Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

(Third viewing, On TV, August 1998) An amazing movie, and what may be my third viewing proves it: Even despite being familiar with most elements, the movie fells as fresh and exciting as the first time. The timing is impeccable, the set-pieces are fabulous, and the level of humor doesn’t flag down. Excellent fun.

(Fourth viewing, On TV, September 2016) Taken on its own, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a better-than-average adventure: Directed with Steven Spielberg’s usual skill, it’s got original action set pieces that impress even today, genuinely funny moments, wide-screen vistas, Harrison Ford’s charm and great pacing. It’s well worth watching still. But when you set it against its predecessor or its sequel, that’s when this second Indiana Jones adventure comes in for a harsher assessment. It’s not as accomplished. There isn’t much character development. Kate Capshaw’s Willie is nowhere near as interesting as the first film’s Marion. (Heck, at times she’s straight-up irritating.) The stereotypes and jokey racism grate. There’s a much grimmer tone that doesn’t quite work as well as the alternative. There’s a five-minute stretch of possessed-Indiana that can’t end soon enough. Nazis aren’t there to be punched in the face. For all sorts of reasons, that makes Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom a significantly lesser movie than the first or third films in the series. If you want to watch it, do it separately from the other instalments, otherwise the comparison won’t be kind.

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