams starts playing again, and after climbing the ladder, Short Round looks at the camera and smiles. It’s a funny moment that I missed on previous shows, but this time, in that moment, I read it differently. I almost read Short Round’s facial expression as if Spielberg himself were saying, “Sorry, let’s get back to the fun.” Because after the smile, Temple of Doom come back to business.
Short Round saves Indy, Indy saves Willie, they save the kids, a Thuggee villain gets crushed by a steamroller, then there’s the super awesome (but not at all realistic) minecart sequence. The film returns to its adventurous tone of the first half, culminating in the superbly directed but still fun and spooky bridge sequence where Indy kills the villain and saves the day, another personal favorite.
And finally, to really bring it all home, Temple of Doom has one of the happiest endings of all time. Indy doesn’t just win. It’s not just the bad guys who lose. Not only Indy gets the stone. All the children of the village return full of joy, which is just the icing on the cake of this wild, incredible ride. As Paul Simon said, “Mother-child reunion is just a motion away.”
The magic of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is how big it swings. It knows that we have loved Hunter of the lost treasure But it trusts us to embark on an adventure that’s even wilder and speaks to all sorts of tones. Maybe that’s why some people don’t like it so much, and the following Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returned to a similar structure and tone as the original. But for me, Temple of Doom is the Indiana Jones—both the character and the film—that I love the most.
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