Long before ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ and ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,’ Spielberg showed the world that he should never direct a sequel with ‘Temple of Doom.’
Before 1984 when he directed ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,’ Steven Spielberg was already one of the greatest directors of his time. Just one film such as ‘Jaws,’ ‘Close Encounters of a Third Kind’ or ‘E.T.’ would cement most directors as one of the all time greats, but Spielberg had made all of them. And then he made ‘Temple of Doom’ a movie which showed that even the American master of cinema could do wrong. It’s not like he hadn’t made a flop before. The movie ‘1941’ didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But ‘Temple of Doom,’ the sequel to 1981’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ is a profound disappointment.
The opening takes place in Shanghai, clearly inspired by Sean Connery-era James Bond films, complete with an elaborate opening song playing over the credits before Indiana Jones appears in a white tux bickering back and forth with a Chinese gang leader. It’s great stuff. In the following action sequence, Indiana gets poisoned and tries to grab the antidote while it’s kicked around by panicking bystanders. There’s a fun car chase down Shanghai’s alleyways and markets. And one of the gangsters shoots at Indiana, who cowards behind a rolling steel gong with a Tommy gun.
The whole sequence is exciting, you may understandably miss that the film in this sequence introduces its most contemptuous elements. Meet Willie and Short Round the film’s two main supporting characters. Short Round, an orphaned Chinese kid tagging along on Indy’s adventures, is mostly grating because of his broken English. It does seem out of character for Indy to have a small child tag along on what are almost always life-threatening adventures but over the course of the film they do at least develop some semblance of a bond.
As for Willie, I wasn’t kidding when I said the intro is a homage to early James Bond-films because its depiction of the ONE woman who has a speaking role in the film may also be the single worst female character in any film. Willie is vain, she shrieks, she’s materialistic to a fault and she’s full of herself. She doesn’t even grow as a character other than of course finally realising that Indiana Jones is a man’s man and she should probably make out with him. In a camping scene, as he tries to tell the myth of the Shankala Stones – this movie’s big McGuffin treasure – her sole role is to scream at wild animals seemingly not aware she’s in the middle of the jungle. The film even veers into some rather ugly misogynistic territory with Indiana Jones insisting on calling her ‘doll’ through the first half of the movie.
Another problem is the film’s villain. The main plot revolves around an ancient cult of Indian Kali worshippers who have kidnapped all of the children from a local village and stolen a ritualistic stone – the aforementioned Shankala stone – with which they hope to dominate the world. That all sounds pretty great on paper. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ had Nazis so it only seems natural to up the ante with occult worshippers who perform human sacrifices by ripping the victim’s heart out. But there really aren’t any characters to represent this evil.
In ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ you had all these amazing villains like Belloq and Major Toht who were evil not just because they were Nazis or in opposition to Indiana, but because they were great characters in their own right. Meanwhile ‘Temple of Doom’s antagonist, Mola Ram, the Kali high priest, barely has any speaking lines and is first introduced almost halfway through the movie. Sure his maniacal laughter is amazing and his mere presence is bone-chilling but he doesn’t have a character.
This also means that the Indian people in the film are presented as being alien. As they are portrayed through everything from voodooism, human sacrifice and blood magic it paints a broader picture of Indians as being ‘savages,’ which is problematic. It reminds me of old Tintin comics where every culture outside of Western Europe was crooked, “exotic” and antagonistic.
These issues of racial insensitivity and misogyny can of course be ignored if you’re just here for the action scenes and the film certainly has those in spades – one particular chase-scene involving minecarts is a series highlight – but they are indicative of a larger problem which is that ‘Temple of Doom’ is simply a poorly written film. Its many attempts at humour fall flat, characters are introduced only to be brushed aside minutes later and the characters who do stick around aren’t particularly engaging.
It never hits a consistent tone either, as it swings wildly from farce comedy to goddamn child slavery and Short Round getting whipped unconscious. Yikes.
Much like Willie, sobbing in a pool of water complaining how awesome her life was back in Shanghai, all I want to do is get the hell away from ‘Temple of Doom’ and just re-watch ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. You should probably do the same.
所有場面都很豐富，並不禁讓你忘記了這電影介紹了最被人輕視的角色：衛莉和小滑溜兩個主要的支援角色。小滑溜的設定是一個中國孤兒並在鍾斯的冒險中陪伴在旁。因為他破爛的英語，讓他成為了最不討喜的角色。在這裡，鍾斯的角色設定看起來有點突兀：在他攸關生死的冒險中帶著一個小孩子到處跑 – 不過起碼他們似乎在電影中建立了感情。
而當我說這電影是向占士邦電影致敬的時候， 我並沒有開玩笑，因為衛莉的出現絕對是一個證明：她不只是這不電影裡面唯一一個有對白的女角色，同事可能是其他電影裡面最爛的女角色。衛莉很「嬌弱」，很容易就會尖叫，滿腦子充滿物質並非常自我中心。她的角色甚至不能構成一個實在的角色 – 當然，當她發現鍾斯是男人中的男人的時候，她非常傾向跟鍾斯發生親密的關係。在露營的一幕當中，當鍾斯嘗試述說香格拉之石的神話（電影中最重要的元素！）的時候，她唯一的反應就是向野生動物尖叫並表現驚訝（完全忘記了自己在露營）。當鍾斯在電影頭半段一直戲稱她為「娃娃」的時候，這套電影似乎是在向著「厭惡女性」的方向進發。
與此同時這也代表著電影裡面所有的印度人都是外星人一般奇怪：喜好詛咒，活人獻祭和血的的魔法等，這些都是在描繪他們與野人無異 – 這已經是一個嚴重的問題。這讓我聯想起《丁丁歷險記》漫畫中所有除西方文化以外的文明都是扭曲的、「充滿異國色彩」但同時也是充滿仇恨的這個問題。
如果你只是為了看動作片段的話，當然種族問題和性別問題都可以被輕輕帶過。其中一場礦場卡車的場景最是精彩 – 當然這同時也表明了《魔宮傳奇》是一套爛電影：很多嘗試幽默的地方都不好笑；所有被介紹的角色在數分鐘以後就毫無用處；在場景中出現的角色甚至連出場的原因都沒有。
這電影甚至連主題都不一致：它從一套鬧/喜劇變為一套孩奴的電影，而小滑溜甚至被打到失去知覺 – 非常糟糕！
衛莉的狀況也相去不遠：在一池冷水裡面哭著抱怨自己以前在上海的生活有多美好。我想做的就是把《魔宮傳奇》關掉然後重看《法櫃奇兵》 – 你也應該跟我做同樣的事情。