In his review of Super 8, A.J. (my brother) admitted that he would defend Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the second installment in the Indiana Jones series. Our very own Sully asked…well, he asked what the deal was. How can anyone defend that movie? Isn’t it considered the worst of the Indy movies?
Here is a list of reasons why the 2nd Indy adventure is better than the 4th. Temple of Doom will from here on be noted as TOD and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as KOTCS. The reasons below are not put in any kind of order, and a few reasons are not entirely serious, but all are noteworthy and awesome. And for the record, we love ALL things Indiana Jones, from KOTCS to the Disney World Indy Stunt Show, and defend Indy against haters of all kinds. Steven Speilberg can make a movie about Indiana Jones reading the dictionary for two hours and it would still be awesome.
However, this list is a response to all of those whom, for some reason or another, had an awful stretch of time in their childhood when they watched Temple of Doom and forever came to the negligent realization that TOD was a bad movie. We feel sorry for them, so we felt it our duty to remind them why it’s not a bad movie, and especially help them remedy the notion that KOTCS is better than TOD.
And to make sure there is no confusion, here is our thesis: TOD is obviously better than KOTCS. Here is why:
1. Most things get better with age, or if they don’t, most things seem better with age. Nostalgia makes everything seem better, even if only for a while and even if the thing we are reminiscing about wasn’t all that great to begin with. But we’re old enough now (not THAT old) to realize that, well, things might have been better in the good ole days. So isn’t there something comforting in the notion of a great sequel to one of the best movies of all time coming out, with no CGI but good old fashioned special effects, a perfect hero, great action scenes, some scares and some laughs? Can you beat the feeling you had when, as a little kid, you were scared stiff seeing a guy get lowered into a lava pit? Or when you cheered watching Indy punch some turbaned dude off a rickety bridge and then crocodiles eat him? Yes, in time we may come to appreciate KOTCS more and more (three years later, this is seriously questionable), looking back on it with fond memories. But TOD has the edge and will always be older, and therefore more nostalgic, than KOTCS.
2. TOD has more memorable music, therefore a better soundtrack than KOTCS. Even if you disagree, TOD certainly has several recognizable themes (like when Indy and company are riding on elephants through the jungle, or right before the heart it pulled out of that guy, or while Indy and Kate Capshaw are cleaning up before they meet each other at night, or when the slave children are freed, and on and on). How many memorable themes did John Williams create for KOTCS? None, as far as I can remember. 2.5 John Williams was nominated for an Oscar for TOD.
3. Classic booby-trap scene when the spikes are going through the floor and ceiling (I think it was generally agreed that KOTCS needed more/better booby-trap scenes, an element crucial to Indiana Jones adventures). Real-life creepy crawlers that clearly freak out the audience and are by far the BEST creepy-animal scene in the whole series. Also, a great line from Indy with his face sticking out through the small hole: “We…are…going…to…die!”
5. The black magic aspect is great and generally more believable than a stereotypical and unoriginal flying saucer. And yes, we know how KOTCS plays into the whole 50’s movie era with the Red Scare and spacemen, and the movie takes those themes and ideas and replicates (or synthesizes) them nicely. But in terms of archeology, the Kali cult is truer and more in tune with actual archeology. Ok ok, Sankara stones might not be too awesome, but they were cool because they glowed and they had a nice social consciousness/save the children aspect attached to them. The Crystal Skulls also glowed (nothing new) and some say looked kind of fake (maybe intentional), and the whole learning-is-important-and-firsthand-knowledge-more-so theme that went along with it is all well and good, but those little children and villagers reaching up their tiny arms and feeling Indy’s face is kind of cooler and more satisfying of an ending.
6. There is nothing wrong with the 2nd in the series being much, much darker than the 1st or 3rd (we all love The Empire Strikes Back). Harrison Ford gets tortured in both. But ends up kicking more butt afterward. Sometimes being darker is a good thing (see: The Dark Knight).
7. This movie was instrumental in creating the PG-13 rating. That’s pretty historic and significant for a film.
8. TOD won the Oscar for best visual effects. The visual effects for KOTCS were laughable for the year it came out: the scene with Shia swinging with the monkeys/gophers hurt its awesomeness. *Ahem, George Lucas loves computers too much: Jar Jar Binks!*
9. Mythbusters did a special on the scene where Indy and Willie drop through three awnings into Short Round’s car. In case you were curious: myth definitely confirmed.
