Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Defending Temple of Doom

by ScottDS

Few films stir up more conversation on this blog than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Steven Spielberg’s 1984 sequel (prequel, actually) to Raiders of the Lost Ark. I love the first three Indiana Jones films equally and while Raiders is rightfully accepted as a masterpiece, Temple of Doom does nothing but divide. It’s either an action-packed piece of pulpy fun... or an annoying mess of a movie – Spielberg and George Lucas doing nothing more than indulging themselves at the expense of the audience (and, at times, their stomachs).

I don’t think Temple of Doom is better than Raiders but it isn’t nearly as bad as its detractors suggest. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, mainly serve as a delightful throwback to the two-reel serial adventures of old. It’s still more fun and more action-packed than most summer blockbuster movies made today. Having grown up watching these films on television, it never once occurred to me that this film was inferior. The central Macguffin may not be as relevant or meaningful as that of the first film (Sankara stones vs. the Ark of the Covenant) but does it really matter? After all, it’s only a plot device. Did anyone watching North by Northwest care about the secret microfilm? If Indiana Jones – played once again by Harrison Ford who’s game for anything – is interested, then we’re interested, and since the exposition is handled relatively well (i.e. not boring or confusing), then we know all we need to know and we’re not confused an hour into the film.

This brings me to sidekicks. Short Round never bothered me. In the pantheon of kid sidekicks, he is far from annoying and, unlike so many unnecessary supporting characters, he doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere (like Jar Jar Binks). Using history as a template, it’s established that Indy befriended Short Round after the kid’s parents were killed when the Japanese bombed Shanghai. The relationship between the two is rather endearing and “Shorty” gets a few good lines of dialogue as well.

And then there’s Miss Willie Scott. I know what you’re thinking… she does nothing but scream her way through the film. But that’s exactly what a sheltered showbiz dame like that would do in those situations. (It’s a miracle Kate Capshaw married Steven Spielberg after the arthropod hell he put her through!) I suppose when people watch this film, they can’t help but compare her to the strong, feisty Marion Ravenwood from the first film. Willie is your classic damsel in distress and her rocky relationship with Indy results in a fun seduction scene that is equal parts romance and screwball comedy. Besides, it works both ways: people who like her don’t have a problem and people who hate her get to see her put in uncomfortable situations!

As for villains, while Indy and Belloq had an interesting working relationship, Mola Ram, high priest of the Thuggee cult, is just a badass! He was played by an imposing Indian actor, the late Amrish Puri, and just oozes villainy without being campy. Subtle? Not at all. But he’s no 60s-era Batman villain either, speechifying with cheesy catchphrases. His sheer physical presence makes up for the lack of a previous “relationship” with Indy and the basic idea of the Thuggee cult is horrifying enough without any mustache twirling. He’s certainly more memorable than Walter Donovan, the Nazi villain from The Last Crusade, and Agent Spalco from Crystal Skull. Roy Chiao appears to be having a blast as the Chinese gangster Lao Che in the opening of the film and Roshan Seth plays the bespectacled Chattar Lal, sneering Prime Minister of Pankot Palace and Thuggee acolyte.

As for the film itself, it’s beautiful to look at and to listen to. The cinematography by Douglas Slocombe B.S.C. is lush, vibrant, and he and Spielberg knew how to take advantage of the widescreen 2.35:1 frame. Interestingly, Mr. Slocombe never used a light meter – he would simply judge the amount of light based on the shadow his thumb cast over the rest of his hand. Unlike many summer blockbuster films made today, the action is easy to follow, geography and spatial relationships are properly established, and the film is bathed in more than two colors. (Seriously, did you ever notice most action films today are a mix of blue and orange?)

Ben Burtt’s sound effects give the film a creepy ambience (as if the insects didn’t do that already) and the music score is one of John Williams’ masterpieces. He reuses his famous Raiders march from the first film and develops a love theme, a theme for Short Round, a march for the slave children, and he even reprises the Raiders “sword trick” music for a gag in which Indy reaches for his gun to dispatch two sword-wielding bad guys... and finds his holster empty. Even Cole Porter gets in on the fun with an opening musical number featuring Willie performing “Anything Goes” in Mandarin. I have no idea what audiences were thinking at the time but I applaud the filmmakers for doing something different. Imagine if The Bourne Supremacy began with Jason Bourne attending a performance of Cats!

The Oscar-winning visual effects by ILM are top-notch. Miniatures, stop-motion, matte paintings on glass – they simply don’t make movies like this anymore. I’m not a member of the “CGI sucks!!” brigade – computers are just a tool – but the limitations of real-world objects and the photochemical process meant filmmakers more often than not had to improvise. For instance, a modified 35mm Nikon still camera was used to film the mine car miniatures. Speaking of mine cars, the last twenty minutes of this film are non-stop action: the fight in the temple, the aforementioned mine car chase, the waterfall, the rope bridge, the death of Mola Ram, and the arrival of the British riflemen... it simply never ends and it takes real talent to sustain that kind of excitement over an extended period of time without overwhelming the audience. Unlike most of the Star Wars films, we’re not constantly cutting from one battle to another and unlike the other Indy films, it’s less stop-and-start and more “This goes to 11!” Now that I think of it, the opening 20 minutes are a rollicking ride, too: an old-fashioned music number, a melee in the club (in which Indy accidentally punches a cigarette girl!), a car chase on the streets of Shanghai, a plane crash, and an inflatable boat ride down the slopes of the Himalayas and a raging river, all scored with wall-to-wall John Williams music.

