Raiders of the Lost Ark was a zippy and unforgettable adventure, with every corner a set piece that is filled with a captivating atmosphere and infectious dialogue for our mighty hero and his companions. It acted as platform to revive a forgotten genre and as a potential spark for another franchise for renowned producer, George Lucas. The first film was a critical piece for Lucas after the tragedy comedy that is 1941, hoping to reclaim his former glory and trust from both his peers and the general audience; and through the film’s success, much like Jaws, has definitely allowed him to gain the opportunity of creating his next personal piece, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
After the first film, anticipation was definitely high after the announcement of a sequel, wondering whether Spielberg could continue his streak and whether it would match up to the exhilarating experience that was delivered in the initial feature. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom did not meet the exceedingly high expectations that was left by ‘Raiders’, many craved for a sense of adventure and comedy that was instead opted for a much darker and riskier route. I admire Spielberg and Lucas on taking a new direction for the hero, one that would pose more of a challenge and slightly expand his history.
Unfortunately through this decision, compromises had to be made, the pacing had to be toned down and the sweeping canvas of the initial film is changed with one of claustrophobia and darkness. I felt the compromise were too great for them to be ignored, and therefore has taken a large toll on the overall experience, instead of harnessing that sense of adrenaline that set pieces were able to deliver in the previous feature, this film provides it to us in shorter bursts but with more intensity, leaving the in-between segments free of character developments that never soars as high as it should.
However, Spielberg does have many of its moments display far more fun in its moments of stimulating our fears and pet peeves, amplifying its quantity of insects and placing our heroes in far more tighter risks than we have ever seen from the franchise. Unlike the first film, dark humour finally makes itself far more apparent, but restrained with wonderful moments of personality clashes and unfortunate indulgence in the characters’ stereotypes. In regards to spectacle, it may not match the vastness of the first film, but it does effectively use its limited space through constant appearances of new minor threat that pushes its characters in motion; how can one forget the campy fun of the life raft drop or the clinching mine-cart scene.
The aspect of its narrative that I found most interesting is in its take on morality, and how that challenges our titular character and provide development in ways that was never provided before. Fortune and glory is what he initially seek, but found himself the value of charity and the rewards of sympathy, even if this remains only temporary as in ‘Raiders’ he finds himself desperate to expand his ego through the treasures he discovers and preserve in the museum.
‘Temple of Doom’ may not be the ideal sequel to such a fantastic franchise, but it does prove more effective than one would expect from an underwhelming feature; it takes on risks that very few filmmakers would and treating the audience with an adventure that is original for the franchise.