I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time last year and was quite underwhelmed. The common thread between all the praise I'd heard from people who loved the film--and the series at large--is that they were wowed by it when they were kids. Well, I'm not a kid and I wasn't wowed. But at least I liked it a lot more than I did Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Temple feels like it has the studios grubby hands all over it. From the introduction of the little kid sidekick, to the wholesale dumbing down of the female co-lead, to the incredibly broad and unfunny slapstick peppered throughout, Temple is a sad step backward from the relative composure of the first film. Spielberg's trademark visual wit is rarely seen in this movie, replaced instead by a more workmanlike approach to shooting his scenes. Any inspiration that the film has is derived directly from the first, even down to the slightly twisted version of the swinging sword guys being bested by a handgun. I'd heard that Temple was the worst of the Indiana Jones series, up until Kingdom of the Crystal Skull turned up and took that dubious crown. I'm not surprised.

Harrison Ford is hamming it up in about as game a way as I have seen him do before, to his credit. He mugs at the camera, says the most ludicrous, "scientific" lines in the film and interacts well with Jonathan Ke Quan, who I actually found to be delightful to watch, popular backlash notwithstanding. Unfortunately, we're also saddled with Kate Capshaw throughout the film's runtime, who is irritating as soon as she opens her mouth to say her first, non-singing-and-dancing line. She is shrill, joyless, stupid, vain, greedy and the worst representation of Reagan-era ugly Americanism, all without a shred of irony. Capshaw is appropriately beautiful, even more stunning than her predecessor, Karen Allen, but that's about all she brings to the table.

I don't think I'll catch quite as much flak for dumping on Temple as I did for Raiders: it has a 57 on Metacritic, after all. But as a film geek who wants to expand his exposure to 1980s cinema, this has been a huge letdown.

Comment