In conclusion, this film has plenty to offer. It may not be fair to compare it to its predecessor or action movies of today but it does pass one very important test: if it comes on TV, I don’t change the channel!

“Kali Ma!”

72 comments:

ScottDS said...

I'm gonna be out for a while so I will chime in with comments later.

Andrew, the links are formatted incorrectly. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for the article. I both agree and disagree.

On the one hand, I think if this film stood in isolation, it would be a fun film and would be positively remembered -- though not as anything special. But it will always be compared to Raiders and in that regard, I think it suffers.

Some other points.

1. I think Shortround was hurt by the Goonies comparison. In effect, he became a corny cliche, which Spielberg started jamming into his films. Had there been no very similar Asian kid in Goonies, then I think he would have been better received.

2. Capshaw is just super annoying. I honestly would have cheered if Indi had shot her and walked off.

3. Also, I do disagree with the MacGuffin aspect in this case. I think the biggest problem with this film is that the item he is going after doesn't interest us -- even if it interests him... which I'm not even sure it does.

Not only do most Americans not care at all about India, but this isn't even something really cool about India, it's just some generic stones that have a local stupidstition and then some bad guy who kidnaps children in a country notorious for abandoning orphans to the streets. It's hard to get worked up about that. In fact, it's hard to imagine anything that would have less meaning to American audiences.

And Indi isn't really excited to be looking for these stones, he's basically forced into it by a moral obligation which he doesn't embrace so much as act like it's forced upon him.

All of that sends a big signal to the audience -- "who cares."

AndrewPrice said...

they're fixed.

Tennessee Jed said...

have to walk miss maggie, but I'll chip in with my 2 cents in a little bit ;)

ArmChairGeneral said...

I did some research on this a while ago for pulp games and learned that the Thuggee cult was a real cult!

I love the mine scenes in this movie.

The rest of it was not as good imho as Last Crusade or Raiders but then I actually really love all of these Indy films. I even watched most of the Young Indiana Jones episodes. I also agree with your comparison to earlier serials such as The Phantom, Operator #5 and Doc Savage. Have you ever heard of the Butcher of Ottowa and the Purple Empire?

LawHawkRFD said...

Last Crusade was actually my favorite of the original trilogy. But I agree about Temple of Doom. It wasn't a bad movie at all, and if it hadn't been sandwiched between two superior "episodes," it would likely have stood on its own as a fairly successful movie.

The first I ever heard of the Thugee was as a kid watching Gunga Din. "Kill for the love of Kali. Kill for the love of killing. Kill, kill, kill!" The cult leader was played by Eduardo Cianelli, and he was about as evil as a human could get.

BevfromNYC said...

For me the entire film is ruined by Kate Capshaw. No doubt she was caste because Speilberg wanted to er..um..."marry" her. Her acting is forced, unnatural, overly campy, and annoying.

It's not the story. The legend is compelling, and the production values are topnotch. And evern the kid is cute, but then I like Jar-Jar Binks. It's just her. I will be forever greatful to Mr. Speilberg for marrying her, so she wouldn't have to work anymore...

[Too harsh?]

AndrewPrice said...

ACG, The only one I truly disliked was the new one -- Crystal Skull. I was disappointed in Doom, but didn't hate it or anything like that. I just felt it could have been a LOT better. But Crystal Skull I find to be incredibly painful to watch. There is almost nothing I enjoy in that one.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I despised her. As I mention above, I literally would have cheered if Indi had shot her dead somewhere along the way and walked away.

ArmChairGeneral said...

@BEV - I completely agree! Anything Goes!

@Andrew - Yeah Crystal Skull was like a very bad version of Indiana Jones and the Stargate. It could have been so much better. Still, it did have some very good parts. My favorite is "If you want to really learn Archaeology, get out of the library!"

Tennessee Jed said...

How interesting. My comments seem to follow those that preceded:

1) Sequal/prequal are held to a higher standard - fairly or not. I don't know how many remember, but the original Indy picture snuck in under the radar. It was THE intelligent matinee made with newer technology AND Harrison Ford to boot. It snuck up on people. As such, Temple of Doom couldn't possibly live up to the expectations.

2) Asian kid and Kate Capshaw did not stack up favorably with the monkey and Allen.

3) More than a few felt it was too goulish for kids.

4) Opening sequence was as good as any ever.

5) Not as many Indy "one liners."

AndrewPrice said...

ACG, That was indeed a funny moment.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think that's only human nature to grade on a curve when there is a sequel because we come to expect a certain level of quality. That's not fair, but it's human.

That's probably why it's so hard for great authors/film makers to keep turning out great movies, because each success only raises the bar for the next one.

Outlaw13 said...

Nice try at defending the indefensible. I don't think it wouldn't be as reviled it it didn't follow Raiders. But it did so therefore it stinks.

In my eyes all this movie accomplished was to give us a character that years later we could force a pilot who's mom was Korean to imitate saying, "No time for love, Dr. Jones". For the laughs while flying over Iraq, I guess I should be thankful, otherwise this movie (to me anyway) was a hot mess.

rlaWTX said...

