In 1935, Indiana Jones arrives in India, still part of the British Empire, and is asked to find a mystical stone. He then stumbles upon a secret cult committing enslavement and human sacrifices in the catacombs of an ancient palace. (from IMDb)
To celebrate 40 years of Indiana Jones, Paramount Pictures recently released a 4-movie, remastered 4K collection of the Indiana Jones movies. It’s officially no longer “The Complete Adventures,” because – as I type this – a fifth and reportedly final movie is being filmed right now, with Harrison Ford reprising his role for one last time. Up until this point, I’ve only ever reviewed one of the movies for this site, so I feel like the best way to review this set is to take a look back at each one individually. With that, I offer my thoughts on the series’ first sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Due to its edgier approach and dark content, I actually didn’t see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom till I was much older. I had first seen Raiders of the Lost Ark as a pretty young little kid, but I’d missed Temple of Doom altogether. I do remember hearing how rough the content was, though, and that helped keep me away for years. I first watched the movie through the DVD-editing service ClearPlay, and then later watched it normally when it released on Blu-Ray. From its bizarre opening number to the evil human-sacrificing cult scenes and disgusting dinner table scene, there was a lot about this movie I didn’t like or just didn’t sit well with me. Even to this day, the lengthy temple sacrifice scene makes my spirit squirm.
With this 4K disc set, I watched some of the special features about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the first time. In them, Spielberg explained that he had originally made a deal with George Lucas that, if they were to make Raiders, Spielberg would have to agree to making a trilogy of films. He also revealed that George had insisted on this film being darker–like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Yikes – what a poor comparison!). The creative team decided to make this a prequel of sorts and set it a year before Raiders to explain away why Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood wasn’t in this story (or Nazi’s). So, really, Temple of Doom has little to nothing to do with connecting to Raiders, except that it’s Indiana Jones. The movie begins in Shanghai and finds Indy dealing with the Chinese mob. Then he ends up on a plane and crash-lands in India, where he’s kind of forced into helping a village get back a sacred stone from a cult leader who stole it from them. To make matters worse, the cult stole all of the village’s children and has put them to work mining for two more lost sacred stones. After running into a little boy who escapes the clutches of the cult, Indy, his young friend Short Round, and an unwilling new companion, Willie Scott — played by Kate Capshaw, he reluctantly sets out to retrieve the stones.
Where Raiders had groundings in Biblical subject matter, Temple of Doom is far more sinister. Dark is hardly the word for it. Due to the horrors in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the PG rating enraged many parents who trusted the rating and brought their children to the movie, only to see a man’s heart get ripped out before he’s lowered into a pit where he catches on fire–all while still alive. This led to the birth of the PG-13 rating (even though I do think this movie – like JAWS – push even the PG-13 rating). While Empire Strikes Back was indeed a darker movie in the Star Wars series, it had meat. It’s a deep movie for a kind of story like Star Wars, and it shows true heroism while also displaying that the good side doesn’t win every battle, even if it does win in the end. (Luke’s training is impactful, Han’s growth from smuggler to hero continues, and then of course there’s that iconic bomb-drop when Vader reveals who he really is to Luke.) Temple of Doom doesn’t do much for the Indy series other than giving fans a chance to see an evil version of Indiana Jones (as he gets brainwashed by the cult when he’s forced to drink blood) and see him rescue a village-sized group of oppressed children. In retrospect, Lucas and Spielberg agree the movie was too dark, and even Spielberg admits it’s his least favorite movie in the series (although he’s ecstatic he met his wife, Kate Capshaw, on this production).
It’s tough for me to find things to like about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I can’t stand Capshaw’s character of Willie. She’s annoying and screams way too much. Especially when you stack her up against Marion Ravenwood and Ilsa in Last Crusade, she just doesn’t hold up. Short Round is a semi-endearing character, but compared to any of the other films, it feels like a really odd choice to have Jones’ sidekick be a little boy. It doesn’t make a ton of sense. Still, I’m sure it’s thanks to his role here that we get to see him play Data in The Goonies, so I suppose that’s one plus. The mine chase sequence at the end of the movie has now become iconic and is probably the high point of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ironically, it was an unused idea from Raiders of the Lost Ark, which makes it kind of sad that the best thing about the prequel/sequel is something thrown out of its predecessor. The rope bridge battle in the finale is also pretty iconic, and another positive to this entry.
