Indiana Looks for the Stones and discovers the Beetles
If you didn't know better you would say that "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" was made by a different team than that which gave us "Raiders of the Lost Ark". The reason being is whilst the fun and sense of adventure remains "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is a much darker sequel, in fact a prequel. There is not so much what you would call brutal violence on show but rather than slapstick style beat ups there is an almost sinister edge to things which include child slavery and ripping out a human heart amongst other darker elements. It doesn't completely spoil "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg they have done well to give us a different storyline to the first movie but it just feels slightly too dark seeing that Indiana was and still a hero of young children.
Following some trouble in a Shanghai nightclub Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford - Working Girl), nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Indiana's young sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan - The Goonies) flying over India in a plane with no pilots. Having miraculously saved themselves from death they come across a small village where all the children have gone missing and a sacred stone has been stolen. Although disbelieving of some religious mumbo jumbo Indiana agrees to go to the palace and find their stolen stone but he finds a lot more as beneath the palace there are some strange goings on. With the help of Willie and Short Round Indiana must steal the stone back and stop a religious leader by the name of Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) from reuniting all the sacred stones.
What is good about "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is that rather than just giving us a rehash of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Lucas and Spielberg create a new adventure story which is in fact a prequel. And rather than just being a series of action sequences it has a narrative which flows taking us from a Shanghai night club through to an Indian village and on to the Pankot Palace where Indiana finds himself in the thick of it in a series of underground tunnels where there is an evil religious leader up to no good. And this journey has meaning as we have Indiana trying to recover a special stone for the village which they believe when returned will also bring along with it their children which have gone missing. It's just the right amount of storyline allowing the various action sequences, which is where these Indiana Jones movies work best, to have meaning rather than just being thrown in as crowd pleasers.
Of course it is the action sequences which end up being the most memorable thing and like with the first movie there are some great ones. The almost slapstick style action of the Nightclub where Indiana and singer Willie Scott are scrabbling across the floor is simple but great fun and it culminates with a great rickshaw style chase scene. Plus there is the wonderful mining cart rollercoaster ride through the temple of doom which may go on a bit too long but is fun and action packed. All of which works so well because once more what we watch is for the most stunt work rather than CGI and it just makes it all so more exciting.
But whilst the main elements, the comedy and the action are retained it has to be said that "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is a much darker movie than first time around. It certainly makes for a different sort of movie as there are scenes of child slavery, black magic and the infamous ripping out of a human heart. And this means that whilst there is plenty which will amuse younger audiences there are elements which will scare them, maybe a little too much. Whether it was right for Lucas and Spielberg to go darker with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is down to personal taste and to be honest I prefer the more light hearted fun of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" than this darker outing, although that doesn't stop it from being an impressive movie.
With "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" being a prequel there are significant changes in characters and whilst Harrison Ford delivers another wonderful performance as the heroic Indiana Jones elsewhere it doesn't always work. One thing which does work is having Indiana partnered up with the Chinese kid Short Round played by Jonathan Ke Quan. Quan brings so much comedy to the character that you can't but help smile when he is delivering a beating to a bigger guy or doing something wrong. It's then a shame that neither Quan nor Ford seem to find the right chemistry when working with Kate Capshaw who plays night club singer Willie Scott. It all feels wrong and forced as Capshaw spends too much time screaming her way through various scenes rather than finding the spark with some witty banter.
What this all boils down to is that "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is still a very good movie and way above being just a lack lustre sequel or in this case a prequel. But it is a much darker movie and whilst there are still elements of comedy and action there are elements which border on the scary or at least too scary for younger audiences. It makes it feel all a little wrong as we go from something dark like a heart being ripped out to a moment of slapstick. But despite this and my personal preference for the light hearted adventure "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is still a very good movie.