I don't remember hating it at the time... but it was GROSS (I was a 11yo girl with a little brother; I had enough gross in my life!)

Seeing it since now and again, I have to agree about Kate. The kid's OK, but she's annoying. Really, really annoying.

Overall, meh.

EricP said...

Amen, amen, I say again, amen! 14-year-old me saw this multiple times in the theatre and to this day -- taking lines from the arcade game this inspired -- say "Kali Ma will rule the world" and grunt "oy-yoy-yoy" when bewildered more than I'd care to admit.

As good as Raiders? Of course not, but still worthy of being in the same sentence with Last Crusade, which I've always thought would be accepted as better than Raiders if Raiders hadn't come first.

T-Rav said...

Aargh! Why did you have to put this up now? I have papers I need to be working on this week, but of course I can't walk away from a battle over "Temple of Doom." Grrr.

Scott, great article. I think you hit on all the reasons why this is a good movie. Let me try and give a compromise position, since there are obviously two camps here: While I really like "Doom," I would agree that it is probably the weakest of the three. Capshaw's acting was a bit hammy and unappealing (although, "shoot her and walk away"? Really, Andrew?), and I never did understand the purpose of the opening number.

That said, I can't agree that there is anything really wrong with this movie. It has a straightforward plot (I don't think the Indian theme meant audiences didn't care), characters which are for the most part interesting, and is highlighted, as Scott points out, by the great action sequences and musical settings.

Also, I think the critics are projecting backward a bit. Of course, I wasn't alive when "Doom" came out, but before it did, there was just "Raiders." Nobody was yet thinking of "The Indiana Jones movies." Spielberg and company, it seems to me, were taking a character who had proved very popular from "Raiders" and building another movie around him. So I don't believe comparisons between the two are entirely fair in that regard.

Is it campy? Yeah. Does it stand apart from the other two films? Yes. But can you imagine "The Indiana Jones movies" without it? I don't think so.

AndrewPrice said...

Eric and Outlaw, One of the reasons I asked Scott to write the article after he said he really did like the film was your reactions. I find it fascinating that some people really enjoy this film and others hate it. It amazes me that THIS film generates such disparate responses!

T-Rav said...

P.S. I think the kid who played Short Round actually was the same one in "The Goonies"--which, for the record, SUCKED.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Gunga Din... Douglas Fairbanks! Good film.


rlaWTX, Somehow the film never grossed me out. I guess the food just never seemed all that real to me.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav! You're alive! I thought this one might bring you out of hiding! :)

I think it was the same kid.

I go back and forth on whether Goonies is just a horrid travesty with some nasty stereotypes or if it's just a kind of "nice" film. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Yeah, shoot her. I stand by my violent outburst. :)

In terms of judging a sequel, I think it's just human nature to always judge a sequel based on the original. We can say it's unfair, but that's how humans think and if he wasn't willing to risk that, then he shouldn't have used the same character.

And as a sequel, looking at this forward rather than backward, this was a HUGE letdown. People really were expecting a second Raiders and this was not it. It's hard to follow a legend and it's really impossible when you change the fundamental nature of the film. Raiders was more of a mystery film with action moments, whereas this was more of an action film interspersed with a really weak mystery. I think that hurt the film too.

ScottDS said...

Andrew – Your welcome!

1. If there is a Goonies comparison, then it’s purely in retrospect since that film came out after this one. Maybe if more time had passed between the two (and the characters had been played by different actors), things would be different.

2. I didn’t expect anyone who didn’t like Willie to be convinced! :-)

3. I’m sympathetic to your argument but on one hand, there’s something to be said for the reluctant hero who forges ahead simply because it’s the right thing to do. However, I agree most Americans don’t care much about India BUT Crystal Skull was even worse in this (and every other) regard. Crystal skulls... (slaps forehead)

ScottDS said...

ArmChairGeneral –

I haven’t heard of Butcher of Ottowa. I’ve heard of the others and Doc Savage is one I’d like to read one day. I know they made a movie or two years ago but he’s a character who deserves the big-screen treatment today (provided it’s done well, of course).

ScottDS said...

LawHawk –

As I mentioned, I enjoy all three equally. Last Crusade used to air a lot on HBO when I was younger so I’ve probably seen it more than the others. The only major problem I have with it is the way they treat the Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) character. He’s more or less a comic buffoon in this film and it doesn’t really work.

ScottDS said...

Bev –

I recall reading your opinion of Kate Capshaw elsewhere on this site. :-)

I don’t recall the Spielberg/Capshaw courtship timeline – I’m pretty sure Spielberg was still married to Amy Irving when he did this film. Lucas on the other hand was going through a difficult divorce and he chalks up this film’s dark tone to that ordeal.

kerosenebilly said...

Heh. Well if you know your Hindi, Amrish Puri's lines are REALLY cheesy. All he's chanting is kill, torture, pain, torture. But what a villain!

As an Indian, I loved Temple of Doom. Who cared about the monkey brains and all that non-pc stuff. Indian films in the 80s were worse in their treatment of white guys, who apparently all went to India to steal valuable treasures and leer at our chaste women.

I do think Spielberg could've done a better job with the story. The way Stephen Sommers used faux-egyptology in The Mummy was a much better pulp homage to the mystical cult trope from the old serials.

