The Indiana Jones films are generally held among the top three greatest film franchises in history. While the movies never received the critical acclaim and Academy Awards like the Godfather films or the widespread cult following and expanded universe of the Star Wars series, Indiana Jones remains one of
I do not understand the universal dislike for this entry in the series. It seems that people who don’t like Temple of Doom are the same people who don’t like Last Crusade, so why would they bother sticking around for a fourth film when they have been let down over sixty percent of the time? Are they Star Trek fans? Perhaps my disgruntled contemporaries are looking at the films with a far too critical eye. Personally, I choose to think of the movies of my youth with fonder memories, remembering how they impacted me then and how they influence me now. In fact, as I write this, I purposefully failed to watch the movie again, relying solely on my memory.
I’m sure now, as I think back, that my main attraction to Temple of Doom was the character of Short Round. Johnathon Ke Quan was living out my dream on screen as a tiny brown kid, running around with Indy and providing the comic relief. His presence draws kids in by being the only kid in a movie aimed at kids, yet he is now widely held in contempt as some kind if predecessor to Jar Jar Binks. One of the most remarkable things about the movie is that it IS a kid’s movie, yet it never feels like one. For a movie that people call ‘too dark’, it has more comedy in it, I think, than Raiders. Speaking of dialogue, isn’t
I remember watching Temple of Doom at a family gathering once when I must have been around eight. It might have been the first time I saw the film because when the servants pulled the lids of the monkey skulls and the entire table began to dig into the brains, I cracked like a whip to the bathroom and threw up dinner. After brushing my teeth, I returned, undaunted, to finish watching the movie. It was the first time a movie ever made me vomit, but certainly not the last, thank you very much Patch Adams.
Playing devil’s advocate, I understand that while I may romanticize
The movies are amazingly interconnected of more levels than merely a timeline. The fact that characters rarely repeat is as significant as those who do. Karen Allen was the favorite Indy paramour and a no-brainer to return for the fourth film. However, her character in the first movie seems like an extension of Princess Leia and slightly out of place. The scenes between her and Indy are good, but they do not have the pop of the classic 1940’s film couples they were inspired by, like Bogart and Bacall. Kate Capshaw’s Willie character falls into the more established damsel in distress role with her sexual advances towards Indy, her singing career and her inability to ever save herself from peril. Their relationship has much more conflict to me, a very Moonlighting, love-hate, ‘let’s yell and slam doors when we really want to scream and tear each other apart’ dynamic. For me, the real love story in the movie is not even between Indy and Willie, but between Indy and Short Round. Foreshadowing the direction that the third movie would take, the father-son angle is obvious between the two, with Short Round idolizing Indy and Indy reluctant to embrace the father figure role, preferring Short Round as a partner and treating him like an equal. It pays off in Last Crusade when we learn of the relationship between Indy and his father, Henry and discover his father issues and most certainly will have repercussions in Crystal Skull with the reveal of his own son.
Before I seal this cavern up again, one question still perplexes me. Why does
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom will always hold a special place in my heart, alongside other sentimental classics from my formative childhood years, such as The Right Stuff, Beetlejuice and Full Metal Jacket. I can appreciate other people’s opinions and tastes. I only wish they could do the same and understand some people like movies with lava pits, elephants and car chases that occur on rails. Don’t trash a movie because it’s not as good as you remember or expected it to be. Especially when it’s something you used to cherish and hold dear. If everybody thought like that, there would still be fist fights breaking out over the new Star Wars movies. Ok, maybe just serious showing matches, but can we not let go of our anger, realize there are more movies for us to watch, worse movies for us to get upset about and that the lightsaber fights in I, II and III are WAY cooler? I implore you, dear readers. For as a wise Chinaman once said, “You listen to me, you live longer!”
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom is available on DVD from Paramount. Don't be a schmuck, wait until Christmas and buy all four on Blu-Ray.