Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a good movie.
There; I said it, and I’m not taking it back! As this week marks the 35-year-anniversary of the beloved franchise’s second film, I thought I would take a moment to remind everyone why they are wrong to call Temple of Doom a “bad movie.”
Acting as a prequel to the 1981 George Lucas-Steven Spielberg vehicle, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom is set in 1935 and follows Dr. Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones as he, his child sidekick Short Round, and the almost-hostage nightclub singer Willie, escape to India after a mishap at Club Obi-Wan. While there, the trio works to free the kidnapped children of a small village from child slavery, black magic, and human sacrifice performed by a Thuggee cult.
...Okay. So it’s a lot.
The movie itself marked a large shift in tone from the cheesier, lighthearted Raiders, as well as Lucas’s prior projects, the original Star Wars trilogy. Temple of Doom didn’t shy away from horror or gore, something that still seems to shock and offend a fair number of viewers to this day, what with the whole “hearts being ripped from chests” bit and everything. But that’s one of the best things Temple has to offer! Instead of following the same cookie cutter formula introduced in Raiders, later picked by Last Crusade, and even Crystal Skull to a lesser extent, Temple was something wholly different.
Part of the film’s charm is the fact that it’s so entirely out there. The movie opens with a rendition of the American Broadway classic “Anything Goes” sung in Chinese. And boy, anything really does go. The first fifteen minutes of the film include the aforementioned musical number, a Princess Bride-esque poisoning, a child driving a car with a brick attached to his foot, a shoot out, and a Wilhelm scream thrown in for good measure. It’s pure chaos and camp.
Another beef people seem to have with the film that is actually entirely preposterous is the disdain for Willie Scott, the female companion of this installment. A nightclub singer, Willie is all but abducted by Jones as collateral as he escapes the nightclub she works at. She didn’t ask to be brought along, and Kate Capshaw does a wonderful job embodying this. She is entirely opposite the hypercompetent and stoic Marion of Raiders (and later, Crystal Skull) and I find that delightful. She sings; she screams; she befriends an elephant; and most importantly, she truly does want to save the children being held captive.
While I cannot in good faith claim that Temple of Doom is a flawless movie (say like, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Stephen Sommers The Mummy, don’t @ me) because believe me, it does have its rather glaring flaws, it isn’t bad because it’s different.
Whether you like Temple of Doom or not, it entirely changed the landscape of film. The American PG-13 rating, most similar to the 12A rating, was literally created for this film. With the new rating in place, it opened doorways to new types of stories to be created in new ways.
So yes. Temple of Doom is a good movie for the reasons it’s often dubbed a bad one-- for the camp and Willie and the blood and gore and the difference.
It’s the black sheep of the Indiana Jones franchise but I love it anyway and I’ll be here waiting for everyone to develop taste and love it too.