Temple of Doom Memories

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Memories

My favorite of the “Indiana Jones” sequels is “Temple of Doom.” I know “Last Crusade” has its legion defenders, and it’s terrific fun. But, in terms of sheer rewatchability, “Temple of Doom” is the one I’ve revisited the most since I was young. The film’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach is just so relentlessly appealing to me. It is not wonder I have such great Temple of Doom memories. Everything that Spielberg and Lucas couldn’t fit into “Raiders” winds up in “Doom.” That being said, it’s all over the place tonally. Even so, that’s part of what I like about it.

Temple of Doom Memories

I remember “Temple of Doom” being an HBO fixture as a kid. There’s no telling how many times I’ve seen it, and I never seem to tire of the proceedings. After thinking he’s escaped from the clutches of Chinese gangster Lao Chi in Shanghai, Indiana Jones, his sidekick Short Round and chanteuse Willie find themselves aboard an airplane with no pilots. They bail out somewhere over India and end up in a village where the heart-ripping Thuggee cult has kidnapped all the villagers’ children and stolen their three mystical Sankara stones.

Jones agrees to recover the stones for mercenary reasons (“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.”), but after he, Short Round and Willie are captured by the Thuggee, Jones is forced to drink the blood of Kali, which turns him evil. He participates in a Thuggee ritual at the behest of cult leader Mola Ram and prepares to dip Willie into a pit of boiling lava. But, Short Round breaks Kali’s spell over Indy. Together they rescue Willie and free the children Mola Ram has enslaved. Indy, Short Round and Willie then narrowly escape underground lair of the Thuggee in a wild mine cart chase, and Indy has his final showdown with Mola Ram on a rickety rope bridge. It’s there that Indy finally discovers the true power of the Sankara stones. Whew. What a ride.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” famously is one of the two films, the other being “Gremlins,” responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Although I was a pretty sensitive kid, I somehow was able to handle the scene where Mola Ram removes the still-beating heart from the chest of some poor human sacrifice (“Ohm numa shi vaiyay!”). The film was made at a time when Lucas was going through a divorce, and so has a much darker tone as the filmmaker was exorcising his personal demons. I know that it’s Spielberg’s least favorite of the four Indy movies. Funnily enough, the PG-13 “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is much more upbeat and decidedly less violent than its two PG-rated predecessors.

Is “Doom” as good as “Raiders?” No, “Raiders” is far and away the best of the series. What I find endearing about “Doom” is how it — maybe too well — embraces its movie serial roots. Its storytelling is shaggier, and it doesn’t hang together as neatly as “Raiders.” Still, it isn’t wanting for enthusiasm. “Doom” moves at a breakneck pace and never bores you. It’s not a perfect movie, and yet, it’s great at what it sets out to do and that’s keep you on the edge of your seat. Is it entertaining? Oh, yes. Is it exhausting? Maybe. Even still, it delivers on its promise: “If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones.”

Brad Lohan

Brad Lohan is a writer, cineaste and costumed vigilante who lives in Los Angeles. He is currently procrastinating his next screenplay.

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19 thoughts on “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Memories

  1. I’ll admit that I really don’t like this movie. Once they leave Club Obi-Wan, the movie is over as far as I’m concerned. That said, you make a good case for it and actually make me wonder if I should watch it again with these thoughts in mind. Maybe it would soften my opinion of it some. Good write up!

  2. I’m with you, Doom was and is still my fave, especially for rewatching. I love the comedy between Short Round and Indy and Willie.
    I showed it to my 4 yr old daughter after months of playing the LEGO Indiana jones game and she LOVES the part where Mola Ram puts the guy in the fire and rips his heart out. Freaky I know. Now when she sees Mola Ram she calls him “the guy who puts people in the fire”.

  3. I remember walking out of this movie and thinking “WOW, that movie had everything” and the two friends I saw it both said, “Man that wasn’t as good as the first one”.

    I was pretty quiet about my opinion after that, but I am glad to see that I was not alone. Great stuff.

  4. Doug says:

    How could Doom be anybody’s least favorite of the four? That distinction belongs to Crystal Skull.

    In truth, Doom is the best bad movie there ever was. The special effects are weak even for that time, and the storytelling & characterization are loose, as Brad says. A lot of the gags are flat (“Water. Water!”) Still, it rocks. Best part? “Prepare to meet Kali…in HELL!”

  5. vinvectrex says:

    Great review, Brad! Doesn’t change my opinion that this film is far worse than Crystal Skull. But, it has made me think it may deserve another viewing. My favorite aspect of Doom is that it shows a franchise can recover from a bad sequel. I think Indy does this best, followed by Back to the Future. My second favorite aspect is the scary bug room sequence. Which just goes to show that even though I’m not a big Doom fan, I still respect a lot of this film’s elements.

