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DVD Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Special Edition

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I'm very little! You cheat very big! — Short Round

After the colossal success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas teamed up again in 1984 to create yet another Indiana Jones adventure. Maligned by fans and critics alike, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a much darker film than the first, designed to unearth the ugly side in man. Regardless, Temple of Doom still has something to offer and deserves repeated viewings by any Indy fan.

Since Temple of Doom takes place a year before Raiders of the Lost Ark, the second Indy film is actually a prequel to the first. It is a convenient way to explain the absence of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and the Nazis from the film without having to weave it into the storyline. As Temple of Doom opens, Jones is in a nightclub somewhere in Shanghai. Predictably, killers are on his tail but he escapes just in time with a lounge singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and his young sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), an orphaned Chinese street kid. The threesome escape danger in Shanghai, jump out of a plane over India, and end up in an Indian village, where a Village leader asks Indy to return a precious and magic jewel — a stone which disappeared with all of the village's children. Touched, Indy agrees to the mission.

IJTemple_Still_PK_C-18.jpgIndy and his traveling companions end up at a dinner party at the palace of the maharaja. The dinner scene is lifted straight from a James Bond flick and is one of the funniest scenes in Temple of Doom. All of these men are sitting around enjoying this meal of positively disgusting delicacies and Willie and Short Round are trying not to toss their cookies. While the film slows down with the obligatory seduction scene between Indy and Willie after dinner, Temple's second half picks up the pace when a series of mines and booby traps are found beneath the palace.

Countless young children work on chain gangs; the maharajah keeps them as slaves by using the negative powers of the jewel and its two mates. After Indy, Willie, and Short Round get a stunning look at the process, Indy tries to steal back the jewel. It's at this point that some really weird things start to happen. Humans are put into a steel cage and lowered into a subterranean volcano, and strange chants and rituals are practiced. At one point, Indiana Jones is taken over by the power of the jewel and slaps Short Round. (Things get very dark for awhile, but Indy does come to his senses.)

Spielberg and Lucas freely admit that most of the action sequences were leftover ideas from Raiders of the Lost Ark. (We'll hope that the opening musical number from Anything Goes was just an error in judgment, and not something they had written earlier.) There is a pretty cool chase scene involving the mine's miniature railway — the kind of action the audience had come to expect from an Indiana Jones film.

While Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom doesn't live up to the thrill-a-minute excitement of its predecessor, the film is still a pretty good time. Kate Capshaw isn't nearly as good as Karen Allen, but she deserves credit for bringing an extreme prissiness to her role. Willie didn't want to be like Indy nor did she try. Aside from Harrison Ford though, the best performance in Temple of Doom goes to Ke Huy Quan (who would later portray a Goonie). He was Indy's best sidekick, had the best lines ("I keep telling you, you listen to me more, you live longer!") and made Jones show a little bit of a softer side of himself.

Some excellent action scenes help redeem a storyline that frankly doesn't make a lot of sense in some places, and Short Round provides a healthy dose of humor. While Spielberg and Lucas undoubtedly could have done some things better, Temple of Doom is still a strong adventure film.

The Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Special Edition DVD is presented in widescreen format enhanced for 16:9 televisions. The picture is crystal clear with no distortions or pixelation. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital: English 5.1 Surround, French 2.0 Surround, and Spanish 2.0 Surround. Subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.

Just like Raiders of the Lost Ark, the special features for the special edition of Temple of Doom are lacking. Again, we have no commentary, but Spielberg and Lucas do appear in a segment titled "New Introduction by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas." The two auteurs discuss their ideas for the film. In "Creepy Crawlies" the folks responsible for the various animals used in the Indiana Jones films (snakes, rats, bugs, etc.) discuss what it was like to put that all together. "Discover Adventure on Location With Indy" deals with the issues in setting up filming in various locations for the three films. The crew has been all over the world: Italy, Texas, Paris, India, and Great Britain to name a few.

The DVD also includes "Mine Cart Chase" storyboards, photo galleries, and a LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures" game demo.

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