Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Review by Andrea Carnevali

I can hear some of you moaning already. What!? Five stars to this sequel?! (Yes I know It’s a prequel).

Is this it really as good as the first one? Well, of course not. But then again, hardly anything is in my book. But, is this one of the most entertaining, fun, dazzling, un-relentlessly inventive and non-stop action film in cinema history? My answer to all this is also a resounding YES.

I never get tired of watching “Temple of Doom”, and tonight watching with Giovanni, now turned Indy-worshipper too, with the lights turned down and the volume at full-blast, was like re-living it for the first time. I can’t hardly think of an action film that is this exciting, scary and entertaining all at the same time.

Let me just remind you. We start with a blast: a completely unexpected musical number, giving us a glimpse of what Spielberg would be able to achieve years later when he finally got around to direct his first musical, West Side Story.

After that we get introduced to Indiana, in his white tuxedo with red flower, a homage to Connery’s Bond, like no others. And then the exchange at the round table, the hilarious fight scene among falling white balloons, running behind the big silver gong (a scene which was meant to be in the first one and was eventually cut from the script for timing reasons), Indy and Willie falling out the window, the hilarious introduction to Short Round driving a car (aren’t we all please to see this new Ke Huy Quan’s renaissance these days?), and then that funny twist revealing that the plane Indy is fleeing on actually belongs to the baddie. And that’s all in the first few minutes.

And let’s not forget the scene with the beetles, the crushing-room with those spikes, the roller coaster chase in the tunnels, that relentless scene where Indy tries to save Willie from being dipped in lava… (possibly one of the most tense in the entire series), the final moment on the bridge. Hardly has action ever been more inventive and tense.

And let’s not forget those really funny moments too: the banter between Willie and Indy, the elephants, night-time in the jungle…

Yes, I know, the film can be very silly at times (falling off the plane on a dingy??!), but it was never supposed to be taken too seriously. It’s just a fun ride and we should go along with it.

It’s definitely darker too. Probably too dark in places. Some people really took against this. Spielberg and Lucas themselves always regretted going a bit too far with “Temple of Doom” in terms of its dark tones and horror-like quality, but as far as I’m concerned, that never bothered me and it still doesn’t.

I’ve always been a great fan of scary films and as kid (I know… bit of a disturbed child) I always loved every second of this, especially the darker scenes. We’ve become much too prudent, and politically correct these days – nobody would ever dare showing a chained-up child being used as slave in a family-oriented film. And as for the racist undertones… The infamous dinner scene today is probably considered a little bit insulting to foreign cultures.

Oh well, I think we are definitely becoming a little bit too sensitive these days. I’ve grown up all my life watching Italians being depicted as Mafiosi in films: no big deal. I mean, c’mon, it’s a film, after all, for crying out loud! And also, it was the ’80s. Everything was allowed.

Beyond all this triviality, this is another masterwork in film direction, pace and staging. It’s just a real pleasure to see how Spielberg moves his camera (not just during the action set pieces) and how it orchestrates it all. More than anyone he knows how to make us jump, cover our eyes and root for his hero.

And while all this happens, John Williams comes up, once again, with some of his best score. This is what action films should be like, look like and feel like, forget about 99% of anything that we get today!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (and the other Indiana Jones films) are now available on Disney+ in advance of the release of Dial of Destiny at the end of June.