Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

1984

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

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Critic Consensus: It may be too "dark" for some, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains an ingenious adventure spectacle that showcases one of Hollywood's finest filmmaking teams in vintage form.

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Movie Info

The second of the George Lucas/Steven Spielberg Indiana Jones epics is set a year or so before the events in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1984). After a brief brouhaha involving a precious vial and a wild ride down a raging Himalyan river, Indy (Harrison Ford) gets down to the problem at hand: retrieving a precious gem and several kidnapped young boys on behalf of a remote East Indian village. His companions this time around include a dimbulbed, easily frightened nightclub chanteuse (Kate Capshaw), and a feisty 12-year-old kid named Short Round (Quan Ke Huy). Throughout, the plot takes second place to the thrills, which include a harrowing rollercoaster ride in an abandoned mineshaft and Indy's rescue of the heroine from a ritual sacrifice. There are also a couple of cute references to Raiders of the Lost Ark, notably a funny variation of Indy's shooting of the Sherpa warrior. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Harrison Ford
as Indiana Jones
Kate Capshaw
as Willie Scott
Jonathan Ke Quan
as Short Round
Amrish Puri
as Mola Ram
Philip Stone
as Capt. Blumburtt
Roshan Seth
as Chattar Lal
David Yip
as Wu Han
Roy Chiao
as Lao Che
Ric Young
as Kao Kan
Rex Ngui
as Maitre d'
Philip Tann
as Chief Henchman
Akio Mitamura
as Chinese Pilot
Michael Yama
as Chinese Copilot
Ruby DeMiel
as Village Woman
D.M. Denawake
as Village Woman
I. Serasinghe
as Village Woman
Dharshana Panangala
as Village Child
Raj Singh
as Little Maharaja
Art Repola
as Eel Eater
Nizwar Karanj
as Sacrifice Victim
Pat Roach
as Chief guard
Mellan Mitchell
as Temple Guard
Bhasker Patel
as Temple Guard
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News & Interviews for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Critic Reviews for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

All Critics (66) | Top Critics (8)

Spielberg has come up with another rousing piece of entertainment.

Jun 24, 2015 | Full Review…

Again you will savor the Indiana Jones schizophrenia: by day a bow-tied, bespectacled archaeologist; by night a resourceful swaggerer, whom Ford brings to life as a modern blend of Bogie and the Duke, with just a glint of misfit psychopathy in his eyes.

Jan 13, 2010 | Full Review…

It's not the darker turn that makes The Temple of Doom uncomfortable at times; it's its mean-spiritedness.

Jun 10, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Pic comes on like a sledgehammer, and there's even a taste of vulgarity and senseless excess not apparent in Raiders.

May 5, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

The film betrays no human impulse higher than that of a ten-year-old boy trying to gross out his baby sister by dangling a dead worm in her face.

May 5, 2008 | Full Review…

Part of the trouble is that anything clearly does go, including the slender hold on credibility that Raiders managed to maintain.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Following the massive success of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", it was inevitable that a sequel would follow. No sane minded, or financially aware, production company would ever dream of missing the opportunity to boost a few more zero's on their bank accounts. And so... the sequel made it to the screen three years later. Now, some have given this second adventure a bit of hard time but I happen to think it's a very underrated and action packed addition to the adventures of the whip- cracking, fedora-wearing Dr. Jones that we have come to know and love. This time, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is in search of the Sankara Stones - artefacts that an ancient village believe has protected them for generations and with the recent disappearance of their children, only the stones will bring them back, as well as, the protection of their people. As is customary, Indy agrees to the exploration, but he does so with wanted (and unwanted) people in tow. Although a follow-up, Indy's second adventure actually precedes Raiders by one year (essentially making it the beginning of the franchise) and this time were we find ourselves in 1935. The Nazi's haven't occupied Europe, yet Indy is still going about his endeavours with just as much bravery and commitment as we'd expect. His (and our) adventure begins in China before moving onto India as Spielberg and Lucas leave behind the Nazi adversaries and opt for a more world exploration in the travels of our favourite archeologist. Some might argue that the Nazi's were part of the draw in Raiders - and I'd agree with them. Who doesn't like the Nazi's being challenged? However, what can't be argued, is that Spielberg still hasn't lost his touch in concocting an exciting matinee yarn. Even though the Nazi's are omitted (and missed) as villains, the second instalment adds to the overall sense of world wide adventures that Indy has experienced. That being said, many viewers were not happy with this film. It's a little more bubble-gum entertainment than the solidity of it's predecessor but when the character and his escapades are so much fun, it's still very difficult not to be drawn in. Let's face it, Raiders was an achievement that was never going to be surpassed but I admire Spielberg and Lucas' determination in trying. For example, the escape from a nosediving airplane by rubber dingy is genius action material, as is, the roller coaster chase through the mines and the (hugely iconic) ultimate rope bridge showdown make up some of the best action set-pieces in any of the films. In fact, the opening rolling gong at the Shanghai nightclub and mine shaft chase were originally planned for parts of Raiders but they couldn't fit it in. You could also say that the sense of humour was diminished in favour of a darker tone (leaving this to be one of the first films to ever be prescribed a newly appointed PG-13 rating). Once again, Ford embodies the role with such commitment and believability and despite the dark tone, Spielberg still retains a sense of humour with the incorporation of damsel in distress Willie Scott (a gleefully entertaining Kate Capshaw) and child sidekick "Short round" (a perfectly cast Ke-Huy Quan) and his action skills are, simply, at the peak of his powers. Despite it possessing some of the most iconic scenes and confrontations of Indy's adventures, this had been pilloried for being a lacklustre follow-up. It does have faults, for sure, but this is still one of most underrated of action adventures that Hollywood (or Spielberg) has ever produced. Mark Walker