The thuggee were a real cult who were part of the Kali worshippers spread across Eastern India. Even when they weren't thugees, Kali worshippers were notorious for kidnapping children to sacrifice and mutilate them to adorn their bodyparts around the temples, so the story has some truth in history, but mangled because they couldn't show child sacrifice and retain a pg-13 rating. The british effectively put an end to that.

The special effects just weren't there. Were they supposed to be cheesy or horrific or action-y? When Indy says prepare to meet Kali he chops the rope twice as if that's supposed to be realistic. Mola Ram's escape and the falling rope bridge appear either too cheesy or too realistic or not enough of both.

ScottDS said...

Tennessee Jed –

1. Agreed. That’s the curse all sequels/prequels face… but at least these films didn’t have to deal with Internet spoilers and all the geeky stuff that goes on now.

2. Fair enough, though I’m indifferent to the monkey.

3. Agreed. You probably already know this film and Gremlins were responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Ironically, many people today feel too many films that should be R are watered down to get a PG-13. (And the inverse is probably true, too.)

4. Agreed.

5. There are some good lines but I agree, of the first three, Raiders and Last Crusade have most of the memorable dialogue.

ScottDS said...

Outlaw –

I’ll have to do better next time. Nice imitation!

ScottDS said...

rlaWTX –

Yeah, it gets a little gross at times… but it just looks so much more realistic. Today, the heart would probably be a combination of prosthetic and CGI and it wouldn’t have the “ick” factor. :-)

ScottDS said...

EricP –

Thanks!! I wish I could’ve seen these in the theater. Even when I lived in LA, I never managed to make it to a screening. They play at the New Beverly and/or the Nuart every now and then.

I did attend an outdoor screening of Raiders when I was visiting a friend in Dallas a few years ago. But it’s not quite the same.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav –

Well said. I was one year old when it was released and I do agree that critics project. I guess it’s like anything else – we bring our own experiences and our own biases to any movie and when Movie X isn’t Movie Y, we complain, even if Movie Y is perfectly entertaining.

On the audio commentary for Star Trek VI, director Nick Meyer mentions that retrospection can work both ways. Older movies can influence our opinions on newer ones and vice versa.

ScottDS said...

Andrew and T-Rav –

Nothing wrong with The Goonies - it’s just harmless fun, and I’m saying that as someone who saw it for the first time in college!

ScottDS said...

Kerosenebilly –

Thanks for the interesting backstory!

I read Joseph McBride’s biography of Spielberg and, I suppose like many academics, he cringes at the un-PC stuff. As for the story, that was more of Lucas’ territory with these movies. I always liked The Mummy even though it always gets compared to – what else? – these films. The sequels, on the other hand, weren’t very good.

Re: the special effects, yeah, some of the shots are a bit shoddy near the end. The destruction of the rope bridge was actually done live but something tells me realistic physics wasn’t on the filmmakers’ minds.

T-Rav said...

Scott, I saw The Goonies when I was in college too. I did not like it. I don't remember why, and I guess it's okay under certain circumstances, but there's cheesiness and then there's cheesiness. This would be the latter.

I think the retrospection thing is important, simply because in the mid-'80s when this was coming out, I can't believe people knew the Indiana Jones trilogy was going to have the reputation it has today. Is "Doom" the same quality as "Raiders"? Of course not, but it's a very enjoyable adventure movie and doesn't deserve the flak it gets.

That said, I do wonder, had this one been made first instead of "Raiders" (which would be chronologically accurate), would they have gone on to make more movies? I don't know (though I have a pretty good idea what Andrew thinks).

T-Rav said...

Thanks for the short history lesson, kerosenebilly. Hmph, I guess colonialism had a silver lining or two after all (not that any liberal worth their salt would ever admit that).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I agree about the Crystal Skull, I think they picked something even less "culturally relevant" unless you're into UFO culture.

And let me clarify my point about India. I'm not saying it's irrelevant or anything like that, but I think non-Western "superstitions" which haven't been absorbed into our culture in some significant way, are a bad basis for a MacGuffin because the point to the MacGuffin is to be something easy to digest. In other words, the purpose is to be something that we recognize right away as desirable and something worth driving the plot. It's hard to get that kind of punch out of something that isn't well known in our culture.

Moreover, after Raiders where the MacGuffin turned out to be anything but a MacGuffin, indeed it had serious significance to our culture, our religions, and our history, this was a poor choice. It was like going from having the hero stop a terrorist with a nuclear bomb in film one to stopping a guy who breaks into a liquor store in a small town in the second. It's a jarring difference that diminished the character.

I think that's why Crusade is better received even though honestly, I don't think Crusade is a better film -- because the stakes went up and the cultural relevance went up.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav and Scott, As a huge Raiders / Star Wars fan, let me assure you, this was HUGE. People were anxiously awaiting this film.

We didn't have the net, but we had movie stills that got releases, leaked script details (true and false), interviews galore, etc. -- stuff which today is commonplace, but back then was really rare.

Weeks before it came out, magazines covered it, television shows about Hollywood covered it, the fricken news covered it. Everyone knew it was going to be huge. Plus, all the merchandizing had kicked in and you everyone was using it sell their burgers or toys or whatever.

