Film discussion

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) – Cinema from the year I was born

Sometimes we get so caught up in what’s coming out next at the cinema that we forget to look back at what we might have missed. We got thinking about this, and our reviewers decided to examine some cinema from the year that they were born.

I’m grateful to have been born in a year that gave us so many classic films such as Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Footloose and, er, An Ewok Adventure (although maybe the less said about that, the better).

The 1980s was a decade that produced something of a mixed bag. For many, certainly here in the UK it was the era of Margaret Thatcher, yuppies, BMX bikes and massive mobile phones. Even at a time of economic boom, politically charged events like the miners’ strike and the Falklands conflict ensured it also remained a time of upheaval and uncertainty.

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Indeed, the 80s were also defined by some technological firsts, with Philips inventing the compact disc (now something of a dinosaur in the age of streaming) in 1981, Microsoft developing its first Windows program in 1985, and our very own Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposing the WWW in 1989, to name but a few. Looking back, it has to be said that the 1980s was quite probably one of the most dramatic and, thanks to trends in big hair and makeup, brightly coloured decades in UK history. At the cinema, the decade gave us a diverting range of films, with such landmark dramatic titles as Ghandi and My Beautiful Laundrette together with downright escapist and fantastical fare such as Flash Gordon,  Back to the Future, a whole host of James Bond films and the Indiana Jones series.

As cinematic heroes go, you probably can’t get more iconic than Indiana Jones (Marvel, DC and James Bond all acknowledged). The fedora, the jacket, the bull whip, that iconic John Williams score – all the classic ingredients are there. The brainchild of George Lucas, the series was developed along with Steven Spielberg as a homage to the “boy’s own” cliff-hanger adventures they had enjoyed in their youth. All the Indy films have enjoyed critical and financial success (yes, even the much maligned fourth film!), and with their blend of epic storytelling, gripping action and timeless sense of adventure, coupled with the iconic casting of Harrison Ford in the central role, the series remains a constant fan favourite.

In this second outing, Doctor Jones attempts to head back to the US from Shanghai after a deal with some Chinese gangsters goes decidedly pear-shaped, but ends up being diverted to a rural village in India. Once there, at the request of village elders he must recover a treasured artefact at the titular temple, where a mysterious and deadly cult awaits. Aided by club singer Willie Scott (Cate Capshaw) and trusty aide Short Round (Jonathan Je Quan), Indy dons his weather beaten fedora and trusty bull whip again to uncover the central mystery of what danger lies at the heart of Pankot Palace.

It’s fair to say that the second entry in this much loved franchise, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is an absolute classic. However, Temple still receives something of a critical drubbing on occasion and it is easy to see why. Indy’s companion and love interest this time around is something of a departure from the likes of Marion Ravenwood and Elsa Schneider, which sadly misses the mark. While Capshaw undoubtedly provides some much needed light relief at times her chemistry with Indy fails to ignite. It also doesn’t help that she’s given some terrible lines, such as “we’re crashing!” and “you’re on fire!” which could come from the Admiral Akbar school of stating the obvious(!). Plus, with its grim themes of occultism, child slave labour and human sacrifice, the film takes on a darker tone which may not necessarily suit the light hearted, derring-do nature of the franchise.  Despite this, the film still retains its score of 85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it still presents a swash buckling spectacle of a movie which continues to delight fans new and old.

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Even with its darker tone compared to the other films in the series, Temple of Doom still boasts some exciting and spectacular set pieces that have become a trademark of the series. The opening scene at the brilliantly named Obi-Wan club captures all the glitz and glamour of 1930’s Shanghai and is one of the most memorable in the series. Incidentally, I would have loved a spin-off featuring David Yip’s character Wu, where he followed Indy on his adventures. Another stunning set piece is the jewel encrusted interior of Pankot Palace itself, although the menu is less appealing – eels, eyeball soup and chilled monkey brains, anyone?!

The deadly heart of the palace with the sacrificial stone altar is richly imagined, elaborately designed and, with its massive statue looming over proceedings, the near-sacrifice scene remains terrifying to this day. Coupled with the runaway minecart escape and gripping finale on the rope bridge suspended across crocodile infested waters, they all make for memorable scenes that stand out as highlights not just in the film, but in the series as a whole. Despite its setbacks, Temple of Doom still remains an entertaining romp in the Indiana Jones series and stands out as one of my favourite films of 1984.

What’s your favourite film from the year you were born? Let us know in the comments and on social media.

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