Mark Walker
Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

½

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is nowhere near as good as its predecessor, Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it hasn't lost the sense of adventure that made that earlier film so iconic. Certainly the boundaries of realism and plausibility are stretched rather thin, but this sequel (actually a prequel since the events take place before the events in Raiders) is solid entertainment. This time around, Indy finds himself narrowly escaping a botched attempt in China to retrieve a precious diamond. He ends up in India, where he is employed by a small town to find a stolen gem as well as a multitude of kidnapped boys. This endeavour is quite unsettling as the truth that Indy uncovers is not only mean-spirited but downright terrifying. Accompanied with a cast of popular Indian actors that add to this film's universal appeal, Temple of Doom is a fun adventure that will disturb and enthrall in equal doses.

Edward Boxler
Edward Boxler

Super Reviewer

½

While not having as great a story as the original film, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" serves as a very entertaining picture towards this adventure franchise, which has lasted decades and deeply impacted cinema. I must say that the characters in this film are much more fun to watch, due to their silliness, and the direction is just as good as before. The story unravels, less interesting than the first, but the action is far more improved. This sequel is not one to miss if you are a fan of the first. I enjoyed the hell out of it, although it's not as original!

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

There's a great myth in filmmaking that stories with dark tones or subject matter are inherently more interesting than stories which are more light-hearted in premise or execution. People who've been following my reviews for some time might conclude that I agree with this sentiment, generally gravitating towards and heaping praise upon dark films like Killing Them Softly, Chinatown and We Need To Talk About Kevin. But in the end, dark storylines are like any other aspect of filmmaking: they are brilliant and effective when they are done right. Darkness has to be justified every bit as much as silliness, and just being or going dark for its own sake can often make a film feel desperate and misjudged rather than impressive or deep. When it comes to action films there is no better example than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which pales in comparison to Raiders of the Lost Ark and still has its problems after nearly 30 years. In hindsight it's not hard to see why Lucas and Spielberg decided to go dark with Temple of Doom. Like Star Wars before it, Raiders was a far greater success than anyone could have imagined, reviving Spielberg's career and leaving an indelible mark on popular culture. Any sequel (or prequel) would have a hard act to follow, needing to raise the stakes and deepen the characters in order to justify itself. Lucas and Spielberg knew that they couldn't just repeat the formula of Raiders, with the former outright rejecting any more stories about Nazis (for the time being). In making Temple of Doom, Lucas and Spielberg tried to follow the template of The Empire Strikes Back, with more time being devoted to character interaction and much less of an overall quest. As with Empire, Lucas' involvement was confined to the story and production aspects, and so you cannot entirely blame Temple of Doom's failures on his creative input. The bigger problem is that the second instalments of each series serve very different purposes, responding to and addressing different aspects of their predecessors. It made sense for Empire to be darker and slower because we needed something to believe that Luke, Han and Leia were more than just walking archetypes. We needed to believe that the Empire were not just a monster-of-the-week bad guy, who could be defeated by just blowing up the newest Death Star. The film succeeded because it gave us these things, adding bigger stakes while keeping the experience enjoyable. Indiana Jones, on the other hand, is a franchise whose appeal comes from the thrill of the chase, going through different locations discovering clues and getting into scrapes. It is possible to do character development, but it mustn't interfere with the pacing to such an extent that we start unpicking the plot. This is where Temple of Doom comes unstuck, spending far too long setting things up and ultimately not delivering on the thrills until the last half hour. When Lucas and Spielberg saw the first cut, they both felt the film was too fast - something they rectified by letting certain scenes play out for longer, giving the story time to breathe. Without having seen the original cut, it's hard to know how much better it would have been, but as things stand the film is paced very inconsistently. The opening section feels baggy, the middle is just about right and the ending is a breathless rollercoaster that almost wears us out. The opening of the film immediately sends alarm bells ringing, starting not with an action-packed quest or thrilling chase, but a musical number. As a director Spielberg can do many things; big musical set-pieces is not one of them. The whole opening is intended as a tribute to Busby Berkeley musicals of the 1930s, but all it does is bring back horrible memories of the jitterbugging scenes in 1941. It's a lot more coherent