I saw it the first week in theaters and the line wrapped around the theater -- I waited two hours in line (waited more than four for Empire).

So we did think this was going to be huge and we did know that Raiders (not known as Indiana Jones at the time, but as Raiders) was going to be a monster series akin to what Star Wars/Empire had become.

It didn't quite go over that way though. And that really dampened expectations for Crusade which didn't have anywhere near the initial enthusiasm. In fact, the thing I recall most about Crusade was the marketing push that it had "incredible" effects... and then being disappointed in theaters because the effects were so obviously fake.

It was a different time back then, but this film was truly and "event." And when you're an event, you do get graded on a curve.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, If this had been made first, I think it would have been well received. Ford was a hot property and Lucas/Spielberg could do no wrong. So it would have been positively received... because there was no Raiders to compare it to. It wouldn't have had the impact of Raiders, but it would have been a seen as decent film.

Do I think they still would have made Raiders? That's a hard question. On the one hand, I think Hollywood would have done so happily and the public would have loved it. BUT, I'm not sure how much effort Lucas/Spielberg would have put into it?

By the time you get to Doom, I get the feeling Lucas was played out and insane and Spielberg was becoming more generic already. So I don't know if they would have made the same choices or if it would have been more blue screen and less effort?

AndrewPrice said...

kerosenebilly, Welcome! And thanks for the history lesson! :)

I think portraying foreigners as monsters used to be pretty common in film industries around the world. Plus, India did have a lot of reasons to dislike the British.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

There are days I wish I had been born 10 years earlier so I could've been 10-11 years old when all these films were being released. Yes, the Internet has made it all easier but I imagine there was something almost magical about going to the bookstore and seeing a tiny thumbnail of some new movie character in the latest issue of Starlog.

Thankfully, I managed to get into movies at the tail end of this era (the mid-90s).

There is some intangible quality that Hollywood will never be able to get back due to the media-saturated world we live in. I'm not talking about actors or politics or any of that, but simply the movies themselves.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, In many ways, I have to say it was a better time to be a film fan. For one thing, I think there was more creativity in films -- and less marketing. For another, there were a lot more surprises. When Vader said "Luke, I am your father," the whole theater gasped. Today, it's really hard to see a film before you've hear all the good parts discussed endlessly.

Also, I think without having all the information of today (and without the cynical marketing interference), you had a more interesting time discussing films. I recall many people talking about what the third Star Wars was going to be about. (The story of Bobafet was what most people I knew thought.)

These days, they release stuff to try to control and shape your expectations. Back then we were flying blind and you would actually do things like buy a Newsweek because it had a couple images from the upcoming film in it.

All in all, there was a greater sense of discovery, surprise, and overall "magic" to the experience than today.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, fair enough. At least we can all agree that "Crystal Skull" was a pile of crap which should never have been made. Still trying to calculate how much bleach I need to drink to erase memories of that while keeping everything else...

On a related note, do you think "Raiders" or "Crusade" was a better movie? I know some people say "Crusade," mainly because of Sean Connery, but I was thinking about it the other day and I'd say "Raiders" almost has to be the strongest of the three. There are probably a lot of reasons for this, but the one that sticks out at me is, by the time "Crusade" comes around you kind of expect there's going to be something supernatural happening. So it's not really a surprise when Nazi stooge Donovan drinks from the Grail and turns to dust. But with "Raiders," you get hints that not-good things will happen if the Ark is opened, but until the ending, you don't know for sure. That's an element of suspense throughout the movie which the sequels lack, and for that, I'd say it edges out "Crusade" (which is still really good, don't get me wrong).

Individualist said...

Well I guess I am in the minority here because I liked Doom best of all the movies.

This does not mean I disliked the others, I thought they were all good films but I really liked the Doom movie. A Broadway chorus line set in 1930 in China was funny to me. The movie was cheesy in the old 1930's serial way but I kind of liked it.


As to the MacGuffin, I actually liked the idea of the Sankara stones better because I was not familioar with it. Every one knows that if you are evil and try to use the Ark of the Covenant to further your plans of world domination that God is going to get you somehow, it is a fait a compli.

But as to the the Sankara stones and the thuggee cult and Kali. I had heard of Kali if only because of Oppenheimers quote when he mad ethe atomic bomb and the thuggee are famous so I had heard of them. Sankara I had not. He is by the way an 800 BC prophet attributed with reviving Hinduism and the Shiva Lingam are real stones although not necessarily associated with Sankara.

However it was the exotic mystery of not having a strong basis of what the threat was about that made the plot point work for me. Sure they are evil thugs (pun intended) but to rip a human heart from the body of the victim and set it on fire when the victim is lowered into the lava. Thats much cooler than throwing a virgin into a volcano. And I lived in Hawaii for four years so I have heard stories about how cool that is.

Any way I liked the movie but I tend to like movies that other don't.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That's an easy one: Raiders.

