Did all preposterous big action films begin with Indiana Jones? Ignoring plausibility and sense, it favors manic energy and a let loose kind of imagination. They consist of sequences that never quite come to an end. It’s as if one is trying to top the other in terms of sensation. There is the occasional rest period to fill in with romance and wonder, but these can be considered as stop overs. Temple of Doom, the second Indy film also directed by Steven Spielberg, begins at a Chinese restaurant with a diamond transaction that goes awry and then leads its protagonist to India searching for a sacred stone kept underground by an ancient civilization that enslaves children and performs human sacrifice. It’s an adventure that runs a gauntlet of thrills and terror.
But by virtue of these kind of films, the good guys barely sprain an ankle. Harrison Ford makes a reliable Indiana Jones; possessing a natural look of grimacing determination and durability, and is able to dispatch an attacker by accidentally hanging him from a ceiling fan. Kate Capshaw becomes his not-ideal partner, a gold digging prima donna more concerned about her manicure even while walking on thousands of cockroaches and centipedes. She spends much of the time screaming. And accompanying them is a Chinese boy, played by Jonathan Ke Quan, as Indy’s employed talky sidekick who is a natural survivor and can drive a car using a wooden block to reach the gas pedal. Amrish Puri plays the temple leader who likes to approach his sacrificial victims slowly wearing large devil horns and with wide open eyes. The action begins relatively tame, involving a clever scramble for a diamond among scattered ice cubes and then to the next sequence of an impossible fall from an airplane. Then it shifts in tone when in the underground caves, an evil sacrificial ritual of incantations involves lowering a man onto swirling lava. This later gets interrupted by Indy and his companions, culminating in a breathtaking high speed cart chase through the mine tunnels that leads out onto a dangling bridge. All done in the fashion of fun. Humor is frequently attempted using corny wisecracks and physical comedy amidst the action. The dinner scene in the Indian Palace falls between shock and curious disbelief. Baby snakes anyone? This can lead one to believe that the movie has a unique aim – to assault the five senses. And in some remarkable way, it somehow does.