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.
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.”