Raiders is simply a flawless film in every conceivable way. Crusade had a lot of problems. (1) Its effects weren't that great and were worse than Raiders, (2) it lost the seriousness of the tone Raiders developed -- which made the jokes less effective, (3) the script isn't as tight and is full of fluff, (4) the bad guys are cartoonish -- which diminishes Indi's challenge, (5) the "mystery" was a lot weaker in Crusade and the solution to it was pro forma... basically he just had to go from point A to some generic point B, solve a couple riddles and you knew he would win -- compared to Raiders where he really faced an incredible challenge to win a prize whose risk was unknown, (6) Crusade had silly indulgent moments like meeting Hitler and the pilot sliding buy in the tunnel which didn't belong and hurt the film, and (7) the object wasn't nearly as interesting in Crusade because so what if the Nazis got it -- they couldn't leave the cave with it?! But getting the Ark meant they would win the world.

I do like Crusade a lot, but on a 1-10 scale with Raiders being a true 10, Crusade is about a 6.

And yeah, Crystal Skull should never have been made.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, People seem to be on both sides of this film, with few in the middle.

There certainly is an "exotic" coolness to Doom and you don't get that very often.

I agree about Shanghai too. I'd like to see a film about Shanghai in the 1930s. That was supposed to be a pretty amazing time with a lot of interesting things going on. In fact, there's a book called "Shanghai 1937" which I've been meaning to read, but haven't ever gotten my hands on it.

ScottDS said...

Well, I can't disagree with anything Indi said. :-)

And you touch on something Andrew encapsulates well in his comment: an "exotic coolness." I wish I had thought of that phrase!

tryanmax said...

This is why it is so hard for me to get anything done. I do other stuff for one evening, and you guys have a 40+ commentarama (see what I did there?) without me!

What can I say? I’m apathetic about Temple of Doom. If I had to name a favorite, it’s Last Crusade with Raiders in the #2 slot. Crystal Skull doesn’t even deserve to be ranked.

Scott, I agree that the Nazis in Crusade aren’t as good as the Raider Nazis. But the reason why Last Crusade is well received is because of the interplay between Ford and Connery. The suggestion that they both had their turn with Elsa (Alison Doody) is cringingly hilarious. Is it the better movie? I dunno. All I know is I got to see Last Crusade at the drive-in when I was 9, but I was still in diapers when Raiders came out.

T-Rav, thank you for saying that The Goonies sucks. I thought I was the only child-of-the-80s who thought so. I am no longer alone. Speaking as one who saw it at every birthday party he attended circa 1986-89, it does suck. Final verdict.

As to the era of movie magic, when do you think that ended? I’d venture that Jurassic Park was last movie I really anticipated.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

I don't think Last Crusade is better but because it seemed to air every day on HBO when I was in high school, I've probably seen it more than every other Indy movie. It's just a lot of fun!

I love John Williams' score and the scenes with Ford and Connery together but, as I mentioned above, the thing I don't like about the film is how they turned the Marcus Brody character the bumbling comic relief.

tryanmax said...

That is definitely one of those things where viewing order (as opposed to release order) skews perception. My first introduction to Marcus was as comic relief. In fact, my first introduction to Indiana Jones movies was with a more light, comical tone. I think I am less phased by those changes that I would be if I were introduced to the more serious tone first.

TJ said...

Wow - Scott, T-Rav and Tyranmax - you guys make me feel old. I actually saw Raiders in the theater when it first came out (as well as Temple of Doom). I liked Raiders, but I didn't care for the melting faces at the end (I have mentioned that before). When Temple of Doom came out, I liked it better because of the comic relief. Yes, the heart and the monkey brains bothered me, but not as much as the melting faces. I don't think I saw Crusade in the theater - I can't really remember. I do remember liking it the best of the three though.

Andrew, your recollection about films being events is certainly true. I remember really looking forward to seeing movies back in those days - today, not so much. The only problem for me back then was that we had one theater where I lived and when a big movie came out it played all summer. If it was something I liked, I didn't mind going back for repeated viewings. If it was something that really freaked me out (like Jaws), I was stuck waiting for something else to come out to go back to the theater.

ArmChairGeneral said...

"But the reason why Last Crusade is well received is because of the interplay between Ford and Connery. "

You hit the nail on the head.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, "exotic coolness" describes my very existence! ;)


tryanmax, I hated what they did to Marcus. So put me in that camp. Interestingly, Jurassic Park was probably the last film I looked forward to as well.


TJ, I didn't like the melting heads either. I agree it was horrific, but I would rather it had not been in the film.

We had 4 theaters in town at that point -- two stand alone theaters and 1-2 in the malls. So "choice" was never a problem. But screen size was and when something HUGE came along, you couldn't get into the cool theater with the big screen. The malls had much smaller screens and they kept getting smaller until the theaters went out of business.

These days, everyone has stadium seating so that's not really a problem anymore.


ACG -- their interaction is what made Crusaders good, otherwise I would probably rank Doom higher.

ScottDS said...

Since we're taking a trip down memory lane, I grew up with two theaters in town, right across the street from each other: a General Cinemas theater, which was the nicer one, and the other theater which was owned by a variety of companies over the years (Wometco, Muvico, etc.).

I remember the summer of 1996 which was the first summer I spent going to movies with friends and no parents and Independence Day was the BIG event. I remember seeing the teaser with the destruction of the White House, the HBO special, and there was even a Fox primetime special hosted by Jeff Goldblum.

ArmChairGeneral said...

ID4 was a good movie. Funny how you can draw contrasts to socialism and the locust creatures in the movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The earliest films I recall seeing in theaters were Star Wars, a couple Disney films (live action and cartoon), Saturday Night Fever and Sgt. Pepper's.

