The second installment of the beloved Indiana Jones franchise, which also acts as a prequel to first film, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM feels like a noticeable step back from the prestigious adventures of the series’ first installment, not only in chronology but quality as well. Even with a new setting for Indy’s various brushes with death and a new cast of characters to work off of, this second entry feels like a B-plot made into an expensive and always impressively produced feature.

Returning to the director’s chair once more, Steven Spielberg adds his usual impressive array of production tricks to a story written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, who set this entry one year before the events of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Beginning with a stellar introductory sequence that mixes musical and slapstick comedic fighting, Dr. Jones (Harrison Ford) finds himself and his pint sized partner/child figure, Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) escaping from Shanghai with angry dealers at their heels. Unintentionally along for the ride with these two is lounge singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) who, during a skirmish in said introductory sequence, finds herself whisked away with the professor and his child assistant. However, as they make their escape from Shanghai by plane, said plane crashes and Indy and friends find themselves in the wilds of India (much to Willie’s shrieking chagrin). As they make their way through the wilderness, the trio are soon whisked into the problems of a local village who task the reluctant archaeologist with retrieving the village’s magic stone from a cult that stole it from them. Never one to turn down a chance at finding a mythical artifact, Dr. Jones and his crew embark on a quest that will have them facing off against gruesome dinner parties, gigantic cultists, and even crocodiles (or is it alligators?).

Whatever the new batch of problems that come Indy’s way, Spielberg and co., for the most part, maintain that lovable atmosphere of pulpy adventure. From the aforementioned intro sequence (headlined by a truly impressive and catchy musical number) to a mine cart chase sequence through burning caves, audiences will find no trouble sorting through a bouquet of well produced action sequences. Indeed, the overall production quality rises to the task of the previous installment by vividly bringing to life the jungles and deserts of India (through Douglas Slocombe’s vast and bountiful framing) as well as the interiors of subterranean caves and illustrious palaces courtesy of some splendid set and production design.

However, despite the return of scrumptious visuals and eye-catching feats of adventure, TEMPLE OF DOOM feels like a footnote of a film. Acting as a prequel, the film never really brings any new or interesting insights into the Indiana Jones character even as Ford himself once again displays charm and gritty know how with ease. Truly, the story itself feels like a sidetrack as Indy’s dealings with a small village and the evil cult attacking them feels relatively low stakes compared to RAIDERS’ world ending threat. Even the new supporting cast, while entertaining on their own, feel lacking in regards to how they fit with our main character despite some interesting pulls at their relationships as Huy Quan’s Short Round digs up moments of fatherly bonding from the usually lone wolf Indy and Capshaw engages in humourous tit for tat displays of overconfidence and flirtatious double entendres. While they never become in-depth, the performances make these characters interesting enough to want to see them show up in future installments. Overall though, these new characters despite their performer’s aspirations, remain broad and one-note throughout and in relation to the franchise as a whole, seem pointless as we all know where Indy’s future adventure will take him.

Despite the air of pointlessness surrounding the film, and who knows, maybe THE LAST CRUSADE will bring some of these characters and events back, TEMPLE OF DOOM is still a pretty fun film. On pure exhilaration levels, you can’t really do better (even though I do admittedly enjoy watching Ford get battered around which is lacking here) as Spielberg and co. have enough snazzy tricks up their sleeve to make even a step back in time and quality memorable.





Aspiring Movie Person. To get more personal follow @DaRealZamboni on Twitter.

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Justin Norris

Justin Norris

Aspiring Movie Person. To get more personal follow @DaRealZamboni on Twitter.

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