Starring: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Jonathan Ke Quan
Rated PG (probably for Action Violence, Disturbing Images and Brief Language)
I think that Indiana Jones' second outing, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," is a far superior feature to the entertaining but overrated "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Don't get me wrong, "Raiders" is a blast with a number of spectacular action sequences, but the storyline is on the thin side and it's a little too energetic for its own good. That's changed with his second outing, which boasts a stronger plot and packs a bigger punch. Plus, as creepy as Toht, the panting, trenchcoat-wearing villain from "Raiders" was, he's got nothing on Mola Ram.
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is a prequel to "Raiders," and is set a year previous. After a deal in China goes bad, Dr. Indiana Jones (Ford) makes a hasty escape with a pretty but feisty lounge singer named Willie (Capshaw). Their escape is foiled when the pilots make a secret escape, and the trio ends up in India. They arrive at a town that has the word "run-down" written all over it. Apparently, there are some seedy things going on at a palace nearby, and recently all the children and the town's sacred stone were taken. It's up to Dr. Jones to figure out what's going on and save the day.
For those of you that care, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is not politically correct. The infamous dinner scene, which is more gross than any raunchy sex comedy I've seen ("Borat" included), is filled with stereotypes. And while the villainous Thugee cult did in fact exist, it was so different than what is presented in the movie that they might as well have changed the name. But the movie is so light and silly that this isn't even worth arguing.
Harrison Ford slides easily back into the leather jacket and fedora. Ford's acting talents have mostly gone unrecognized (he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for "Witness"), but he makes an excellent Indiana Jones. Tough, handy in a fight, but not immune to physical punishment (the rock crushing scene is a case in point). And let's not forget his phobia of snakes.
He's surrounded by an able supporting cast. Kate Capshaw, who ended up marrying the director, has received little love from fans over the years, but I like Willie. I think she's funny, and Capshaw has a great scream. Then again, I also like Jar Jar Binks. Jonathan Ke Quan, who was found when he was tagging along with his brother (who was auditioning) for moral support, is also very good. And Amrish Puri radiates malevolence as the main villain.
There are a few reasons why I like "Temple of Doom" better. First, the setting is different. As fun as "Raiders" is, Nazis have been done to death. They have been, and are, in everything. A Thugee cult is new and intriguing. The story is also stronger and more inventive. Finally, it occasionally slows down to let us catch out breath and flesh out the plot and characters.
The film was controversial when it was released due to the violence and dark tone. A scene in which a minor character's heart is ripped out through his chest and lights on fire as he is lowered into a pit of lava is widely cited as the reason the MPAA instituted the PG-13 rating (which caused a whole 'nother set of problems, but that's for another day). But that dark edge is precisely why I like this movie better. Plus, you can't beat the infamous mine cart ride, which is just sensational.
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" has everything an Indiana Jones movie should have: great action, great humor, and lots of fun.