My friends and I grew up around the time of, and saw in theaters, Raiders, Empire, For Your Eyes Only, and others of the period. The last time I went to theaters regularly was in the late 1990s (Jackie Brown, Dusk til Dawn, Usual Suspects, LA Confidential, etc.). At this point, I wait for video because movies are too expensive and there are too many jerks... plus, little catches my eye anymore.

ScottDS said...

The earliest film I recall seeing was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I must've been five or so and it might've been the first non-animated film I saw in a theater. I think my mother might've taken me to see The Land Before Time the year before.

I also remember seeing Ghostbusters II in theaters in the summer of '89. The evil Vigo painting scared the shit out of me for years afterwards!

And yeah, I wait for video now, too. I'll probably see the fourth Mission: Impossible film in theaters, bringing my theater-going count this year up to... three. Tied with last year! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I can't think of the last film I saw in theaters. Either it's been a long time or it just wasn't memorable.

I saw Ghostbusters with a couple friends and oddly, the mother of one of my friends. And when Murray says "yes, this man has no dick," everybody burst out laughing except my friend, who was panicked that his mother was going to storm out (he lived a sheltered life).... but she didn't. She laughed like all the rest of us.

Mycroft said...

First off, I am old enough that all saw all 3 films in the theater when they first came out.
One correction:
Harrison Ford wasn't a hot property before Raiders came out. He'd been in American Graffiti, Star Wars and Empire, but was not personally a Big Star. Raiders was The Movie that made his reputation and rightly so.
The night I saw Temple of Doom, I loved it. It was a great roller coaster ride, but my enthusiasm had worn off by the very next day. Yes, it was a prequel, but Indy had changed from a man of integrity that practically worshiped historical treasures to a man that trades an artifact to mobsters for a diamond. Add in the stupid raft-as-parachute scene and the gross-out scenes and you've effectively destroyed the emotional connection with Raiders.
As for Crusades, yes, you have Ford and Connery. But even before Ford appears on screen, you have River Phoenix as an excellent young Indy, complete with the integrity and love for history that was so missed in Temple.
I've only seen a about 10 minutes of Crystal Skull on television and regret seeing that much.
My $0.02

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, Excellent point about the change in the character's nature. In Raiders he spent the whole movie fighting to win back artifacts to be put in the museum, but he was also very human. He clearly messed up with Marion, causing the split with her father, Beloch tricked him, he had an aversion to snakes, and he wasn't even the best brawler on screen in most fights, etc. But in the second one, none of those traits were there. He was much more flawless as a character, but at the same time had less inner motivation, i.e. he wasn't out there starting his own crusades, he was doing other people's. And the thing with the diamond was odd in the sense that it didn't seem to fit with his prior methods.

AndrewPrice said...

Sci-Fi Channel is doing an Indiana Jones marathon today and I have to say that every time I see Raiders, I just marvel at how fantastic this film is. Everything from the perfect dialog to the great scene structures to the creative cuts and transitions, to the wonderful way they introduce the new locations and the character, etc. It really is an amazing movie.

ScottDS said...

Andrew and Mycroft -

Interesting thoughts re: Jones dealing with mobsters. This was probably Lucas' doing - one of his original ideas for the character was that he had a third facet to his personality: he was a professor, an archeologist, but also a James Bond-style playboy, so this might've been a remnant of that.

I didn't know there was a marathon on SyFy - I've got Temple of Doom on as we speak. :-)

Rumor has it there will be a Blu-Ray set released in 2012 (I hope it only includes the first three).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Sorry about that, they've been advertising it all week so I figured everyone knew -- or I would have mentioned it before.

I think the problem with the mobsters is that it goes against his character -- he's a guy who would face any challenge to save an artifact, but now he's trading a truly spectacular artifact for a diamond? It's one of those things that is "unnecessary damage" because they could have just swapped the two items around and the scene would have made more sense.

It's interesting that Lucas saw him as a James Bond style playboy, because that is NOT at all what he is. I guess we have Spielberg to thank for keeping Lucas under control....

"Steve I have this great idea. He should call himself 'Jones, Indiana Jones.' And he need a partner. I'm thinking a talking donkey called 'Jar-Jar Binks'."

"No."

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Consider this link my Christmas gift to you. The link in the first paragraph still works and should make for some interesting reading. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Gee Scott and I didn't get you anything?! ;)

Thanks for the link. Interesting article. I look forward to reading the transcript... probably with absolute horror. But who knows? We'll see.

Kit said...

Capshaw's character just gets on my nerves.

Though the movie itself is gorgeous. Especially the shot of Indy's silhouette in the caves.

And the music is among John Williams' best.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q98-Fbg1p48

ScottDS said...

Kit -

Yeah, I knew I'd have a hard time convincing people when it came to her character. :-)

Totally agree about the look of the film and Williams' music. I think the best thing associated with the release of Crystal Skull was the boxset with expanded score albums from the first three films (though there's still some stuff missing).

Kit said...

I enjoyed CRUSADE. Particularly for the father-son scenes.
"You call this archeology?"

John Williams (again) gave some great music, especially the Grail theme.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXh_tZCkVVo
It hits its pitch at :43.

