Keeping Up With The Joneses, Part 2: The Temple of Doom

Athena ScalziAfter so many people had commented on my post that I would dislike this Indiana Jones movie even more than Raiders, I had very low expectations for The Temple of Doom.

Somehow, it was even worse than I was expecting.

The Temple of Doom was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and one of the most unenjoyable two hours I’ve experienced in a long while.

One thing that helps people enjoy a movie is a likeable main character. Indiana Jones is not likeable. For everyone on my last post commenting that Indy isn’t much of a hero, y’all were so right, and boy did this movie drive that home! Indy really sucks as a person, and is a total self-serving asshole.

Starting at the beginning, the opening scene is so ridiculous. You should never ever drink a drink that your enemy has handed you, because OF COURSE it’s poisoned! And he had a little kid driving the getaway car?! This guy is seriously bonkers.

The way he treats Willie is honestly atrocious, and it makes zero sense that she’s supposed to be the love interest with how genuinely mean he is to her throughout the film. It doesn’t even seem like he likes her at all, so the romance feels like it comes out of left field and only happens because Indy is “supposed” to be a heart-throb that has attractive women throwing themselves at him.

I know Willie’s character gets criticized a lot for being a constant damsel in distress and screaming nonstop, but honestly there were some aspects of Willie’s character I found pretty solid. Like when Indiana mentions there are diamonds inside the stones, she goes “diamonds?!” and becomes invested in what is happening. She also mentions marrying a rich prince a couple times throughout the film. Here is a woman who knows what she is about. She likes jewels, money, a comfortable lifestyle, and she’s not afraid to admit her vanity. Rock on, girl.

The fact Indy just totes a little kid along and throws him into dangerous situations nonstop is wild. He almost had Short Round killed numerous times. Why on earth is he his sidekick?! Indy really just snatched him off the streets and was like, “let’s go!” Of course, it takes place in a “different time,” so I guess stealing orphans was just okay back then or something.

They did not skimp on the racism in this movie, that’s for sure. During the banquet scene, I kept thinking surely it can’t get any worse, but it did in fact keep getting worse! I assumed that there had to be some controversy over the portrayal of India in the film, not just for the food aspect but for the religion as well, and Wikipedia proved me right. It was pretty egregious.

Aside from the constant racism issue, I just found the whole child slavery aspect really disturbing, and it made me uncomfortable to watch. I was surprised by the plot point of Short Round being put to work with the other kids, and him immediately using a tool to break his chain and escape. As if none of the other kids had thought of doing that before? Seems kind of strange he’s like the only one who attempted that.

I thought the booby trap scene was much more ridiculous than any of the booby traps in the first movie. Like, you go into a room full of bugs and then another room where stepping in the middle of the room makes the doors close. Okay, sure, classic. But then a completely random part of the wall getting leaned against activates spikes coming down? Why are the spikes so slow? If you wanted to kill someone, why not make it instant instead of giving them several minutes to get out of the pickle they’re in? The booby traps in the beginning of the first one are much more instantaneous than the slow-demise style of the spikes. It was just sort of strange and nonsensical.

One thing that bothers me more than it should is the scene where the guy that tries to assassinate Indy gets hung by the ceiling fan and dies. IN WHAT WORLD IS A CEILING FAN THAT STRONG. Ridiculous, but hardly the least silly part of the movie.

Also, I was surprised by how long the minecart chase scene at the end was. How long was the mine?! It’s like that scene in Fast and Furious 6 where they’re on the runway for so long that the math adds up to the runway being like twenty miles long or something ridiculous like that.

I don’t know, the whole thing was just goofy and racist and gory and weird, and I didn’t like it at all. Certainly a movie I won’t be watching again.

While writing this post, I did something I didn’t do for the first movie and looked up the script. I actually read some of it and from just the little portions I’ve been reading, there’s quite a few differences between it and the movie. For example, in the script, Indy doesn’t willingly take the poisoned drink his enemy offered him, the enemy actually slips the poison into his drink when he isn’t looking, which makes a lot more sense than what happened in the movie. I wonder why they changed it?

I will give this movie approximately one shred of credit and say that Indiana and Willie actually had some good, romantic dialogue in the scene where he comes to her bedroom after dinner at the palace. For a second, I could see the character that Indy is ideally. A charming, witty, romantic professor. If only he were so sweet all the time and not a total dick to Willie in the other scenes.

