In John Cork and Bruce Scivally's coffee table-sized book on the history of James Bond, it is noted that when Steven Spielberg and George Lucas began production on "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the first Indiana Jones film, Spielberg had hoped that it would be a film series much like the Bond films. But while Bond has been played successfully so far by six actors, it would have been hard to do the same with the Indiana Jones films. And that's because of the hard-charging magnetism of Harrison Ford, a hero to the men and boys who watch the films, and a source of fantasy no doubt for the women who also watch.
Fortunately, three films of Indiana Jones' adventures came along, and a fourth is arriving soon, gearing up hope that the fun will continue. And it is fun, in a way that almost makes one feel younger than their age while watching it. There is a blend here that works so fast, you're taken quickly from one place to another, from one spectacle to another, from one crack of the whip to another. It's fortunate as well that "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" does not suffer from Middle Movie Syndrome, where the middle film of a trilogy usually is not up to the standards of the first and third films.
This happened with "Back to the Future Part II," which, despite its awe-inspiring special effects-laden look at the future, was bogged down in confusion. It's been noted historically that it may have stemmed from Robert Zemeckis filming Part III during the day and editing II at night. Only so much time can be given over to either film. However, Temple of Doom wasn't filmed concurrently with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Last Crusade," so there was a lot more time to make this a genuine adventure.
There's one scene in particular that defines that and makes Indiana Jones' adventures always worth seeing more than once. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), spoiled singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), and Indiana's young sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) are flying to wherever Indiana can get far away from Lao Che, a gangster who doesn't like to do business cleanly, evidenced by him poisoning Indiana and trying to take back the diamond that was supposed to be payment to him for the ashes of the first Chinese emperor.
Indiana doesn't know, however, that the plane he's in is owned by Lao Che, and the pilots who work for him jump out of the plane in mid-air after letting the fuel spill out. This isn't good and Indiana doesn't know how to fly a plane, so he, Willie, and Short Round jump, using an inflatable raft to sail to whatever's below, which turns out to be snow. Then, a cliff that they sail off of. And then they land in rapids.
So where to next after finally finding dry land? Indiana wants to get back to his university, back to the relative calm of teaching archaeology classes, but comes upon a desolate village in India where the children have disappeared, there are no crops, and the people are starving. The shaman of the village determines that the reason for all this tragedy stems from the loss of a sacred stone that brings them good fortune, that brings the rains down onto the land for their crops. But no stone, no water, no hope. The shaman believes that all this grief was caused by the new maharaja (Raj Singh) ruling in Pankot Palace.
And what sights we find there! A grand dining room suitable for royalty, or at least as much royalty as is being presented to try to deflect from the fact that underneath the palace lies the resurgence of the crazed Thuggee cult and all the sacrifices that come with it, including that performed by Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), the high priest who literally reaches into a man's chest and pulls out his heart. The powers of this cult are so great that not even Indiana is immune to the doll kind of voodooism.
The powers have even produced an earthly vision of hell, complete with a lava pit into which hapless victims are lowered. Because of the promises of fortune and glory that the stones advertise, Indiana seeks out the cult for that purpose. But there is also goodness to him, not just what would seem to be greed. There are kids enslaved underground as well and it wouldn't be right to ignore that problem.
Spielberg and his band of talented technicians, artists, and special effects people show why an Indiana Jones ride was eventually created at Disneyland, with one sequence involving a kind of roller coaster ride inside a mine. The fun isn't just in watching Harrison Ford do what he's always done best as Jones, but also in getting as close to an actual rollercoaster with this sequence as one possibly can.
Between this, Indiana's banter with Willie that's more amusing than expected, and Short Round's innate ability to take care of himself in a fight, this is all an entertaining trip through and through. It's one of the countless reasons we watch movies, and it rates as a 7.5 out of 10. (R Aronsky)