The three trials scene is pretty good.
"Only in a leap from the Lion's Head will he prove his worth."

Not as good as RAIDERS, but better than TEMPLE OF DOOM and far superior to CRYSTAL SKULL.

TEMPLE OF DOOM, is, I think, about Indiana Jones becoming the hero. He starts at wanting "fortune and glory" and in the end gives the Shankara Stones back to the villagers.

Anonymous said...

You're wrong about saying that "Shorty doesn't pop up out of nowhere", he actually literally does just that. He freaking drives into the movie and is just there.
Sure, Indy explains where he got him from, but is that short explanation any less of a "plot device"? Why should that suddenly be acceptable for Shorty's presence? I'd much rather have had Wu Han not being killed off instantly and be a helpful sidekick who watches Indy's back like he was trying to do in his only scene. Then he could also have made a return in the third movie, kind of like what "Felix" is to Bond.
In fact, that's so creepy, I just looked it up and hthe same actor actually played an agent who assisted Bond in 'A View To A Kill'.
I have nothing against the boy, really, but I also don't see the point of him except being cute and attractive for the kids.

Overall I think the story and characters in this movie are pretty bad. I just seems like non-stop spectacle without an actual proper story. It doesn't have to be super-intelligent and that everything must be explained, but there's just nothing explained at all. Stuff just happens and they kind of fight until one side wins.
I mean, what happened to Jones being an archaeologist? Sure, he knows about this stone that he's told about in this village which he happened to stumble upon, so he decides to retrieve it.
In "Raiders" he got the message that people were after the Ark, so he had to beat them to it. But to do that he had to get a part of that staff, which led him to Marion, which gave a good reason to introduce that character. Then they had to use that staff to find where exactly the Ark was, after even getting to that location, and then also actually retrieve the thing if they could.
THAT's at least a bit of an intelligent or constructive plot. Not just "Indy falls out of a plane, happens to end up in a village that misses a sacred stone, which he then goes to find in a palace with an underground temple in which they do cheesy things". How dare people complain about the fourth movie when the second was mediocre??... If the second movie was released today, Lucas would've been damned to the pits of Hell by Indy-fans, perhaps even Spielberg would've been hated for it.
And don't give me that "That was back then, not now.". It's still the same movie, it's frozen in time. The technical aspects might age, but the story is the same.

ScottDS said...

Hmm...

...when I say he doesn't just pop up out of nowhere, I'm contrasting that with, say, Jar-Jar Binks who literally just happens to be in the right place at the right time and sticks around for some reason. At least Short Round gets a short explanation.

I DO agree that, plot-wise, this film can't hold a candle to Raiders, whose screenplay should be taught in film school classes. It does everything correctly and is structured perfectly. Doom is not.

I will continue to complain about the fourth film. Among other things, the plot is too confusing and there's too much backstory that happens off-camera. Indy's OSS adventures sound more interesting than anything that happens in the actual movie!

Anonymous said...

I (the same guy as from the long post before) agree though, I saw it once in cinema and once on Blu-ray now and I'm just nothing but disappointed.
I mean, I'm not even a huge fan, because my experience with the older movies is only having seen them on TV in the '90s a couple of times.
But I did remember them when revisiting them all on BD again, so that means something.
So I'm disappointed because they didn't make a worthy 4th after so many years, and that after all the knowledge and experience Steven Spielberg has gained over the decades, especially after CGing E.T., which he even apologized for, but yet there is Indy 4...

One of the conclusions I also came to is that they made this movie 10 years too late. I do not get why they didn't make one in like 1998 instead of 2008, because even though Spielberg explained that he "didn't shoot the riding into the sunset scene at the end of Last Crusade for nothing" it's all too obvious that they all had an itch to make another, and they completely missed the boat on it.
They just kept putting it off pretending like it wouldn't be a good thing to do and then they made the mistake of doing it in the 21st after all, because they feared they would have missed an opportunity if they didn't.
To me it's only painful to think about, cause you can't turn back time and you can barely make anyone younger apart from some make-up and computer effects.

I do still welcome a 5th in the hope that it will be the "Raiders" to the "Doom", as in "Raiders" in actuality being a follow-up to "Doom" chronologically. So hopefully they would make a sequel that just excels which could help us just ignore the 4th even more, like some people ignore "Doom" as well.

I must say, in the last week I've had great ideas on how to make the fourth a great movie, using what is already in the movie and just changing minor things, which would also fix many of the complaints I've read from people.
I mean, if I can do that, why the heck can't the actual film-makers do it right? I guess it's just Lucas' writing to blame and Spielberg agreeing too much to his best friend, I don't know...

ScottDS said...

Anon -

Hey!

I don't think they were working continuously on the fourth film during all that time but it always seemed that Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford would only make the movie if all the right moons aligned.

From what I recall, Frank Darabont wrote a script that Spielberg and Ford loved but Lucas disliked and, with these movies in particular, Spielberg deferred to Lucas on such things... though I think that was a mistake in this case.

Lucas was the one who insisted the film be about crystal skulls and aliens - I mean, "interdimensional beings." And if I were Spielberg, I would've said, "Uh, no."

I've read various ideas over the years and the ones that kept popping up seemed to involve either Excalibur or the lost city of Atlantis - both more interesting than crystal skulls IMHO.

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