But, yeah, bad movie. Did not like. Looking forward to the third one.


40 Comments on “Keeping Up With The Joneses, Part 2: The Temple of Doom”

  1. The third one is definitely better than the second one. To me, Indiana Jones movies are like Star Trek movies in reverse: the odd-numbered ones are good and the even-numbered ones are terrible.

    Seriously, just stop on #3 and pretend Crystal Skull was just a fever dream with Shia LeBoeuf.

  2. I’m with you. There was one (unintentionally) funny scene when the cult leader traps Indie, Short Round and Willie, and says “Welcome!” My date and I had one of those marvelous moments of synchronicity–we turned to each other, and without missing a beat, yelled “to Fantasy Island!” The audience cheered.

  3. I enjoyed the third film, but be advised that plot-wise, it’s largely a remake of the first one. But I found the Sean Connery bits delightful.

    The fourth film is unforgivably awful. Trust me when I say you haven’t seen a bad movie until you see that one.

  4. Not too hard to predict, but I do believe you fill find #3 much better than #2. Totally agree with @Rat,the odd numbered ones are better in the IJ franchise. Hopefully this bodes well for the new one.

  5. 80s kid here, and while I still like the first one, I don’t think it has aged as well as some of Spielberg’s other movies. I have seen the second one a single time and that’s all I’ll say. I love the 3rd one still, and the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles tv show.

  6. Honestly, I’m afraid to rewatch anything I loved in the 80’s and 90’s, what with all the casual racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. We recently tried with Knight Rider and it was not pretty.

  7. The Indiana Jones movies are an updated version of early archeological fantasy tropes, which featured common prejudices at the time. Of course they were wildly racist, and most people had no experience with other cultures, which were assumed to be strange, magical, and somehow primitive. Indy is also based on genuine early “archeologists”, who were perfectly cheerful about destroying ancient artifacts if it got them treasures. The absurd traps and situations involved are just comical old action-adventure themes. The movies are deliberately campy and not intended to be taken at all seriously.

  8. ::I assumed that there had to be some controversy over the portrayal of India in the film, not just for the food aspect but for the religion as well, and Wikipedia proved me right. It was pretty egregious.::

    What gets me is that Mola Ram was played by Amrish Puri, an Indian actor known in his native country for playing stern patriarchal figures.

    Maybe he took the job because he liked the thought of playing a capering maniac for a change rather than Yet Another Model of East Indian Rectitude, and at least Spielberg cast Indian actors rather than putting White actors in Brownface (as the miniseries THE FAR PAVILIONS, starring his estranged girlfriend Amy Irving as Princess Anjuli and Christopher Lee as Rana Kaka-ji Rao, did!)—but in some ways that makes the blatant racism worse.

  9. Unlike you I really liked the first one. I stood in line for the first showing on the opening day for the second one. Like you I hated it

  10. Err, you missed the airplane escape by air-surfing the inflatable raft down to the mountain tops, and then down to something close to sea level. A benchmark of plausibility, that sequence.

  11. If you want to parasocially commiserate with someone (other than blog readers, I mean), there’s a podcast called “White People Won’t Save You” that talks about racism in film, and they discussed this movie with two folks of Asian descent. It was a really good (and funny!) conversation.

    (I’m not affiliated with the podcast, fwiw, just listen to it.)

  12. This is the first one of the series I saw when I was about 7 years old or so and that scene with the heart terrified me. When I got a bit older I really liked #1 and #3 but I don’t think I’ve ever rewatched Temple of Doom. All I can really remember about it is the monkey brains and ripping out heart bits. I imagine the stuff I found super scary as a kid would probably seem pretty campy if I watched it now, but I probably won’t bother.

  13. LOL, Welcome to the 80s where “isms” and “ists” were just good clean fun and bullies were the movie heros.

    …and they wonder what’s wrong with Gen-X.

  14. Wizards. You need to watch the movie Wizards. Preferably with your dad (and mom, but she tends to express her opinions in lilac tea leaves so..), I’d love y’all’s perspective on that one.

