Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I know that this blog is all over the place when it comes to content. But before anything else, the posts that I write usually have two purposes. First, to share things that I love from yesteryear with a new generation. And second, to explore new areas of pop culture with a fresh set of eyes. Recently, I wrote an article about the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. In that article I described how the film captured my imagination and stoked my passion for world history. After viewing that movie as a child, I found myself grabbing at any book or magazine I could find that discussed ancient Egypt. Thanks to that movie, I had become fascinated with topics like the pyramids and the discovery of Tut’s tomb. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the second Indiana Jones film had a similar effect on me as well.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the second film in the Indiana Jones series. However, despite being the second movie released, it’s actually the first film chronologically. Temple of Doom takes place in the year 1935, while the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark occur a year later in 1936. People often wonder why George Lucas decided against making a normal sequel, especially since the events of the two films occur so close to each other on the timeline. The answer you will often come across is that George Lucas didn’t want to reuse Nazis as antagonists in this second film, so he made Temple of Doom into a prequel. But, personally, I think the answer goes a littler deeper. At the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is arguably more “treasure hunter” than archeologist. However, the discovery of the ark and the realization that some myths have real roots seems to change Indy by the end of that movie. In my opinion, Lucas wanted to continue to explore that carefree/swashbuckling attitude a bit more in Temple of Doom. The only way to do that was to set it before the events of Raiders. But, that’s only opinion. Take it for what it’s worth.

Still, a carefree Indiana Jones is certainly what we get in this film. The movie starts in China with Indiana making a rather shady exchange in a cabaret with a Chinese crime boss. The deal goes south and Jones has to make a quick escape (with one of the cabaret girls in tow, of course). The getaway driver is a young Chinese boy named Short Round – an orphaned street urchin that Indiana has taken under his wing. The trio manages to elude their pursuers long enough to make it to the airport where they board a plane in hopes of escape. However, little does Jones know, but the plane belongs to the very crimelord he is attempting to flee. This quickly become apparent once the pilots dump the fuel and parachute out mid-flight, leaving Jones and his companions to their death. Of course, Indiana and company manage to escape the doomed flight only moments before the plane crashes into the Himalayas. From here, Indiana Jones finds himself in rural India where he becomes involved in the plight of a small village. After sympathizing with the locals, he agrees to journey to a local den of thieves in attempt to recover a sacred village treasure. Of course, there’s much more going on than meets the eye. What unfolds next is an action packed adventure filled with peril and untold horrors.

Everything that I loved about Raiders of the Lost Ark is also present in this movie, only just a bit different. The Middle Eastern flavor has been replaced with a South Asian flair. The backdrop of Egypt is replaced with India. The Nazis are swapped out for the mythical Thugee cult. But make no mistake, there’s still plenty of crypt crawling and trap dodging in this adventure. For all of the historical accuracies we get in this new movie, there’s also a healthy does of fantasy on the menu as well. Who could ever forget the scene where the cult shaman rips the heart out of the chest of a human sacrifice with his bare hands only see the still-beating heart burst into flames moments later? Or what about the now legendary “dinner scene”? What kid in the mid-80’s wasn’t completely grossed out to see snake surprise and chilled monkey brains being served to a table of distinguished guests? These scenes were absolutely iconic to me a child. Today, however, they often draw criticism as being culturally insensitive or downright racist. Personally, I can’t get behind that line of thinking. Even as a child, I knew very well that nothing from that scene was real. Never once did I ever feel repulsed by Indian culture as a result of what I saw in this movie. I think that people often forget that once upon a time, the cultures of the world were not as connected as they are now in today’s digital age. Places like India were still very exotic to most Westerners in the mid-80’s. This made it the perfect setting for fantastic adventures to be told (even if there was a little embellishment). Today, it’s actually much harder to invoke a sense of wonder on the screen. Perhaps this is why Indiana Jones was so popular when it was first released. It wasn’t science fiction, but it also wasn’t completely rooted in reality either. It took bits and a pieces of real world lore and mythology and examined them under the light of fantasy. To me, that’s the perfect recipe for a truly unforgettable adventure. It’s what makes Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom such an amazing film. It’s a fun romp filled with action and mystique. It’s pure escapism. Sadly, they don’t make films like this anymore and arguably, we need them now more than ever.

With all that being said, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is another must-see film from the annals of my youth. If you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying this movie, I can’t recommend it enough. Being a part of the Lucasfilm family, the Indiana Jones franchise is now owned by Disney. These days, most people fire up Disney+ if they want to watch this filmThat’s fineThe 4K version of the film is available on Disney+ without any content changes or modifications. It looks amazing in streaming. But as always, as a collector, I often recommend physical media. When it comes to physical copies there are a few options out there. By far, the best physical version of the movie is the 4K UHD disc-version. As best as I can tell, this is the same 4K version that streams on Disney+. This 4K release of the film is absolutely gorgeous and looks amazing on modern screens. Of course, if you don’t have a 4K television, there’s also a Blu-ray release that looks pretty good. But if you can, I highly recommend the 4K transfer for the best color and detail.

Old Game Hermit


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