Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 118 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Roy Chiao, Dan Aykroyd, Pat Roach. Music by John Williams. Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. Sound design by Ben Burtt.
Tag-line: " If adventure has a name... it must be Indiana Jones."
Best one-liner: " I suggest you give me what you owe me... or 'Anything Goes!'" or maybe just "You betrayed Shiva!"
I've got something special for you all today. A review of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (you can read my review of RAIDERS here), a discussion of my favorite minutiae from the film, and a rehash of a debate that was of the utmost importance when I was eleven years old. First, the review:
Remember when skittish featherweights didn't entirely run the film industry? When people knew that kiddies deserved immaculately-crafted works of morbid exuberance that were, in part, designed expressly for them? Today, the 10 year-old looking for some cheap n' scary thrills has to bring some 'adult' type to the movies with them to get into the PG-13 stuff, which is totally killin' my theoretical 10 year-old's buzz. So he sticks around at home, watches his older brother's copy of SAW 6, and gets scarred for life––and not even in a good, artsy way, like if it was THE SHINING. Anyway, my point is that a healthy dose of the macabre is essential to a kid's creative development.
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is all about matte paintings, miniatures, fearless stuntmen, trick photography- ideas that originated in artists' minds and were executed with their hands.
This is, in fact, a kickass matte painting.
This is a film of impeccable choreography (and I'm speaking beyond the sparkly, Busby Berkeley inspired "Anything Goes" opening) hearkening back to the likes of Buster Keaton, Howard Hawks, or George Stevens: observe the rhythm in the editing, the visual storytelling, the way that one thing leads to another and to another... Look at the beautifully orchestrated urgency in the madcap nightclub riot, where a crucial antidote and a priceless diamond are breathlessly sought in the midst of carefully concocted chaos:
the "nocturnal activities" scene, where silly sexual innuendos give way to sight gags, which give way to life-or-death situations, the John Williams score elegantly taking us from point A to B to C in the grand tradition of old Hollywood:
or the painstakingly devised sacrifice sequence, where Willie travels toward and away from the lava pit over and over again as increasingly preposterous events take place up on the surface.
This is how you spin an adventure yarn– the old-fashioned way. Five stars.
And now, my top ten favorite TEMPLE OF DOOM minutiae:
#1. Silly kid on kid violence.
I love it. You love it. Maybe you won't admit that you love it, but you do. I mean, you can't watch something like this (from REVENGE OF THE NINJA) and not have a dumb grin plastered on your face. Well, the same goes for the long awaited kiddie duel between the (brainwashed) Maharajah and Short Round.
#2. Roy Orbison.
Is that him, hidden amongst Lao Che's henchmen?
#3. These alligators are hungry. Hungry for clothes.
Well, the fact that there are Florida alligators in India is beside the point. You hear the screams of the unlucky henchmen, but I guess they're screaming because the alligators are voraciously devouring their clothes?
#4. Evil Indy.
Harrison Ford doesn't get to do evil very often, and apparently he loves it. After convulsing about like he's trying to kick heroin, Harrison sits up and delivers this utterly macabre smile which curdled the blood and tingled the spines of millions upon millions of easily frightened youngsters.
#5. Bugs, bugs, bugs!
For those of you who have not, in fact, experienced the miracle of cockroach birth in your shower as you're about to step in while you're completely naked and you forgot to wear your sandals––this scene is kinda what it's like.
#6. God bless Ben Burtt.
The whirring, undulating metallic plink-plink-plunk as machine gun fire (directed at Indy) instead hits a giant, rotating, runaway gong/makeshift shield is the stuff that sound designer's dreams are made of.
#7. Blocking the main title.
Since IMDB is always fiercely protective of the title exactly as it appears in the opening credits instead of common or poster usage (i.e., BEETLE JUICE or GHOST BUSTERS or Olivier's THE CHRONICLE HISTORY OF KING HENRY THE FIFT WITH HIS BATTELL FOUGHT AT AGINCOURT IN FRANCE which is really just HENRY V for fuck's sake), I think they should change the listing for this to INDIAIA JONES AND THE TEMPLE DOOM. It would be more accurate. Regardless, it takes balls to block your own title. And it takes even bigger balls to make it look aesthetically pleasing. And besides, I think that everybody watching this already knows the title, so who cares. Anything goes, indeed!
#8. Indy's frustration during the spike room scene.
WE are GOING to DIIIIIE-YUH!
I mean, you'd be frustrated, too, if your survival were dependent on an insect-encrusted Kate Capshaw, but the way Harrison plays it (even thrusting his fist through the hole in exasperation) is pitch-perfect. This is exactly the sort of scene that Tom Selleck wouldn't have been able to pull off.
#9. This fantastic plummet.
And all done without CGI.
And #10, which became something of a playground argument circa the fifth grade: Indiana Jones vs. The Chief Guard (played by Pat Roach, who played a Giant Sherpa and the Hulking Nazi Mechanic in RAIDERS and a bit part as a Gestapo in LAST CRUSADE, not to mention General Kael in WILLOW, Man-Ape and Toth-Amon in CONAN THE DESTROYER, Hephaestus in CLASH OF THE TITANS, and a bouncer in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). Anyway, Indy and the Chief Guard are in the midst of some serious brawlin', and they are beating the hell out of one another. They're playin' for keeps. The fisticuffs lead to a conveyor belt, where an enormous stone grinder is smashing rocks and such. After an excruciatingly long descent, they're at the grinder. Indy turns the tables, and next thing you know, the Chief Guard's clothes are stuck in the machine.
The guard looks to Indy in horror, and grabs a rope affixed to a pulley.
Indy grabs the other end, but the force exerted by the apparatus is stronger than Indy, and Indy is hoisted upward to a catwalk as the Guard is dragged to a grisly death.
Now, the argument was thus: I posited that Indy, despite the life-or-death struggle, was overwhelmed with empathy and at the last moment actually tried to save the Guard's life, despite the fact that this conflicted with prior behavioral patterns (for example, during the truck chase in RAIDERS, Indy briefly bonds with the driver as they survive a ludicrous aqueduct crash––they share a 'Holy shit that was a close one!" smile, but Indy immediately thereafter punches him in the face and flings him from the truck). So my friends argued that Indy merely was taking advantage of the Guard's plight just to get a free ride up to the catwalk. Now, Indiana Jones is a dick, to be sure, but I don't think he's that big of a dick, to––in the midst of incredible human suffering––think, 'Wow- I can totally leverage this into a free ride up to this catwalk up there- niiiice!' But, then again, maybe he can. Rewatching it, I still stand by my prior position, but I can certainly see the other side of it as well. You are free to resuscitate this age-old playground dispute in the comments section.