Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

In a typically contrarian manner, I did not like the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was okay, as I often explain, right up until the submarine ride across the Atlantic. To which most people say “What sub trip?” And I remind them, in pursuit of the Nazis, Indy jumps on a German sub in the New World (maybe New York or Florida or something) and then rides on top of it all the way across the ocean. This is a good way to win bets, so few people seem to remember this scene.

They even say "DIVE!"
The appropriately named “Overthinking It” site has an article on this very thing.

Suspension of disbelief lost. I kept thinking, “What happens if the submarine submerges at any point in its 3,000 mile journey?” (Per this site, the Germans are actually saying “Dive!”) It’s one thing to engage in improbable (or in the case of climbing under the truck, impossible*) activities, and another to just figure you’ll get lucky on your  month long trip across the ocean. I forget how long it was actually supposed to take, but it really wouldn’t matter. All that would have to happen is for the boat to submerge halfway through the trip.

I had basically gotten over it by the time the Temple of Doom came out, though, having gained some appreciation for the silly serial antics of the genre, and so Doom came to be my favorite of the series, even while others particularly disliked it. I forget who, but someone described it as the longest five-minute movie ever, which is pretty accurate in the sense that the two hours flew by because you don’t get a lot of chance to breathe.

It’s fast enough, in fact, that it doesn’t seem slow even by today’s standards, though it doesn’t seem as frantic as it did 30 years ago.

The ride was actually in the script for Raiders.
What movie DOESN’T have a mine ride these days?

Upon reflection, Doom feels like it might have been an attempt to outdo the original. For example, the original features Nazis. You can’t go wrong having Nazi villains, but it’s hard to top and if you don’t want to repeat yourself, what do you do? Well, you make your baddies a brainwashing thuggie death cult that kills villages, steals children to work in their iPhone factories, and literally pulls people’s hearts out of their chests.

Said scene being the reason we have PG-13 now. The heart-pulling scene is so comic book, though, so bloodless—not only does the guy’s chest close up afterwards, he doesn’t even suffer from the lack of a heart—that the notion of it warranting an R-rating seems as unlikely as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre warranting a PG because of its relative bloodlessness. The tone of Doom is fantastic from the get-go.

HMOs, amirite?
I mean: Sure, he’s upset—what with having his heart ripped out and all—but he’s otherwise pretty hale until they lower him into the lava.

This may be another reason I liked it more than the first. If it had come first, you’d be prepared for the silliness in Raiders. The opening scene, while not mystical, is wonderfully over the top. It’s a masterful ballet that shows Spielberg’s command of space, and whereas anyone might have one MacGuffin, Spielberg has two: A priceless gem and a lifesaving serum.

A lot of people voiced complaints about Short Round (later seen in The Goonies) and Spielberg’s second wife, Kate Capshaw, but the former is not as annoying as one might think and the latter actually does a lot of good physical comedy. Interestingly, the kids objected to any characterization of Capshaw as annoying, which suggested to me (not surprisingly) that one’s exposure to the news surrounding a film can influence one’s idea of the film.

The special effects largely work, although the composites are sometimes shockingly bad. The mattes are obvious but, as mattes usually do, serve their purpose despite their fakiness. The mine/rollercoaster is still good, even though it has been done to death since the movie came out.

All-in-all, it’s a perfect movie for a grade-school boy, and the grade-school boy within all of us. I’m sure such a shockingly colonial representation of other cultures would not be allowed today, sadly.

Anyway, we all liked it.

Although I don't think the kids are allowed to work shirtless.
This movie also anticipated Apple’s iPhone factories.

4 thoughts on “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

  1. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark” the freighter carrying The Ark leaves Cairo or Alexandria and is almost immediately stopped by the U-Boat. How does that get them across the Atlantic so as to be in the New World? The U-Boat goes 100 miles or so across the Mediterranean sea, and considering it is still peacetime and people are in a hurry to open The Ark, the submersible would be unlikely to submerge so as to get to that island base the fastest.

    Of course, such a U-Boat would be conned from the bridge at the top of the conning tower and there would be lookouts on deck, so it’s unlikely that Indy would be able to hide, but it is not at all improbable that the submarine would not submerge.

    I didn’t like “Temple of Doom” because Indy kept getting dig deeper and deeper in the mess with no apparent way out. 20 minutes in I was going “This is tedious. Can’t you let Indy make at least a LITTLE progress?” This is in contrast to “Raiders” where he spends the entire moving almost getting away with it, only to be kinda thwarted which causes him to be heroic and to almost get away with it again. And so on and so forth, lather rinse and repeat.

    To each his own, I guess.

    1. Suspension of disbelief is a funny thing, and at the time (as a kid), I had a fragile bubble as far as disbelief went.

      I’m going to see Raiders again in a few weeks (first time since it came out) so we’ll see what my modern take on it is.

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