Chris Gelderd counts down to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny by revisiting 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom…
In production for almost a decade, the final outing for everyone’s beloved professor and archaeologist Indiana Jones is now finally on the horizon. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will be the fifth feature film for the man in the hat, and the first under the Disney studio banner.
Safe to say, it has been a production not without delays, controversy and rumour. From a global pandemic to cast injuries and shifting crew roles, bringing Indiana Jones back for one final adventure has been more challenging that recovering the Sankara Stones. But with Harrison Ford back as Indy, James Mangold in the directors chair and Steven Spielberg as executive producer, the franchise is set to go out with a bang.
But just where did it all begin for Henry Jones, Jr. on the big screen? As we countdown to the June 28th/30th general release, let’s continue the journey taken so far…
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
This 1984 American adventure is directed by Steven Spielberg and acts as the second instalment in the Indiana Jones franchise and a prequel to the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. The film stars Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Ke Huy Quan and Roshan Seth.
After narrowly escaping from a Chinese crime boss, Indiana Jones (Ford) flees with his young aid Short Round (Quan) and American nightclub singer Willie Scott (Capshaw) all caught up in the carnage. When their flight to America is sabotaged and they crash in the Himalayas, the trio end up at a desolate village in India. Indy finds himself agreeing to retrieve five sacred Shivalinga stones that were stolen by an evil cult, the Thuggees, along with the village children as slaves. Indy discovers the Thuggee Priest Mola Ram (Puri) want to unleash the power of the stones to conquer the world, and he must risk everything to stop him.
The biggest risk for this sequel/prequel in the Indiana Jones franchise was to take away several winning elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark to offer something new to audiences, whilst retaining the core of what the Indiana Jones character is about; adventure. Here we are treated to a far darker, scarier yet somehow comical adventure, long before The Phantom Menace gave prequels a rather unfair bad name.
With the first hour of the film, starting with a fun and frantic action number in the Shanghai club Obi-Wan (nudge, nudge, wink wink) that sets the tone, it is easy to see where they are going with this; Indiana Jones is still played perfectly by Harrison Ford with more humour and humanity injected into the role this time. We have the comical sidekick played by now Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan (who does not prove to be as irritating as you would expect for a child star) and we Kate Capshaw’s screaming, spoilt damsel in distress Willie Scott who is a far cry from the tough and resourceful Marion Ravenwood. It establishes a new era away from the threat of Nazi-Germany in Europe, and the second half becomes something a lot less familiar for Indy fans to witness. But, yet, something far more bolder than expected.
It’s clear George Lucas wanted to be original and follow the darker second act much like The Empire Strikes Back was to A New Hope, but here rather than expand on established themes and characters, we lose lots of what we would like to see more of and given things we probably didn’t – comical fight sequences where children beat up adults, lots of bickering between Willie and Indy (which does have funny moments to be fair), and a plot that divides audiences as either being too far-fetched or just too sinister for family-friendly Indy to be involved in.
There are some grizzly moments as the themes of human-sacrifice and voodoo are explored. During the second hour their tone is more dangerous; fiery reds, oranges and browns full the screen as if we are in hell for the most-part until we get to hear the iconic John Williams score once Indy is back for the action-packed finale. While the Thuggee cult are not as easy to invest in or enjoy as villains like the Nazis are, they are at least fronted by the brilliant and memorable Amrish Puri who more sinister and threatening than any Third Reich officer Indy goes up against. Indy faces the threat of voodoo and dark magic; grizzly scenes where we have our hero drinking blood and becoming brainwashed, or beating down child slavers, or even cutting open pythons and eating monkey brains. This dared to go into the more fantastical world of Indiana Jones.
It is easy to pick apart the plot and the change in tone, but what cannot be picked apart is the fun that is present for a good 2/3rds of the film. The stunt work is practical, dangerous and exciting, the sets are haunting and well designed with plenty of booby traps, secret passages and large temples that evoke the adventure and B-movie feel of the character. With more visual effects to create sequences that are bigger and bolder than ROLTA, it’s a little far-fetched at times away from the grounded reality of the predecessor, but it gives us lots of iconic moments such as the mine-cart chase (perfect blend of miniature, green-screen and practical effects), and the rope-bridge with no CGI in sight.
Temple of Doom gives us just as much of what we love about Indiana Jones, it’s just overshadowed by the drastic change in tone. But then, fair play to Spielberg and Lucas for doing something a little different and explore more of what adventures Indy takes part in rather than just being someone to battle Nazis. The supernatural / voodoo elements of the film are explored in more of the Indy games and books, proving this was a fascinating theme to tackle and one that elevated Indy’s adventures going above and beyond the “everyday” action / adventure. Tapping into the supernatural, the occult and the fantastical would help keep us hooked over the years to come.
It is the moments where the music blares and our rugged hero battles away evil with a whip and his fists that remind us of this is still Indiana Jones – packed full of sequences to make you cheer, wince and – yes – sometimes roll your eyes. In all it is a brave move that works for the most part. The heart is there and the want to entertain is there and it is generally hard to dislike as much as you may want to because in the world of Indiana Jones; anything goes.
What are your thoughts on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…
Starring along with Harrison Ford are Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”), Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”), John Rhys-Davies (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Shaunette Renee Wilson (“Black Panther”), Thomas Kretschmann (“Das Boot”), Toby Jones (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”), Boyd Holbrook (“Logan”), Oliver Richters (“Black Widow”), Ethann Isidore (“Mortel”) and Mads Mikkelsen (“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”).
Directed by James Mangold, the film is produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, and Simon Emanuel, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas serving as executive producers. John Williams, who has scored each Indy adventure since the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981, is once again composing the score.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny arrives in cinemas on June 30th, 2023.