For their first screening of 2013 Sarnia Cinema (formerly Sarnia Shorts) gave us a choice of films.
Via their Facebook page film fans could ‘vote’ on either Jurassic Park or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for a bit of Spielberg directed fantasy action to liven up a February night.
The vote went (for me disappointingly) to Temple of Doom.
Here’s my small feature on the screening from The Guernsey Press’ Arts page on Wednesday 27th February 2013:
So, in the meantime, here is my review focussing purely on the film.
From the start the tone of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom is an odd one, it seems like Spielberg wants to try his hand at doing a mid-Roger Moore era James Bond film, but has Harrison Ford as an archaeologist rather than a suave super spy – and this is after what seems to be an oddly placed fantasy dance sequence featuring the film’s heroine and introducing her character about as much as any other part of the film does (she’s a showgirl who can scream).
Following a painfully convoluted scene in the ‘Club Obi-Wan’ (let’s get meta, George!) we are introduced to Short Round and our oddly misjudged and imbalanced pseudo-family are all in place and the real adventure starts as Indy goes in search of a mystical stone to help save an Indian village from starvation and rescue all their children.
The village’s children, along with Short Round, are where one of the massively imbalanced aspects of the film comes from as the basic plot could easily be a fun and romping adventure perfectly suited for a younger audience who can associate with Short Round and buy into the rescuing the kids story.
Unfortunately, alongside the child friendly elements, we get some seriously full on gore and violence (for a family film) which, while I quite enjoyed that element, particularly the heart removal sequence, it wasn’t something I’d think little kids who’d be entertained by Short Round would get and, to be honest, it probably pushes beyond the scary of the melting Nazis of Raiders of the Lost Ark thanks to the length and sustained menace of the ritual sequences.
So, as I have in the past I spent more of my time being frustrated by the films own illogical nature rather than enjoying what could have been a great adventure.
This left me feeling that, for the most part, they were ideas written on a page and then just handed to the director with little or no thought into how they would associate to anything around them, this is something I’d put more in common with a modern b-level blockbuster rather than the work of Spielberg.
The biggest of these set pieces is a mine kart chase that is the one part I remembered fondly from my youth, but now even this feels cynical, as it looks purely like someone pitching a new ride to Disneyland – which, lo and behold, it rather swiftly became.
In terms of technical aspects the film looks great, as you’d expect, and the special effects are generally excellent for a film made in the early 80s, but with little to work with in terms of character or story its clear this was going to be hard work even for someone with the talents of Spielberg.
I don’t like to jump on the George Lucas bashing bandwagon as he didn’t write the final screenplay, but he is credited as “Story by…” and a lot of the issues that I have with Temple of Doom are ones I had with the lesser installments of Star Wars so it seems he’s the scapegoat, rightly or wrongly, here as well.
In the end, while the film wasn’t much cop, having the chance to see it projected on a big screen and played loud was great, but I still think I’d have preferred Jurassic Park.