10. TOD gave us this still-frame:
11. Monkey brains.
12. Rope bridge. One of the more memorable and awesome scenes in the Indy series (and movies in general). A great cinematography and film-making feat that shows how dedicated and awesome the filmmakers were back then (mostly Steven).
13. The opening sequence in the Hong Kong club (Club Obi Wan – double points for awesome reference) until Indy leaves on that propeller plane and there’s a cameo by Dan Akroyd is pretty spectacular.
14. So is the mine cart chase. And yes, both the chase and the opening were originally envisioned for the first movie but didn’t make the cut. But they are in this movie, which is awesome. And they also fit well into the plot, making them integral to the movie.
15. A large point of contention in KOTCS was when Indy hid in the fridge and survived the nuclear blast. This moment has become infamous, possibly because of its supposed preposterousness (is that a word?). But we are not here to discuss the plausibility of certain moments in the films (except for reason 9). However, this fridge moment is now called “nuking the fridge” in certain circles, denoting a moment when a beloved film franchise suddenly loses its credibility and awesomeness. This phrase is akin to “jumping the shark,” referencing the late episode of Happy Days when the Fonz water ski jumps over a shark. It was at this time when audiences realized the show had run out of ideas and effectively died. Maybe some people felt that the Indy series died in the fridge (we don’t) but it nonetheless bears mention that KOTCS provided such a reaction, while TOD was hailed as a spectacular achievement by some notable critics. Or at least it didn’t produce its own term for nerds to use. And sure, an Indian worshipping the demon-god Kali ripping someone’s still-beating heart out of a body is kind of crazy but when you think about it that is just plain cool. And scary. A nuked fridge doesn’t have that same kind of appeal. (And in case you were wondering, the scene of all three of them surviving the fall out of the plane in a life raft in TOD was pretty cool and still more believable than the refrigerator scene).
16. “Does that surprise you, Dr. Jones?”
“Nothing surprises me…I’m a scientist.”
(Awesome quote from TOD)
17. A big reason TOD is great is because it perfectly pays an homage to the great, if cheesy, adventure and/or jungle serials of the 1930s. Every cliche, stereotype, and element of those serials is here, perhaps more so than any other Indy movie. But this is not just a rehash of those. This isn’t a Grindhouse that mimics the cheesiness with some tongue and cheek and with more style. This is a stand along great adventure movie that works in its own right and gets rid of most of the annoying cheese. Yes, the Kate Capshaw character can be annoying, but she fits the mold. She is a great damsel in distress and a nice foil to Indy’s cool nature. Short Round also gets some nice lines in about her and how she is a woman and annoying. There are some also things to consider just about her. The scene between her and Indy where they are flirtatious and playful and thinking about going into the other’s room is classic, and it also resembles classic 1930’s screwball comedy perfectly. It ends with Indy finding the secret passageway by pushing a statue with his hand on the statue’s breast. Funny. Also, I think she is a singer, and we never really hear her sing other than the opening. So it’s not like we had to put up with any of that. And lastly, she did win Spielberg’s heart. After meeting her for this movie Spielberg got a divorce and married Ms. Capshaw and they are still married today. Say what you will about the sacred bonds of marriage and the ills of divorce, but do you really want to get on Spielberg’s bad side by badmouthing his woman?
18. The title is better. The Temple of Doom. Ok, it’s only one temple and not a whole Kingdom, but there is still mystery. It’s also short and sweet. And it has DOOM! in it. (It was also originally titled “The Temple of Death.” Hard core!)
19. Harrison Ford may still be a good lookin’ old gent, but let’s face it, his old age was a distraction before and during the film Crystal Skull AND he was one handsome devil back then (see reason 10 above). Mm, you can grate cheese off those chiseled features. Sorry, but youth trumps age here.
20. TOD got a 7.5 on IMDB.com. KOTCS got a 6.5 as of this writing. TOD got an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, while KOTCS got a 77%.
And there you have it! Agree, disagree? What’s your favorite Indy movie? Do you want to see an Indy 5?