So, the content… Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom follows in Raiders‘ footsteps by offering graphic and violent action scenes, with some really gruesome visuals as well. However, in some ways, it takes it to a totally different level with how dark the overall film is. In the opening scuffle in a nightclub, a man gets killed when a flaming skewer hits them in the midsection, and we see blood slowly form on a man’s shirt after he’s unexpectedly shot. The real terror, however, begins once the Indy and his friends get to Pankot Palace. From the gruesome creepy-crawly filled dinner table – with chilled monkey brains as the dessert – to a room literally covered with thousands of crawling insects, Spielberg and company don’t hold back the unsettling visuals. From there, we witness a Thuggee living sacrifice ceremony where the chief villain, Mola Ram, pulls a man’s still-beating heart out of his chest (and then we see the wound close on its own) and then lowers him into a lava pit to be burned alive. Later, they flog Indy and force him to drink “the blood of Kali,” which turns Indy evil and he not only hits Short Round across the face, but helps to shackle Willie into the living sacrifice cage to have her lowered into the lava pit. There are plenty of other rough scenes – including the Thuggee’s using a voodoo doll to inflict pain on Indy, and some scenes that show young children getting whipped briefly as they work in a mine. The finale shows crocodiles rolling in a river, pulling on clothes of men who have fallen into those waters, presumably as they’re being eaten. We don’t really see much more than crocs tearing at the clothes (maybe a little “meat”?), but it’s definitely a violent image. We also see a character fall down a mountainside and hit their head on the rocks before landing in those croc-infested waters. There is no direct sexual content, but there is some dialog between Willie and Indy about possibly spending the night together, and she tells him that she could have been his greatest adventure. Language is minimal, but there’s 1 “S” word and some uses of “Oh my G-d” (and the like) as exclamations.
Overall, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a disappointing sequel to a modern classic. It’s darker, more violent, and more unsettling than its predecessor, and easily the weakest of the original trilogy. I may have to say Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may beat out Temple of Doom as the worst of the series, but the grim nature of Doom makes it a tough one to revisit. The occultic content is definitely unsettling, but there’s also something gratifying about seeing Indy battle and defeat pure evil like this.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/17/21)
4K UHD Special Features Review
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is now available in brilliant 4K UHD. You can get it on its own digitally now, or in a special 5-disc, 4-movie 4K set. According to Paramount Pictures, “all four films are available together in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision® and HDR-10 for ultra-vivid picture quality and state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos® audio. Each film has been meticulously remastered from 4K scans of the original negatives with extensive visual effects work done to ensure the most pristine and highest quality image. All picture work was approved by director Steven Spielberg. In addition, all four films were remixed at Skywalker Sound under the supervision of legendary sound designer Ben Burtt to create the Dolby Atmos® soundtracks. All original sound elements were used to achieve the fully immersive Dolby Atmos® mixes while staying true to each film’s original creative intent.”
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom definitely is revitalized in the 4K format. I don’t think it has quite the punch that Raiders and Last Crusade get visually in this format, but it’s definitely a better visual presentation than Crystal Skull.
The 4K set also includes a standard Blu-ray disc with seven hours of previously released bonus content as detailed below:
- On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark
- From Jungle to Desert
- From Adventure to Legend
- Making the Films
- The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 documentary)
- The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark
- The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
- The Making of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- The Making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (HD)
- Behind the Scenes
- The Stunts of Indiana Jones
- The Sound of Indiana Jones
- The Music of Indiana Jones
- The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones
- Raiders: The Melting Face!
- Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies (with optional pop-ups)
- Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations (with optional pop-ups)
- Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute
- Indy’s Friends and Enemies
- Iconic Props (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) (HD)
- The Effects of Indy (Kingdom of theCrystal Skull) (HD)
- Adventures in Post Production (Kingdom of theCrystal Skull) (HD)
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/16/21)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Indy puts his hand inside Willie’s dresss to retrieve the antidote. She rebukes him as not being “that kind of girl”; Willie has a sort-of see-through shirt when she falls into a puddle (not super explicit); Willie tells Indy she plans to wear her jewels to bed and nothing else. Indy tells her he does research all the time. She asks what he’d do with her. He says “Nocturnal activities. Primitive sexual practices.” and they passionately kiss. She tells him he’ll never have better and he says he’ll let her know in the morning and he begins closing her doors. She then throws them open and throws him out says she’s “not that easy.” He responds by saying he isn’t either. She insists he’ll be back in 5 minutes. They wait in their own rooms and scoff at what each other said, but nothing else happens; Willie says she could have been his greatest adventure. He goes to check her room for other attackers and she says “oh Indy!” He’s mad and she says “be gentle with me!” Indy gropes a statue of a woman to find a secret door and she goes “hey! I’m right here!” motioning to her chest; Willie pushes on the chest of the female statue to see if it moves; Willie shows some cleavage in her final outfit; Indy lassos Willie with his whip and pulls her in to kiss her.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “S” word, 1 “d*mn,” 7 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “G-d,” 1 “Oh G-d,” 1 “b*stard,” 1 “For G-d’s sakes”
Alcohol/Drugs: We see Indy drinking in night club; We see champagne bottles in a nightclub pop multiple times with champagne spilling out.
Blood/Gore: Blood suddenly forms on Indy’s friend’s shirt after having been shot; Indy throws a flaming skewer at a man. It sticks into his chest and he screams; Indy finds astatue with red-colored dismembered fingers and ears hanging on it. Indy gets fresh blood on his hand when he touches it while investigating it; During a gruesome dinner banquet, someone cuts open a snake and live eels crawl out. Some people eat them alive. They also eat large beetles, which is also gross. We see a bowl of soup where dismembers, slightly bloody eyeballs rise to the surface. Finally, they bring plates of monkey heads to the table. The servers remove the monkey scalps to reveal red, gooey brains (Willie faints); We see the Thuggee ceremony and first see Mola Ram who has a shrunken head on his horned head dressing; Mola Ram sticks his hand into the chest of a chained up man and pulls out his beating heart and holds it up in the air. The victim’s chest closes up and yet he’s still alive. They then lower him into the lava. His body burns up as he screams and his heart in Mola Ram’s hand bursts into flames; Indy spots skins stretched in the windows of the temple (possibly from the children?!); We see some skulls with one still having the eyes in it; The Thuggee guards hold Indy down and pour blood into his mouth; We see some blood on Mola Ram’s head; We see some bloody scrapes across Indy’s back after being whipped; We see blood on Indy’s nose and mouth; Little Maharaja has some blood on his face after fighting with Short Round; There’s some blood on their faces as Indy fights the big Thuggee guard; The guard’s sash gets caught in rock crusher rollers. Indy tries to stop him from getting crushed but he gets pulled in. We then see blood on the rollers; Indy has scrapes on his face in the finale; After men fall into croc-infested waters, we see crocs pull at clothes and what looks like pieces of meat; By the end of the movie, Indy has blood on his arm and hands.
