Of course, Indy had to return. And Spielberg and Lucas have returned, with longtime Lucas collaborator Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz providing the script.
The film opens with a musical number and Indy meeting with Chinese Gangster Lao Che. After a double cross, Jones makes a dramatic (and entertaining) escape with singer Willie Scott. A plane crash detours Indy and Scott, along with sidekick Short Round (one of the weirdest choices is a kid of about thirteen or fourteen) in India. A village reaches out for Indy’s help. Their children and sacred stones were taken by a cult. Indy agrees and they venture forth. They arrive at Pankot Palace.
They discover the Thuggee Cult is alive and well, worshiping Kali in caverns below the palace. They are using the children as slave labor and consolidating power through human sacrifice. Probably the most infamous moment from this outing is the removal of a victim’s still beating heart before he is lowered into lava.
Temple of Doom is often seen as a darker affair. And truthfully it is. In part, this is due to the focus on a death cult. The Thugees were a very real community, though they were more known to befriend travelers and kill them for their possessions. It is debated just how much a role their religious beliefs played in their actions. The supernatural flourishes in the film are entirely fabricated.
While the tone is darker this time around, the film also has the exciting narrow escapes and death traps that made the first film enjoyable. In spite of a new writing team, the character of Indy is true to form. The humor is still there, much of it derived from Indiana Jones own over confidence. Though the inclusion of Short Round makes Indy look a tad bit too irresponsible. Willie Scott is set up as the direct opposite of Marion Ravenwood. Scott is kind of clueless and wants only a comfortable life. She does not like getting her hands dirty and seems scared of everything. Sadly, this leads to the character becoming extremely annoying at times.
The villains are not explored much at all. Most of the bad guys are in a possessed trance and do not seem to have a lot of personality (as opposed to Belloq and Toht in Raiders).
The film is really no more gruesome than the first film (which had peoples’ faces melt off!). And the ILM effects are still largely able to stand the test of time. Really, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is not quite Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is fun and exciting enough to entertain.
One last note…in Raiders, Indy is pretty skeptical about the supernatural powers of the Ark. And yet, in Temple of Doom, set two years before Raiders, he witnesses some major supernatural activity. What brought him back to skepticism?