Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'd love to call this an anomalous apogee in encompassing every archetypal method by which structures of power are maintained, but it comes as no surprise, grievously, that the mechanisms of racial othering, sexist deprecation, and colonial idolization employed here are par for the course for 80s mainstream Hollywood (as well as today, only by way of far subtler devices), and that over the course of the second entry in his and Lucas' grand homage to a type of film characterized by its embellishment of imperialist expansion through insistences of nobility, Spielberg simply provides the cinematic epitome of such an era's popular hatefulness. Short Round is a character who is, when not acting as the butt of a joke for either his little-kid cuteness (hilarious) or not perfectly, exactly correct manner of English speech (taxing; there's no reason for it to be comedically exploited at all, let alone so aggressively), defined by his aspiration to grow to be the superior, masculine paradigm embodied by Indiana Jones, no less to imitate the behaviour of the white saviour that he inherently is and learn from his heroic benefaction as a generous liberator of oriental populations that cannot do so on their own; with Willie, as funny as it can be to watch the vainness of a character who likely shares an originating catalyst with the term 'Karen' play itself out in this setting and as tightly in-cheek as Spielberg's tongue is stationed while depicting her in the usual distressed scenarios, Jones' constant belittlement of her being instantly followed by her romantic devotion to him feels decidedly regressive as a portrayal, one that's clearly reminiscent not just of 30s serials but of old Hollywood in general, with Spielberg still clinging to the offensive ills of that earlier cinema in his recreation of it as though its strengths and weaknesses are inseparable (and like, come on, they are very much not); by the end, the celebrative atmosphere generated by the British Indian Army's arrival as rescuers from the generically savage Indian cultists feels like the natural conclusion to its callous racism, having spent the past two hours altering the screen of nostalgic mythologizing crafted by the original in its attempt to convey the impression of its protagonist's heroism in favour of simply delighting in the sadistic pleasure of murdering non-white people (though, as with the first, it retains the entitling one of benignly aiding those who cooperate, those who apparently depend on the guidance and salvation of American valiance, and inevitably the British Raj). There's nothing lamer than when a film demonstrates as many abominable tenets of conservatism as this does while also being crafted so noticeably well, since it invariably does a horrid disservice to the technical mastery achieved; I wish Spielberg's incredible directorial talents were directed towards an effort to reclaim the adventure capers of the past while (in some way) deconstructing their propagandic atrocities, but as it stands, I can hardly pay them any mind. The ugliness stands in the way.

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