  6. Chrome Gouda says:

    I understand what Lucas was trying to do with Temple of Doom, but for me, it just wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as Raiders. I think it’s mainly because of two reasons:

    First, too much of what happens in the movie just doesn’t seem relaistic- the falling out of the plane in the liferaft and surviving, then going over the thousand-foot waterfall drop and everyone staying in the raft. Or the mine cart chase at the end, which goes on through a never ending maze of mine shafts, none of which have any other humans around? What I liked about Raiders is that it all seemed like it could actually happen… except for the part where Indy somehow rides the submarine from the coast of Egypt across the entire Medeterranian, and thens omehow gets up onto the dock while the sub is still pulling into the sub base. I always wondered about that one.

    The second reason I don’t like Doom nearly as much as Raiders (or Last Crusade for that matter) is that I find the constant screeching of Willie, and the immature “ha-ha, you funny” of Short Round to be unbelievably annoying. That scene where she is running around the campfire while various snakes and frogs scare her, screeching all the while? I just want to cover my ears and say please, someone find Karen Allen to come and punch this girl. Of course, this is where Speilberg found his wife, so I guess we should just consider ourselves lucky not to see her in Last Crusade.

    I do love one thing from this move that you mentioned, and that is the line, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory…” follwed by Sort Round whispering,”Fortune and glory.” Good stuff.

  7. Doug says:

    Yes, Willy is annoying, but…but…okay, there’s no counterpoint to Willy. Still, once the action starts, it never stops. And Indy takes so much punishment yet keeps on ticking. And the Mythbusters did prove that you can fall out of a plane in liferaft and survive as well as that you can fall through multiple canopies and survive, so that’s something.

  8. Z says:

    I agree with ya Brad, great piece dude. Temple of Doom is jam-packed with adventure from start to finish. It’s my fav of the series too. I also appreciate your recollection of it as an HBO fixture – hilarious.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here…I love Willy! She’s such a classic damsel in distress. A complete 180 from Marion in Raiders. I give the filmmakers credit for changing up Indy’s love interest/dynamic. They took a chance and it definitely adds in giving Temple of Doom its own unique voice. Her non-stop blabber and constant screaming almost make her seem like a character out of The Goonies. She cracks me up.

  9. Even with all the cringe-inducing stereotypes (the writing of Willie was one that bugged me the most), I have a fondness for this film. I saw it as a child and the heart-ripping scene was so scary! But in a good way.

    Thanks for this post!

  10. When I was a kid, I thought this movie was great.

    As an adult, I watch the movie and have to do everything not to vomit.

    Not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but this film was so goofy it was bad. Much like Crystal Skull. Nothing can top the original Raiders..

    P.S. Kate Capshaw is the main reason I dislike this movie.

  11. Dax says:

    Best moment in the movie, says me: When Indy frees the kids in the mine. That reveal of him standing there, after he takes the guard’s whip, is pretty dang awesome.

  12. Doug says:

    Dax, that’s what I’m saying. When Willy says, “Let’s get out of here” and he says, “Yeah. All of us.” Best moment in the series.

  13. Atari Adventure Square says:

    A thrill-ride I’ve watched probably a few too many times, but still enjoy today.
    I think it’s the first *new* VHS I ever bought, because it was widely released at an affordable price (around 20$?) as tapes began to be sold as household keepsakes rather than unique rental items, around that time.

    “Willy…Willy. Is that short for anything?”
    Yeah, Willy-a shut up already!
    Heh, she was quite a pill as a character choice, and with the double-abrasive-whammy of Short Round, I dunno what Spielberg (or Lucas) was thinking.
    I seem to remember audiences reacting unfavorably to some of the more louder and inane outbursts, though Indy kept us all in check for the fun of the ride.
    They all grew on me nonetheless, after the twentieth or so viewing of my beloved purchase.

    And besides, much as I would’ve loved to have seen her again, Marion couldn’t have been there, since Temple was a prequel to Raiders.

    And all the quintessential Indy moments mentioned in this thread are reason enough to love this film.
    Indiana Jones movies rule.
    All of them.

  14. twilitezoner says:

    Kate Capshaw’s Willy almost ruined this movie for me. Lets not forget the great Atari arcade game for this film as well.

  15. WE ARE GOING TO DIE…! (followed by pained expression).

    Ah y’see, this is why I purchased the NTSC boxed set of the original 3 movies, several years ago, seeing as the BBFC had cut the DVD release over here (by 1 minute 6 seconds), so the higher age limit may’ve dented sales?!? boo…! I love Temple of Doom, especially uncut.
    I think no matter how annoying people think they are, Willie and Short Round are brilliant foils for Indy.

    Willie: There’re two dead people down here!
    Indy: There are gonna be two dead people in here! Hurry!

  16. The film won the Oscar for best visual effects in 1984. How can anyone say they are weak even for the time?

    I think this movie almost equals Raiders of the Lost Ark. Raiders only edges it out because Raiders came first.

  17. Yoda says:

    Several scenes make this movie my fav,

    The entire scene when willy and Indy try to goto bed through when all three escape the spike room. The widescreen shot of the spike room is so memorable.

    After Indy frees the kids and he has to fight off the thugee

    Of course the bridge

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