Violence: One of Lao’s men’s hands is wrapped up, possibly missing a finger from a previous, unseen encounter with Indy; A man pulls gun on Indy so he grabs a fork and threatens Willie with it; Indy finds out he just drank poison and starts feeling the effects; Indy threatens Willie with the fork in her side again; Champagne bottles pop multiple times. Suddenly, blood forms on Indy’s friend’s shirt after having been shot (one of the pop sounds was a gun); Indy throws a flaming skewer at a man. It sticks into his chest and he screams; A fight breaks out in the nightclub and Indy punches his way through the club. They put him on a cart and throw him across the room. He crashes, gets up and chases after the antidote rolling on the floor; Indy throws a cymbal and it hits a man in the face. There’s more kicking and punching during this scuffle; A man with a tommy gun shoots at Indy. He cuts down a gong and hides behind it as it rolls. Then he jumps out a window, falls through several awnings and drops into a car; Short Round crashes into things while driving; We see Indy shooting at the car behind him. Short Round crashes into a rickshaw and pushes it till it crashes; Indy, Willie and Short Round jump out of a plane in a raft and go off a mountain into a river. The plane crashes into the mountain; Willie falls off an elephant into water; Willie screams when coming face to face with a vampire bat; Indy is attacked from behind by a man strangling him with a wire. We see Indy being choked as they struggle. He punches the guy and wraps the whip around the guy’s neck and throws the whip onto the ceiling fan. it wraps around it and pulls the man upward, hanging him. He has Short Round turn off the fan and he falls to the ground dead; Mummified skeletons pop out at Short Round; We see really large bugs crawling on Indy and Short Round; Indy and Short Round get trapped in a room with bones littering the floor. The ceiling comes down with huge spikes coming out of the floor and ceiling; Willie sees the dead bodies and screams as bugs crawl on her and she screams; We see the Thuggee ceremony and first see Mola Ram who has a shrunken head on his horned head dressing; Mola Ram sticks his hand into the chest of a chained up man and pulls out his beating heart and holds it up in the air. The victim’s chest closes up and yet he’s still alive. They then lower him into the lava. His body burns up as he screams and his heart in Mola Ram’s hand bursts into flames; Indy spots skins stretched in the windows of the temple (possibly from the children?!); Shorty and Willie are grabbed by Thuggee goons. Indy finds the kids working as slaves and being whipped. He sees a little kid getting whipped twice. Indy throws a rock at the guard and other Thuggee guards catch him; Mola and some guards grab Indy’s face and force him to drink the blood of Kali. He spits it out. They use a voodoo doll to make him feel the heat of a nearby flame and he screams in pain. Shorty kicks kid the man and he drops the doll. Indy fights back and they hit him; They whip Indy and force him to drink the blood. He freaks out and twitches; We see guards cracking whips at children in the mine and forcing Shorty to work, too; They strap up Willie in a sacrificial cage; Indy, under the influence of the blood locks Willie into the cage; Indy smacks Shorty. Shorty grabs a torch and swings it at some of the guards. He burns Indy with it who screams; Indy fights several of the Thuggee guys and throws into the lava pit; Willie slaps Indy across the face; Indy punches a guard and he slides across the ground. He punches another guard; We see guards striking the kids as they run. Indy tries to hit the big guard with a mallet who catches it and punches him repeatedly. Shorty tries hitting the guy with a stick and he hits Shorty. Indy kicks him repeatedly. Little Maharaja stabs a voodoo doll causing Indy back pain. Indy and the big guard keep punching each other. Little Maharaja stabs doll again and again as Indy screams. The guard holds Indy down as they slowly slide toward the rolling rock crusher. Shorty punches the Little Maharaja and he has some blood on his face. Indy fights back with the guard and punches his face many times. The guard’s sash gets caught in rollers. Indy tries to stop him from getting crushed but he gets pulled in. We then see blood on the rollers; Shorty burns Little Maharaja to help him snap out of his trance; We see more fighting with Shorty hitting guards and punching and kicking them; Willie, Indy and Shorty get away in a mine cart and are pursued in several carts by the bad guys. They’re shot at and Indy shoots back. We see a car crash and flip in the air; As a mine cart pulls alongside theirs, Indy fights with them. They try to grab Short Round but Indy stops them; A guy jumps into their cart with a knife; We see another cart crash; A large vat of water tips and floods the mine tunnel; Indy stops the cart breaks with his shoes and screams in response to his shoes now feeling hot; The gang run away from the water rushing through the tunnel and it chases them to a cliff’s edge where they almost get swept away; As they cross a rope bridge, Shorty falls through one of the slats but Willie catches him. They see crocodiles ready for them below; Indy fight two guys with swords and is chased by a horde of them; Indy gets trapped in the middle of the rope bridge and decides to cut it, causing the Thuggee men to fall into the croc-infested waters. We then see the crocs rolling around, pulling at their clothes; Indy punches Mola Ram a few times. Mola tries to get Indy’s heart out of his chest (Indy reacts in pain), but Indy punches him in the face; Mola intentionally throws one of his men off the bridge; Thuggee men shoot arrows at Indy while he’s hanging on the bridge; Indy’s satchel catches fire while he and Mola pull on it. Mola grabs one of the stones and it burns his hand. He falls and hits his head on the cliff on the way down. We then see more crocs pull at clothes and what looks like pieces of meat; More arrows are shot at Indy; Indy lassos Willie with his whip and pulls her in to kiss her.