    Then dig up Cheech Wizard, by Vaughn Bode, compare and contrast to Wizards.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, mind you. I’m saying I was a teenager when these movies came out and I’ve watched them over and over exactly 0 times since the VCR and Blockbuster was a thing.

  15. In the film’s defense, I will note that the mine cart chase was a triumph of special effects for its day. They built the entire set in miniature and figured out how to rig up the cart with a camera that could turn and look down the tunnel before the cart itself turned.

  16. TEMPLE is a film of it’s era. There’s xenophobia also seen in the YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES but seeing it as a young man in 1984 I didn’t object to the same things I’d object to today.

    LAST CRUSADE is a better film but given your reaction to the character, I’d watch other things. Life is to short wasting it doing things you don’t like or want to do. Especially avoid CRYSTAL SKULL.

    I’m hoping someone optioned KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY. It’d make a fabulous movie. Or LOCKIN

  17. I hope the third one is at least watchably fun for you. I think there’s gonna be parts of it that are still gonna be unforgivably bad, but I think there’s fair chunks of it that really are quite entertaining. Where the first movie was pulp trying to have fun, I feel the third is fun drawing from pulp. The second, as you saw, is a near-unmitigated disaster.

    I have never seen any of the latter-day Indy movies. I look forward to your take on them, as I have no intention of altering that state of affairs for myself.

  18. A lot has changed in the world since these movies were made, and even more since the time they were set.
    The idea of repatriating artifacts didn’t really come into the public consciousness until the past 20 years.
    In the 70s, 80s, and even maybe into the 90s, many probably thought this was how archeology really worked. Maybe not all the action, but basically treasure hunting, booby traps included. It’s still claimed by people that most of the expedition that found Tutankhamun’s tomb died because of a curse. Egyptian mummies were imported into Europe in mass for fuel, then to be ground up into medicine and artists paint.
    Indiana Jones never was supposed to be a nice guy, or even a good guy. I’m trying to think of a name for it. He’s not an anti-hero. He pretends to be a respectable professor at home, and goes off on “expeditions” that are really treasure hunts funded by museums that want their next star attraction artifact. Out on expedition he’s a dubious rogue figure on an adventure, doing anything needed to get the artifact, short of doing things like killing people for it. He’s the protagonist only in comparison to the antagonists, who are either gun toting thieves stealing from him directly and leaving him for dead, killer gangsters, or literal NAZIs or killer cultists.
    I don’t think short round is a “stolen orphan” he’s a street orphan willingly following him around for money and the adventure, in a country and time where the alternative is far worse.
    The darker take on this is that the previous Short Round was Wu Han, and we saw what happened to him.
    This was state of the art effects for it’s time, and ahead of anything else. Basically everything looked “real” when it’s the best effects you’ve ever seen.
    Also, back then, before the internet, people didn’t have a place to point out all the plot holes in movies, so people didn’t notice them so much, especially in an action film. Now with movie problems being pointed out all the time, everyone pays more attention.

  19. I saw Temple of Doom in the theater when it came out. I hated every minute of it except “Anything Goes” in Mandarin. The movie was mean spirited and gross. And so misogynistic! And everyone else in the theater seemed to love it, and I was the only one I knew for years that absolutely hated it.

    The thing with Willy being a screamer was an FU to the fans of Marian in the first one. I always felt it was Spielberg saying “oh, you liked Marian better than Indy?! Well, I’ll show you!”

    Everyone hates on the fourth one, but it’s just egregiously stupid, not cruel and gross.

  20. I don’t think anyone liked #2. #3 is better just because there’s father-son chemistry with good dialog; the rest has the same issues as the other films.

  21. TOD is not a great film, but it should be pointed out that the trope of White Bread Male American Saves The Helpless Brown Natives has not exactly gone away. The first recent example off the top of my head is Dune.

  22. I saw each of the movies when they first came out; I enjoyed the first one for what it was (a pastiche of the old movie serials).

    I loathed this one with all my soul and have never watched it since then.

  23. We told you so. I had done some anatomy work and any credibility the movie had was lost with the heart tearing scene, and those neatly cut blood vessels! When you tear tissue it looks torn, not cut. Funny the things we seize on and can’t let go of. The Indy character is meant, I think, to be a white colonizer type, whose competence and dominance is demonstrated in each unlikely scene. Back in the 80s, I enjoyed the irony, as I perceived it then, knowing the premise was full of holes, but old enough to enjoy the reminiscence. But not this movie, no.

