Until I rewatched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom recently, I had forever associated the film with getting my teeth drilled. Literally. You see, the last time I had seen the stinkiest of the Indiana Jones series was when I was at the dentist getting some fillings. My dentist offered me some newfangled technology that allowed me to wear some big clunky sunglasses that let me watch a movie in my own little world as they drilled away. The choices were minimal (I believe it was either Temple of Doom or Home Alone 2), so ironically I found myself wincing to unrelaxing images that only I could see, like child-slaves being tortured and Indiana Jones being forced to drink hallucinogenic blood. It seemed only appropriate that just when the poor human sacrifice was getting his heart ripped from his chest, that my dentist announced, “All done!”
Such violent scenes horrified children and adults alike, making Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the infamous film that prompted the MPAA to created the PG-13 rating (“Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13”). The film is also noteworthy for being the least liked of the series. And you know what? Upon re-viewing the film, I came to the conclusion that the movie is actually worse than I even remembered it.
Doom takes place in 1935, conveniently a year before Raiders of the Lost Ark. Convenient because this way there is no need to explain what happened to Karen Allen’s saucy Marion, or, for that matter, any of the other supporting characters that made the original film so rich. Instead, the new token female is showgirl singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), who is picked up for adventure after a shootout in a Shanghai nightclub. And the new sidekick is Indy’s “old friend” Short Round (Ke Huy Quan, listed as Jonathan Ke Quan in the credits), a 10-year-old twerp who can drive cars and scold Indy when he makes a move on Willie: “No time for love, Doctor Jones!!!” Put these two together, and you have the two most annoying characters in the entire Indiana Jones canon.
After an outrageous escape from a crashing plane, the trio literally lands in India and comes across a dying village that needs help. You see, the holy stone has been stolen, along with all the children, which may as well be the life of the whole place. Help us, Doctor Jones, you’re our only hope! Of course he loves a good challenge, so Indy, along with his two tagalongs, goes to a seemingly remote temple in the middle of the jungle. But inside it is throbbing with life, with fancy-pants dignitaries eating monkey brains (also controversial!), and said stolen children (all of whom seem to be 8-10 years old) banging rocks together deep in the bowels of the building. Apparently it is something about the cult of Kali, which features a super-scary guy with a critter pelt on his head ripping the hearts out of live humans then dipping them into a swirling pit of fire. Yikes.
Needless to say, Kate Capshaw screams and screams and SCREAMS through the entire movie, annoying Indy, yet she is still abruptly (and inexplicably) his love interest as soon as she puts on some clean pajamas (“You woman, me man…” I suppose). There is very little chemistry between the characters, and the film eventually turns into a fun-ride of roller coasters, whippings, burnings, and other such hijinks to be had when you are trying to avoid folks that will not only kill you, but kill you in a really painful way.
Simply put, this second film in the Indiana Jones series sucks, and it sucks bad. All of the fun has been dumbed down, and the mood is surprisingly mean. It has also lost the cleverness and curiosity that pulled the viewers into Raiders, replacing it with shock value and unfunny physical comedy. And, since it is the 80s, Capshaw’s hair goes through various inconsistent incarnations from permy puffiness to nicely held feathers, and Harrison Ford gets more than ample screentime with his sleeves ripped off to showcase his buff arms, and, for one nice long scene, he is completely shirtless… and sweaty! However, such a nice, gratuitous beefcake moment is quickly shattered when he gets a flaming torch pressed to his chest. And that moment pretty much summarizes the whole movie: Ouch.
About a dozen or so new special features are included in the Adventure Collection of the Indiana Jones trilogy, spread across the three DVDs. The Temple of Doom disc includes a new introduction to the film by director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas as they look back on the film that neither admit is bad, but do acknowledge that the critics hated it. Spielberg, of course, remembers Doom as the movie where he fell in love with his soon-to-be wife, Kate Capshaw. You see a cringe-worthy moment of the blinded-by-love director clapping his hands with delight at one of Capshaw’s many unfunny moments, where she falls off an elephant into a puddle of mud. Brilliant. Other extras include a featurette about locations used in the films, storyboards, galleries, and the ubiquitous ad for LEGO Indiana Jones. The best extra on this disc is “Creepy Crawlies” as those involved in the films—especially the critter-handlers—talk about the differences and challenges of wrangling snakes, bugs, and rats.