Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★★★

Super racist in the same retrograde way those old pulpy colonialist adventure stories used to be (and amplified by some of that uniquely 80s grotesque excess, seriously the way this shoots India as functionally hell on earth is wild) but the action is as technically perfect as there's probably ever been. It's a weird merging of a bitter, divorced George Lucas wanting to put his beloved creation through a darker, meaner, more gruesome chapter and Spielberg who appears to have very little interest in the material he came up with beyond its function as an excuse to craft a cartoon set piece rollercoaster machine. But what a machine! And how well-oiled! It goes from Busby Berkley to Bond to Italian cannibal films with a mesmerizing formal clarity and confidence, only partially undone by the ugly incoherent comedy writing it feels the need to traffic in in order to get itself there. I kind of respect that Kate Capshaw performs it as well as it could be but it's pretty difficult to argue her character as written is anything but a bunch of shrieking, whining sex object slapstick in all the ways Karen Allen deliberately was not. 

Regardless, a movie that I revisited a lot as a kid precisely because it felt like I was getting away with something I shouldn't be. It's such an idiosyncratic mix of genuinely gross, bad-taste genre movie decision-making on the part of two creators who typically liked to play things clean, and despite all the monkey brains, hearts being torn out of chests in full graphic detail, and the myriad of other R-rated horror movie design choices made in this it's somehow still a perfect expensive PG pop filmmaking object. Lost my shit when Spielberg gracefully and economically pans from Willie to Indy to Short Round, all three throwing fists, and then back again, followed by the punchline of that blood smear on the stone crusher. That image as well as the machete-slicing rope bridge stunt and Indy shish-kebabing a dude in the opening 5 mins have lived in my brain for a long time.

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