  24. I don’t quite get why you are looking forward to the third one after having watched the first two and didn’t like them. The third one is more of the same, and for that matter I assume the fourth one is too. It is a profitable formula so the studio will stick to it. I watched and enjoyed the first two, but I was 12 when the first one came out and 15 for the second. I watched one of them later in my life and didn’t enjoy it at all. I did watch the third one when it came out. I thought that Sean Connery would improve it somehow. He didn’t.

  25. Trying to think of a Spielberg movie from the 80’s that doesn’t have “problematic “ aspects when watched 40 years or more later. But most of them do have redeeming aspects too. Well, Temple of Doom is just mediocre plot-wise so that doesn’t fix the other stuff.

    Poltergeist has parents who are real people, not idiots, and the actors are age appropriate. The family is not dysfunctional either. A pretty good horror film overall. But, boy howdy, there’s a scene of a girl being sexually harassed by full grown men that would absolutely not fly today.

  26. I haven’t seen this one. I found Indy #1 so boring that I had no interest in any more.

    But your mention of the infinitely extending mine reminds me of a similarly annoying effect in movies, which is two contending armies running at each other for several times longer than it ought to take them to cross that distance. I remember that Prince Caspian had that one.

  27. We old farts want you to watch the beloved movies of our youth and love them with us.
    But instead you make PERFECTLY valid arguments for why that ain’t happening. :(

  28. Agreed pretty much 100% with this review, having recently re-watched TOD myself.
    Going out on a limb to say I did not hate ‘Last Crusade’ although there is still plenty of cringe-worthy stuff. IMO there is actual character development in that one. So while there’s also still plenty of racist, destructive, White Christian Manifest Destiny bullshit at its philosophical heart, I was able to enjoy it more or less guilt-free for the entertainment artifact it is. :-)

  29. It is pretty much an updated version of Gunga Din, except they updated the nationality of the protagonist, and the effects, but not the racism.

  30. Apparently Spielberg said later that the only good thing about the film was the lead actress, so he married her and forgot about the rest of it.

  31. Thank you for your thoughtful review.

    I went decades without going to most movies or watching most series because the sexism/racism/every-isms were excruciating and everyone accepted them. Not all shows, sure, but many. Those of us who protested half a century ago were ridiculed. It got to the point where I thought, “Why bother going at all?”

    Nowadays, I can find shows that are watchable. We’ve still a long way to go, but the path is there. Things are improving, and in part it’s because many in the younger generations both see and have no patience with subtexts that went unchallenged many generations ago.

  32. One of the few redeeming features of ToD is getting to watch Ke Huy Quan as Short Round and realize you are watching the film debut of a future Oscar winner. Even if he wasn’t able to get roles for twenty years before getting his breakthrough role as Waymond Wang.

  33. It’s my favorite Indy movie, the only one where he actually makes a difference and helps people.

  34. For me the ’80s trilogy is a photo negative of the original Star Wars: third one is good, first is okay, second is kinda crap. I’m interested in how you react to Last Crusade. In some ways I think it reflects a more modern sensibility.

  35. I know this is a minority opinion, but agree completely with Walt. Temple is the one where Indy (even if accidentally) does some good. In every other one, he’s just the jerky Antihero White Guy, and everything else in the film exists solely to impact him and his own personal development. Gag.

    All of the Indy movies are sexist and racist… if the fifth one coming out isn’t, it will be the odd one out. In Temple there actually are Asian actors in the cast — and it’s so over-the-top unrealistic that I can appreciate it as a fever dream or fantasy that sends up the White Savior stereotype.

    I honestly can’t stand the pretentiousness of the third one, and the first one is just… boring. Just 2 hours of watching the rapey main character in a bunch of disconnected action sequences that ends with a deus ex machina. And the fourth one is lackluster and paint-by-numbers, really forgettable trash.

  36. The part with the village was filmed in Sri Lanka, and the head villager was one of the biggest comedians there. Watching it in Sri Lanka was entertaining because even though all these tragic things are happening the audience would laugh every time he came on screen.

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