and has better choreography, but it still feels forced, as though Spielberg wasn't really sure what he was doing. In terms of its characterisation, Temple of Doom is more rooted in the conventions of the fantasy genre. Short Round acts as Sancho Panza to Indiana's Don Quixote, following him everywhere out of chivalry and devotion, and often being bemused by the choices that he makes. But while Short Round is tolerable, Willie Scott is perhaps the single most annoying character in the history of the series. She is the damsel in distress turned up to eleven, spending the whole film either screaming, moping, preening or being rescued. Spielberg was quoted as saying that his subsequent marriage to Kate Capshaw is his only means of justifying the film (bear in mind: snakes, eyeballs and bugs won't always work on first dates). The central problem with Temple of Doom is simple: it doesn't always feel like an Indiana Jones film. While you can understand Lucas and Spielberg not wanting to do a straight-up rehash of Raiders, they go so far against the grain that they lose sight of what made Raiders work so well. All the moments that are set up as funny are either inherently not funny or are executed in a slapdash manner. We do get some good humour, such as the bedroom scenes, but the food scene is far too gross and creepy to be funny. In my review of Raiders, I mentioned that if you stopped for any length of time, you could start to notice aspects of the plot which don't add up. This wasn't a big problem, for the reasons I laid out, but it becomes a problem with Temple of Doom because we are never so involved in the story that we can avoid noticing them. While Raiders' plot functioned like a well-oiled machine, Temple of Doom is like a ghost train; different elements are thrown at us in quick succession without much attempt at narrative cohesion. Some of the shortcomings can be written off as continuity errors, such as the reappearance of Indy's whip. Others are excusable on the grounds of shock value: we have no idea how a man can have his heart torn out and still live, but the experience is so striking that we overlook it. But most of the time, the shortcomings are downright idiotic - for instance, Indy escaping from the trance by being burned, in a cult based on burning people to death. While the original was hardly 2001, this is very much a 'leave your brain at the door' action movie. We now come on to the delicate issue of racism - specifically the accusation that Temple of Doom is racist in its depiction of India and Hindu culture. As with Raiders, the B-movie territory dictates that the depiction of religion and culture are plot devices rather than dramatic details. But while it's not meant to be taken seriously, there was an effort made with Raiders to make the mythology both consistent and referential enough to have dramatic impact. In other words, even if it wasn't accurate, it made enough sense within the story so you could read into it without being offended. In this case, we're dealing with a mishmash of names and symbols from Hinduism, voodoo and other religions. In creating a fictional cult, Spielberg is stereotyping a series of cultures as one for the sake of having easy-to-recognise bad guys. It isn't racist per se, insofar as it doesn't depict all Indians as backward devil worshippers, but it does unfairly exploit recognisable elements of these cultures, for no good reason other than to differentiate our heroes. Had Lucas and Spielberg simply made up a culture, taking things further into the fantasy genre, it might not have been so problematic (or uncomfortable to talk about). In spite of all its problems, there are certain things about Temple of Doom which do still hold up. While the darkness of the plot ultimately works against the characters, the film still looks really good. Douglas Slocombe's cinematography is great, using carefully placed smoke, red light and wide angles to such effect that you'd never know you were looking at a sound stage. The Kali temple feels like a Hammer film on steroids, and for all the inconsistencies surrounding the cult itself, Mola Ram is still a terrifying villain. The film is also entertaining as a piece of action. In the second half the pacing does pick up and the set-pieces begin to flow one from another every bit as wittily as the truck chase in Raiders. While the film as a whole feels like a fairground ride, you couldn't have shot the mine sequences in any other order; they make perfect sense and build to a famous climax. Even when it starts blatantly repeating Raiders (the sword vs. gun joke), it's such a marked improvement on the first half that we let it slide. If Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was very by-the-numbers and then lost its way at the end, Temple of Doom spends its first half trying to find itself and eventually ends up on firm footing. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a heavily flawed film, which deserves its reputation as the weakest and most problematic of the original trilogy. It is of some value both visually and for the spectacle, and it does steadily improve in its second half. But there's so much wrong with it, both technically and thematically, that it doesn't quite make the grade compared to Raiders or Last Crusade. In the end it's as flawed and entertaining as Crystal Skull - it has its problems, but it will not be your doom.

Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

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