Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Lowdown: A man finds his way.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Raider's of the Lost Ark's sequel, takes a rather unique approach. Unique as far as sequels are concerned: It tells us a story that took place before its predecessor.
The younger Indiana Jones, portrayed once again by Harrison Ford, starts the film a young adventurer hell bent on getting his share of fortune and glory. An archaeologist by profession, he does not hesitate to sell his findings for the right amount of money (or rather, for a precious diamond) instead of putting them where they belong, in a museum. It's only when things go wrong and he comes face to face with the dark side within him that he comes to his senses and realizes what is truly important in this world of ours. And guess what: those truly important things are not fortune and glory.
Ok, it's time to cut the bullshit. We've all seen Temple of Doom and there is no need for stupid introductions; my only intention with the above description was to show that beneath the adventure film I have watched god-knows-how-many-times lurks a story, and not a bad one at that. It's just that the story is so well hidden under extremely thick layers of action that one tends not to notice it.
In Temple of Doom Spielberg has managed to create this uncommon beast: a sequel that is better than the original, a sequel that turned out to be the best of its series. Not many other a movie series can boast an improvement with their sequel; off the top of my head, I can only name The Empire Strikes Back for Star Wars and Terminator 2.
So good Temple of Doom is that we wanted to reminisce on it before we finally put our hands on an Indy 4 DVD, and having watched it again after a good few years without I can see exactly why I think so highly of it: Temple of Doom is entertaining, original, and technically perfect. Sure, some of the special effects are more than a bit dated, but at least they're not of the crap or overdone digital type that attracts too much attention to itself and look as real as Pamela Anderson's breasts. Between its editing and the cinematography, Temple of Doom is second to none; however, where it stands head and shoulders above the rest is in its musical soundtrack: John Williams has created a masterpiece with themes that take us viewers throughout the journey that is the film and guides us along.
Till now, I have watched Temple of Doom twice at the cinema, many (many) times on VHS, and many times on laserdisc. This was my first go with the DVD, and I have to say that being able to watch the film in its original aspect ratio on a widescreen TV has made a huge difference: it just felt so good, composition wise. The picture was astonishingly good and the sound excellent, especially given its age. Shots that I remembered as eccentric suddenly made sense when I could see the entire frame. Hell, I know this would be controversial, but I even thought Kate Capshaw was good - as in, doing a good job given the context - and that Anything Goes, the song, fits the occasion.
I must be getting too old.
Favorite scene: The opening roller coaster, of course. Beats the crap out of everything from the Bond corner.
Overall: Temple of Doom is at the foundation of my movie watching experience. If I was to rate it, it would feel like me rating the alphabet. I will therefore stick with saying that Temple of Doom is not only a film I consider amongst the very best I have ever seen, but it is also a film that has become a foundation stone for the person that is me.

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