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Empire Magazine Greatest Movies List - #233: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) is somewhat of a black sheep in the Jones franchise. Instead of going after the always-reliable Nazis, here Indy goes after an extremist Hindu religious sect who is into human sacrifices, brain washing, and slavery. As to be expected, quite a few people in India took offense. Then there are the scenes of human sacrifices, which led to the creation of the PG-13 rating in the United States because believe it or not some kids don’t react too well to seeing a man get his heart ripped out of his chest. That being said, this second entry in the franchise is still worthy of admiration thanks to some incredible sequences, notably a mine cart chase and a standoff on a rickety bridge with crocodiles waiting below.

My parents introduced me to Indiana Jones at a young age and I had a problem with a particular scene in every movie in the first three movies, whether the face melting scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark or the poor choice of cup at the end of The Last Crusade. For Temple of Doom I actually eased into the more bloody scenes. I must have been around five-years-old when it was playing on TV while we were living in Quebec, but I didn’t watch the whole thing because I was just too tired so I left right around the time all the really gory stuff took place. Yet I could still hear some very interesting sounds coming from the TV before falling asleep. A few years later we had moved to South America and my parents had bought the trilogy on VHS and I got to fill in the blanks as to what Indy was screaming about. Boy, am I glad I waited a while.

Nowadays of course I have no problem with watching Harrison Ford in his prime beating the snot out of heart-ripping Hindus, political correctness aside. As a James Bond fan this particular entry in the series also stands out as the opening sequence has Indiana Jones in a situation that would be very familiar to 007. Wearing a white tuxedo and sipping champagne, the world-trotting archaeologist is in 1935 Shanghai to make an exchange with a crime boss at his nightclub. Negotiations go south, a gunfight ensues, and Indy has to jump out of the building with the club’s lounge singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw). Naturally, they land perfectly safe in the back of Indy’s car, whose driver is an eleven-year-old Chinese sidekick who goes by the name Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan).

The odd trio flee the city by plane, only to wake up and find out their pilots have decided to jump out and let them crash over the Himalayas. What to do when fuel is running out, there is no parachute, and that mountain ahead is getting pretty damn big? Why, jump out of the plane in an inflatable boat and hope for the best of course. This is the reason why young children wanted to see those movies in spite of the scary moments: they are so much fun.

In an instance of trouble finding him instead of him looking for an adventure, Indy survives the crash only to wind up in a village in India that is in dire need of assistance. Its elder claims an evil cult has stolen the village’s sacred stone and has kidnapped its children to dig for some other holy rocks hidden in the titular temple. There is a lot of folklore involved and an exposition scene in the jungle while the uptight Willie complains about the wildlife, but from a kid’s perspective all that matters is Indy is the good guy, the people at the temple are the bad guys intend on getting their hands on some mythical power and they are going to get punched, whipped, and even crushed by the good guy.

Indy’s “parents,” Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, took a gamble with the film’s dark material and I still find the brainwashing part of the movie a bit hooky today. However, once Indy is once against unleashed, this is loads of fun. From the car chase in Shanghai to the mine cart chase in the temple, the film remains true to the 1930s serials Spielberg and Lucas based their hero on.


One of my favourite scenes is when Indy is back to his old self again and he is standing in front of a guard about to beat a kid. As other kids push a light towards him, his face slowly comes out of the darkness and the next thing you see is the guard ent flying by Indy’s punches. Time to get to work Dr. Jones.

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