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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on September 29, 2012

The time had come.  The time was made especially convenient by the Blu-Ray release, but it was time nonetheless.  Time to revisit Temple of Doom and see if perhaps it’s better than I thought it was.  After all, although my last attempt to watch it went quite poorly, I hadn’t actually sat through the whole thing in roughly 20 years.

Never again.  Never, ever again.  The biggest offender is Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott.  Never mind comparing her to the greatness of Karen Allen in Raiders.  Willie is so shrill, so irritating, so awful you don’t need the contrast to loathe her.  One of the worst leading ladies I can think of.  In fact, I can’t think of anyone worse.  If Spielberg can use digital technology to replace guns with walkie-talkies in E.T., why can’t he put that power to good use and eliminate Capshaw entirely from this movie?  I mean, besides the fact that she’s his wife.  Even the character’s name sucks.  Willie Scott?  Sounds like a shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

What makes it worse is that Indiana Jones falls for this wretched character.  It isn’t even presented as a case of opposites attract, it’s just… there.  As if because she’s the only woman (or at least, the only white woman) around he needs to try to get it on with her, despite the fact that up to that point she’s been nothing but an annoyance and a burden.  And what’s with the suave ladies’ man routine he pulls on her?  This isn’t the Indiana Jones we know, who a few years later (in the timeline of Raiders) has a boyish, bashful reaction to sexuality.

Short Round isn’t much better.  In fact, his repeated utterances of “Doctah Jones!” may actually be more obnoxious than Willie’s “Indeeeeeeee!!” shrieks.  Heaven spare us from spunky sidekick juveniles.  I hate this kid.

And the problems don’t stop there.  The excessive abundance of gross-out moments.  The lame slapstick.  The ridiculous racism, so egregious that Harrison Ford apologized and said, “I’ll use what power I have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”  The usual Spielbergian reliance on children in peril as a cheap play for audience sympathy.  And the special effects are pretty shoddy.  Even the fan favorite mine cart scene is marred by instances of lousy rear projection and obvious stop-motion animation.

There has to be something to enjoy here, right?  The callback to the swordsman scene from the first film made me smile, that was a clever update of an iconic moment.  The red lighting of the Kali worship is quite striking.  And you almost have to admire the tongue-in-cheek quality of the opening bit, although the sequence itself is not very enjoyable.

That’s about all the nice things I can say.  I really cannot tolerate this picture.  It’s not merely that it feels like a betrayal of the first film, it’s just a straight up terrible movie.  Raiders is a wonder of economy and seems to fly by in no time.  Temple of Doom seems to drag on and on and on, an endless barrage of misery.  Never again.  Rating: Crap (13)

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2 Responses to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (rewatch)”

  1. JamDenTel said

    Ouch.

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