I realize I am flirting with disaster here. I know I am dangerously close to taking on hallowed ground, but hear me out. Maybe the first thing I should say here is I acknowledge the greatness of Raiders of The Lost Ark. I enjoy the film and realize it is one of the best Adventure pictures of all time. But as I re-watch the Indiana Jones trilogy (because we have all wiped The Crystal Skull from our memory, right?), the Temple of Doom remains number one in my mind. Not because it is a greater film in the cinephile sense of the word; it is just deeper, more entertaining, and in a way more interesting. It may be the best for a few reasons I’ll cover here.
Now like I said, just hear me out…
5. The Opening
There is no doubt the opening Raiders of The Lost Ark is an iconic piece of cinema, and a wonderful introduction to the Indy character. But in the Universe of the character, the opening of Temple is fascinating in its own right. We see a different Indy here. This is not the bookish professor fighting Nazis, it’s Ford playing Indy as Bogart in a Shanghai nightclub. He has more of an edge, and he seems to be into a shady proposition with Asian gangsters.
Now consider this is a prequel, dated two years before Raiders, so this Indiana Jones may have been a different person philosophically and ethically. Maybe the events of this film changed his course. These films are all about paying homage to the pulp serials of the 30s and 40s, and the opening of Temple is less the adventure portion of these old serials and more a send up of the gangster flicks of the time.
And how about Kate Capshaw’s stumbling, goofy opening musical number. The song is “Anything Goes,” maybe a head’s up to the audience that this sequel has something different in store.
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