Indiana Jones Reviewed Temple of Doom

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Gabez once mistook a man for Indiana Jones, and went over to him to shake his hand. Unfortunately, so intense was Gabez's excitement that he gripped too hard and subsequently exploded the man. R.I.P., Mr Man. :(

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If the Sam & Max series has taught me anything, its that the notions of "what is fun, what is a good puzzle, what is an engrossing story, what is surreal, what is pedestrian, what is easy, and what is hard" are wholly subjective"
-- Jake Rodkin,
Graphic/Web Designer at Telltale Games

17th January, 2008

This quote establishes a possible difficulty for any review: the reviewer is not, as he wildly deludes himself, reporting on the Objective Reality of the book, game or film, but is in actuality only projecting his own opinions based on subjective reasons. On the other hand, however, these opinions can often be classed together as a general way of thinking: namely, Willie Scott is annoying, dinner scenes can be excessive, and Indians don't make as good villains as Germans. Surely this can be seen as – at least – a glimpse of Objective Reality? If we were to travel outside of this world to the place where the Universe was born, might we not see inscribed onto the sides of mountains, the maxim "Women Who Scream Too Much Are Annoying"?

I believe that you probably would. Suffering is wrong, not merely because of climates of opinion, but because it is wrong in itself. Likewise, Willie screaming "Iiiiiiiiindy!!" every two seconds is, and always will be, annoying. We might find some person whose brain is configured to feel euphoria when something annoying happens, but that will only be the wrong response to the one true act. However, even if what I have written is correct, it still leaves us with problems for reviews. Even if Willie Scott is objectively irritating, who can objectify the response that that irritation will have on the viewer?

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The Sankara Stones are often poo-pooed because they are more simple than the Graal or the Ark, but that is why they work so well for me.
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Observe myself: I recognise that Willie is annoying, but I enjoy that fact. I relish in the pain. Like the lobotomised patient whose brain unleashes endorphins as soon as Willie's wispy blonde hair is sighted, I too delight in her character, albeit for different reasons. What I like about Willie is how she is the polar opposite of Dr Jones, at least when it comes to practical life in the jungle. From responding as she does, she shows Jones' character as it really is. Is Willie's response so terrible? She meets Jones and within moments she's shot at, thrown out of windows and is then forced out of a crashing plane. If I was in that situation, I would simply put my head in between my legs and roll down a hill crying all the way. Willie responds in her own way. Jones in his. You might call it annoying, but at least it's clear; clarity achieved by opposites and by stark, honest reactions.

Of course, matters get worse and worse for Willie, and those who wish death upon her surely can't be too disappointed with what happens. She doesn't actually die, but she does get close: lowered into the mouth of Hell; shot at (again and again) on a racing mine cart; covered in beetles and insects. I would have thought this sufficient penance for dropping Jones' gun and complaining that she had broken a nail.

In addition, there is an endearing progression for her character. At the end she is a little wiser, a little more knowledgeable and a little less annoying. It is only a small change. But for me, at least, it was enough to make me warm to her. Like Willie Scott, we must all move in small stages, caused by sudden pushes.

So much for Willie Scott. I may not be able to portray her as anything other than she really is, but I have at least presented my own opinion of her. This opinion, like the reviews of Sam & Max, is subjective, but at the same time it is (I hope) founded on Objective Reality. What, then, of Shortround, the other character accused of being annoying? In the novel of the film written by James Kahn, it is revealed that before meeting with Dr Jones, Shortround burgles an old lady, breaks into a house, and runs away from leering old men at the Docks. It revealed a side to the character that may be ignored, but is present in the film if you only look for it: Shortround is a criminal. His parents are dead. He steals to make a living. What is he doing in India? His life is a complete disaster. If I were Shortround I would simply bend my feet over my shoulders, and cartwheel into oblivion. But how does Shortround respond? With a few screams, a few giggles, an "Indy I love you!" and a cheery grin. Can we blame him for such a response?

The reason I spend so much space defending Willie and Shortround, is because the film hangs on the viewer's opinion of those two characters. Once you accept them for who they are, the rest of the film becomes visible: the stunts, music, sets, acting and action sequences are all excellent fun. The mine chase is every bit as thrilling as it should be. The underground cavern, in general, has just the right level of imaginative excitement. Previously the film has pushed things too far. After an exciting opening we are forced immediately into a crashing plane. Once free of the plane we are forced into rapids. It is too much; there is no elbow space, and the effect, rather than being exciting, is blasé. Once into the cave, however, the action and the atmosphere is pitched much better: the mine-cart race, for instance, is only a mine-car race. There is no excessive eyeball soup or Snake Surprise. It is a mine cart race, and we are able to enjoy it for being just that. Similarly, the Sankara Stones are often poo-pooed because they are more simple than the Graal or the Ark, but that is why they work so well for me: it is "merely" fortune and glory, and we can concentrate on the path towards that, rather than the proposed end result.

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Native characters are generally portrayed as overly simple in Indiana Jones.
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One last point remains. I was staying with my Uncle a few years ago and we were talking about India, because he is an academic on the country, and has lived there a lot conducting his research. Elephants came up in conversation, and I said how Willie's dress in Temple of Doom had been eaten by an elephant, which the production crew had to put down on the Insurance forms. My Uncle made one of his trademark "hmm!" ejaculations and stroked his handlebar moustache. "I was once phoned up by those chaps," he mumbled. "Wanted to have a Sanskrit translation, which I did in a few minutes, and send over to them. Easiest five pounds I've ever made. I later watched the film, and saw that they had added quite a few marks and flourishes to make it look more interesting. I didn't think much of the film."

India is certainly not presented exactly as it should be. Native characters are generally portrayed as overly simple in Indiana Jones. The only Indian with a brain in Temple of Doom is the Prime Minister. But he's all right because he studied at Oxford. What about the Indian army? They are led, of course, by the British. America and Britain swoop in to help the Indians fix their village because, apparently, they can't do it themselves.

What I should conclude with is: is this film any good? Well, yeah, sure. Not compared to Top Gun or Fargo, obviously, but for an Indiana Jones film: not bad at all!

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- rather enjoyable. Personally speaking, I prefer this film to Raiders, but critically speaking, I don't.

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Second Opinion by Remi O.

I doubt many would argue that Temple of Doom is the weakest entry in the Indy series. Heck, even Lucas and Spielberg admitted as much.

And fair enough, as a standalone movie it is unremarkable. Short Round is the Phantom Menace Anakin of his time... Willie might possibly be the most annoying dame in distress in movie history... The overall pacing of the movie is less than stellar...

Yet if you view Temple as a side note in a larger canon, then it all of a sudden becomes a lot easier to forgive its shortcomings. There's no denying that Mola Ram is a badass character, and the chilled monkey brains scene is still a classic for any foodie. Gotta love the atmosphere in the actual temple too.

So yeah, flawed as it is, I still quite like Temple of Doom, quite possibly because The Last Crusade made it easier to look past its missteps. Go to the bathroom at the right times, and you're left with something that is actually quite a bit of silly fun.

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Third Opinion by Chris C.

While I do believe Doom is the worst Indy film, with Willie Scott the worst heroine, the Sankara Stones the dullest MacGuffin and the torture scenes the most out-of-place, I will still happily sit down and enjoy the film. It has loads of great action scenes, is still full of humour and Short Round isn't annoying in the least.

Okay, scratch that last one.

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Fourth Opinion by Roger H.

I don't mind Short Round all that much, but Willie Scott is annoying and I want her to die!

Next page... The Last Crusade!

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